I went to the Vermont AfterSchool Conference on October 24 where I was inspired by the variety of programming available for out-of-school-time programs. Surprisingly, I was even more inspired by the keynote speakers.

The conference kicked off with Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont Agency of Education Director, sharing her four key values: show passion, create partnerships, be innovative, and be humble.

Dr. Robert Brooks delivered the keynote. A dynamic and entertaining speaker, he shared many stories of his long career and thoughtful reflections on how educators and caregivers can alter their mindsets to help build resiliency in children. I took away three questions as a framework for building a mindset of resiliency:

  1. How do I make this child feel dignified and welcome?
  2. How can I share good ideas?
  3. How can I be a “charismatic adult”?

Brooks and Holcombe offered great values for parents to live by and to model for their children, but I was most captivated by the idea of a charismatic adult. Brooks defines charismatic adults as a person from whom “a child or adolescent gathers strength.” Dr. Brooks wrote that adults reflecting on challenging childhoods almost universally attributed success to the fact “that there was at least one adult in their lives who steadfastly believed in and supported them.” In his comments, he challenged everyone to approach each interaction with a child with this in mind, because even one moment of feeling supported can make a difference.

He shared a heartwarming story about a challenged student who invited her bus driver to a school meeting, because he was the one who made her feel safe.

This idea gave me such a new perspective on how I approach volunteering in the school library or even talking to my child’s friends and classmates. In general, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all treated each interaction as if it could change someone’s life, or even just their day? I’m going to try.


CLiF manages Family and Friends themed booklists for readers 0-12. These may offer some inspiring titles featuring charismatic adults:

Family and Friends
Picture books
Easy reader books

Family, Friends, and School
Early chapter books
Chapter books


Photo from the Charlotte Fire Department

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