CFRI hosts First Annual Teen Conference with DFPS

By Shannon Mann-Butler & Kate McKerlie 

On Saturday April 23rd, CFRI partnered with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to host the first annual Spark Teen Conference at the University of Texas at Austin! This conference was open to any foster youth that was interested in learning more about college and what “Gone to Texas” actually means. CFRI and DFPS were excited to have more than 35 foster youth in attendance with their foster parents and other supporters!


The all-day Spark Teen Conference kicked off with breakfast at the UT School of Social Work and then a walking tour of the campus and lunch in a dormitory dining facility. The afternoon featured a panel with representatives from various UT departments to answer questions about Financial Aid (Jenna Livinston), Housing & Residential Life (Justin Samuel), Admissions (Caitlin James), and Counseling Services (Kelsey Lammy) and programs for youth on campus such as Horns Helping Horns (Esmer Bedia).


The fun continued with two exciting workshops led by current UT students and alumni. One interactive breakout session was hosted by Marion Trattner from Counseling Services and focused on career readiness and skills to cope with fear and rejection. This workshop included 6 peer educators (Mehek, Alyssa, Thanusha, Cassandra, Alyssa, Mayra, and Linda). Another session was hosted by Hon Lam from Liberal Arts Career Services.The day ended on more high notes from the University of Texas acapella group, Beauties and The Beat

Event organizer and coordinator, Shannon Mann-Butler, Senior Operations and Development Coordinator at CFRI, described the conference as “an opportunity to develop our relationship with foster youth that have questions about college and to encourage youth to attend college and set goals for higher education. The SPARK program hosted by CFRI is geared towards not only helping former foster youth attending UT, but also encouraging all foster youth to set goals for some kind of higher education.”

To learn more about SPARK, or get on the mailing list for next year’s conference please visit SPARK on our website.

CFRI and DFPS wants to thank the UT tour guides, workshop hosts and panelists and recognize the many local businesses that helped make this first annual event a success! Donations were provided by Panera Bread, Hideout Theatre, P. Terry’s, Paper Source, Embellish Nails, and Cafe Monet.