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Caregiver Program

Teens are not the only ones who are navigating big changes as they look ahead to life after high school - their caregivers are too. Remember when parenting was about nap schedules and playdates? Now it’s about mental health, affording college, navigating social media, and so much more - all while parenting someone who may or may not roll their eyes at you regularly.  

Parenting a teen is a high-wire act of being engaged - but not annoying!  Being supportive - but not taking over!  Being present - but being ignored! All against a countdown clock ticking away until high school graduation.


If it sounds like you are teetering between two worlds, it’s because you are. Parents of teens are shifting their role - and their identity! - from one of “primary-needs fulfiller” to “life coach”, and that transition can be messy, painful, and isolating.  

This conference aims to help caregivers take a tiny step through this transition with some grains of wisdom, some suggestions for new parenting moves, and a whole lot of validation. It has been shaped by many conversations with teens,  school counselors, school staff, parents, and youth-serving organizations. 

We’ll start the morning with a panel discussion that unpacks key questions about helping prepare teens to launch - and caring for ourselves as we launch them. 

The panel will be followed by small workshops that delve a little deeper into the ideas raised, and parents can select one workshop from the menu of options.

Meet the panel


Helaina Altabef


Helaina is middle school educator and certified professional coach with 20 years of experience working with adolescents and their families. She is currently enrolled at Montclair State for a Masters in Mental Health Counseling. 

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Nicole Garcia, PhD


Nicole is a psychologist and the owner of Evolve Psychological Services, a group practice in Montclair & NYC, that provides in-person and virtual psychotherapeutic and neuropsychological evaluation services to kids/teens, adults, parents, families and couples. 


Maribel Martinez


Maribel has dedicated her professional career to providing educational access and equity to underserved students. She is currently the Director of College Success at REACH Prep. Previously, Maribel worked at The TEAK Fellowship for 10 years and held a several positions including Assistant Director of Post-Placement and Director of Admissions. She also worked in the Education Department at Thirteen/WNET and managed STEM-based literacy programs at various under-resourced Brooklyn, NY schools as Senior Associate Director of Enrichment Programs at the Center for the Urban Environment. Maribel graduated with a B.A. from Rutgers University and earned a Master’s degree in Sociology and Education from Teacher’s College.

Maribel is a parent at Hillside and Glenfield Middle School.

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Kate Stanton Paule, M.Ed


Kate is an educator and life skills coach. She utilizes Person Centered Principles to help students and parents think about a range of possibilities for life after high school. She recently retired from a 30 year career at Montclair High School and is now supporting young adults to explore and obtain the support and services they need to live, work and enjoy life in their community.


Nakia James-Jenkins


Nakia has spent her career in leadership positions at organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, driving the development of their people and cultures. At On-Ramps, Nakia works with social sector organizations focused on changing the world, leading searches and advising leaders on best practices in recruitment and hiring. In addition to her work with clients, Nakia supports On-Ramps' internal talent/HR and operations work, as well as its work on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Prior to joining On-Ramps, Nakia was Vice President, People & Culture at Girls Who Code, worked at KIPP NYC as its Managing Director, People, and was the Director of Operations and Human Resources for the Manhattan Borough President's Office – Scott M. Stringer.


Nakia holds an M.P.A. from CUNY Baruch College, Marxe School of Public, and International Affairs, an M.S. in Organizational Leadership from Mercy College and a B.S. in Organizational Management from Nyack College. Nakia sits on the Board of Directors of STEM From Dance, a nonprofit organization focused on preparing Black and Latina girls for STEM education and careers through dance, holds the Lead Coach role with Represented Foundation supporting their V.E.R. Social impact Incubator fellows, facilitates equity training with MFEE (Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence) and continues to provide executive coaching and organizational development consultancy to nonprofit and for-profit leaders and organizaitons. Originally from Harlem, NY, Nakia lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband and two sons.

Workshops for Caregivers & Parents


Helaina Altabef

Parenting coach and educator


How do you stay connected with someone who is pulling away from you?

One of the challenges - and opportunities - of parenting is the need to be flexible and resilient in our role.  Some of us had gotten pretty good at parenting younger children and now in the teen years we have to change up our game. As we try to adapt, our teens may notice our imperfections. This can leave us angry, sad, and insecure, and trigger us to act out as much as our teens.  This session will help you name, normalize and repair conflict - and the inevitable pulling away - while helping you cultivate a curiosity about your teen that will bring you closer together.


Stacey Pinilis

LCSW, Psychotherapist, Parenting Counseling, Food Allergy Support for Parents


How exactly do you put on your own oxygen mask first?

There are times when, as parents, we wish we could get to a place of calm when dealing with our teens. Often, we know what we want to communicate, but if we are triggered or anxious or on high alert, we communicate from a place of anxiety and our teens respond accordingly. In this workshop, Stacey Pinilis, LCSW, will invite parents to voice their questions and concerns, and will share some hands-on tools you can use to get calm and stay present during the often turbulent journey through adolescence.


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Veronica Corbin Harris
Leadership and organizational coach


Maribel Martinez

Director of College Success at REACH Prep


How do you remove the training wheels without causing an accident?

Parents of teens are told that, once students enter high school, they need to start advocating for themselves - from asking for help from teachers to paying attention to deadlines. Skills that are essential for navigating college, internships, jobs, and anything that life after high school has in store. We also know that our children will have to navigate on their own tough moments in school or at a job. In this interactive workshop / conversation, Maribel Martinez and Veronica Corbin Harris will identify some things teens should learn how to do during their high school years. But, just as important, they will talk with participants about how parents can support this shift in responsibility - what we do that helps and what we do that gets in the way. 

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Leslie Kunkin

Realtor & Co-Chair, Montclair People With Disabilities Committee

Wendy Lacey

Founding owner of Cornerstone Montclair

Alma Schneider

LCSW and disability advocate

Off the beaten path: How to create a path for your teen when the maps don’t apply?

For parents and caregivers of neurodiverse teens, the topic of “life after high school” can bring many more questions than answers. For teens with disabilities, who are neurodiverse, have learning differences, or have exceptional educational needs, life after high school can include a range of opportunities - from residential, to college, to working, to transitional settings. There isn’t a universal path or cookie cutter approach - but what IS universal is that, while every student and family is unique, they are not alone. This workshop is hosted by three Montclair parents who are informed, involved, and active in educational disability advocacy and support, and whose own teens have taken very different paths. They will share their own experiences, provide resources, and invite conversation and connection for parents and caregivers of neurodiverse teens.

Register today

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