The Dublin and Hilliard school districts are partnering to present a series of community book talks intended to encourage critical conversations and lead up to a March 9 conference.

"These are tough conversations our students need to have," Stacie Raterman, a spokeswoman for Hilliard City Schools, said about the subject matter of the book talks and the conference, "Be Well: A Parent University Event."

The selected books are "UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World" by Michele Borba, and "What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen" by Kate Fagan.

In "UnSelfie," the author describes the need to develop empathy, and "What Made Maddy Run," is an account of the suicide of an athlete and a look at the effects of mental illnesses, Raterman said.

"We are excited to work in partnership with parents from both the Dublin and Hilliard community (and) proudly recognize that we are two communities working toward a common goal of ensuring our young people are equipped to face the challenges and opportunities in front of them in this fast-paced world," said Jill Abraham, director of elementary education and K-12 professional learning for the Dublin City School District.

Four of six scheduled book discussions for "UnSelfie" remain:

* 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at Ridgewood Elementary School, 4237 Dublin Road, Hilliard.

* 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at Dublin City Schools Emerald Campus, 5175 Emerald Parkway, Dublin.

* 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the Hub, 3859 Main St., Hilliard.

* 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, at Indian Run Elementary School, 80 W. Bridge St., Dublin.

Six dates are scheduled for the "What Made Maddy Run" discussions:

* 9 a.m. Feb. 1 at Panera Bread, 6665 Perimeter Loop Road, Dublin.

* 6:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Hilliard branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 4500 Hickory Chase Way, Hilliard.

* 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Hilliard Darby High School, 4200 Leppert Road, Hilliard.

* 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Dublin Scioto High School, 4000 Hard Road, Dublin.

* 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Emerald Campus.

* 6:30 p.m. March 4 at the McVey Innovative Learning Center, 5323 Cemetery Road, Hilliard.

Each book talk will have two facilitators, one from each school district.

After the book discussions are held, each author is scheduled to visit the districts.

Borba will be at Hilliard Darby from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Feb. 20, and Fagan will be at Dublin Scioto at 7 p.m. March 15.

"What's really exciting about the subject matter (of the books) is we are leveraging the expertise in each of our communities to discuss the needs of our students, as compounding pressures tend to bear down and create high levels of anxiety," said Tracey Deagle, principal of Davis Middle School in Dublin.

The material for the book talks and the conference stem from conversations in each district to learn what was most pertinent.

The book talks and the conference are derived from conversations throughout each district, said Lauren Schmidt, principal at Hilliard Station Sixth Grade School.

"Our superintendents had conversations with our students to find out what their needs and concerns are and (the 'Be Well' initiative) has been built around that, including book talks and authors coming to speak, so we start having these conversations," Schmidt said.

The "Be Well" sessions are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 9 simultaneously at Hilliard Darby and the Emerald Campus.

Session topics will include the connection between physical and emotional well-being, as well as identifying and responding to bullying, depression and stress, Raterman said.

Sessions also will include instruction on the responsible use of social media by students.

"We will have a series of panels that will include both students and experts not only from Dublin and Hilliard, but from outside agencies, as well," Dublin Superintendent Todd Hoadley said. "These experts will be talking about student wellness, family wellness, digital wellness and social wellness.

Hilliard Superintendent John Marschhausen said though Hilliard recognizes student well-being includes many components, collaboration with Dublin would bring such efforts even more into focus.

"By collaborating with our partners in Dublin, we are able to bring our resources together and engage in a conversation, because the most important thing we can do for our students is start the conversation," he said. "Talking and engagement will allow us to meet our students' needs at a higher level."

Hilliard is covering the costs for Borba’s visit – about $7,000 – and other costs through a federal grant, Raterman said.

The cost of Fagan’s visit is being covered by the Greater Dublin Realty Association, said Dublin district spokesman Doug Baker. However, he said, he could not provide the cost.

“I can’t say on cost, as she has a confidentiality clause in her contract regarding fee,” Baker said. “No taxpayer dollars are being spent on her visit.”

To register for the book talks or the "Be Well" conference, go to dublinschools.net or hilliardschools.org. Admission to all events is free.

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