Exploring Emotional Intelligence and Purpose at the 2024 Extra Learning Opportunities (ELO) Conference at Harrisburg PA

appearance conference eloconference emotional intelligence Mar 05, 2024
2024 ELO Conference

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 2024 Extra Learning Opportunities Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and it was truly a transformative experience. Over the course of three days, I immersed myself in workshops, keynote speeches, and discussions centered around the theme of “Promising Practices, Proven Strategies".  I want to extend my gratitude to the 21st CCLC statewide Advisory Board, the Center for Schools and Communities, and the Afterschool Youth Development Network for their contribution and organization of such a thought-provoking and impactful event.


The conference kicked off with a powerful keynote address by Dr. Joe Johnson, whose insights on finding purpose resonated deeply with me. Dr. Johnson emphasized the importance of pursuing purpose rather than mere dreams and highlighted the hidden educational curriculum that all students need today. One key takeaway was the notion that our first responsibility is awareness and accountability. By cultivating self-awareness and taking accountability for our actions, we not only demonstrate integrity and emotional intelligence but also become better citizens of humanity. Dr. Johnson also spoke eloquently about the role of healing in our personal growth journey, emphasizing that we all have the power to choose a path of healing rather than remaining stuck in a victim mindset.


Throughout the conference, there was a consistent focus on empowering youth to identify their passions and create pathways for themselves. In my first workshop, I facilitated a deep conversation in how we can identify our youth's potential through opportunity-based learning, which encourages young people to explore what truly matters to them and forge career pathways aligned with their interests and values. This approach not only fosters personal fulfillment but also cultivates a sense of purpose and contribution to the greater good, echoing Dr. Johnson's message of awareness and accountability.


During another workshop, I had the privilege to address the importance of emotional intelligence and managing workplace stress, particularly for supervisors in the after-school sector. We engaged in rich discussions about the role of self-awareness and authenticity in creating supportive environments for staff, families, and children. It became evident that by modeling emotional intelligence and prioritizing self-development, we can positively influence the well-being and success of those we serve.



One of the highlights of the conference for me was the opportunity to be interviewed by Dr. Shileste Overton-Morris, Director at Center for Schools, and Communities in Pennsylvania which plays a critical role in helping education and community-based organizations serve children youth and families.  Our conversation underscored the critical role of emotional intelligence in leadership within the youth development sector. We discussed the significance of taking responsibility for our actions and continuously striving to create positive impacts in our communities.




As I reflect on my experience at the 2024 ELO conference, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to the dialogue surrounding emotional intelligence, purpose-driven education, and youth empowerment. I am inspired by the dedication of educators, leaders, and advocates who are committed to creating a brighter future for our youth. Thank you, Pennsylvania, for hosting such a meaningful event, and I eagerly anticipate the journey ahead as we continue to prioritize the holistic development of our young people.




SONIA M. TOLEDO, PhD, founded Dignity of Children® in 2008 to develop children and youth holistically and reduce education inequality. She has a PhD in education and 25-plus years of experience building quality after-school programs. She focuses on emotional intelligence training, youth development, and organizational culture change. Dignity of Children® serves after-school programs nationally, providing exceptional child and youth development training programs.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get a weekly dose of inspiration! Join our vibrant community of forward-thinking educators!

We respect your privacy.