Upcoming convention will be Lookin’ to the Future

Published 11:34 pm Monday, July 14, 2008

NATCHEZ — Come the end of this week, Natchez is going to be a little more crowded.

The 20th annual Lookin’ to the Future Conference will be at the convention center starting Wednesday and last through Friday.

Convention Center Director Walter Tipton said the conference will bring in around 650 people.

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“We’ve run out of hotel rooms for this conference,” he said.

The attendees will only be provided one meal through the conference so for the rest of the meals, he said they are on their own.

He said convention center representatives have actually given warning to the restaurants to expect a significant influx.

“We’ve tried our best to prepare the restaurants,” he said.

The 52-workshop conference has so much going on, it’s had to spill out from the convention center into the community center and the conference spaces in the Country Inn and Suites.

“This is one of the groups that had the Country Inn and Suites not been built they wouldn’t have come,” Tipton said.

The conference is a conjunction between Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, Inc. and the Mississippi Department of Human Services Conference on Child Welfare.

Matilda Stephens, executive director of the Sunshine Shelter, said the conference is one of the best in the southwest for anyone who works with kids, whether it’s a social worker or a foster parent.

Stephens will have her hands tied with the youth portion of the program, in which the families bring their children.

She said she’ll be working with about 140 kids, with 50 of those teenagers from age 14 to 19, and the rest children from ages 4 to 13.

She said the teen group will be learning about independent living, which includes things such as money management to job hunting, she said.

Both older and younger children will be taught self esteem, anger management, trust, team work and communication skills.

She said last year when the conference was in Meridian, she paired with Jennifer Ogden, who has worked with the Boys and Girls Club on a performing arts camp.

“We went to Meridian and we did activities for all the age groups using her performance arts activities but from a therapeutic approach,” Stephens said.

Stephens said it’s been a lot of work preparing for the kids coming but she’s received a lot of help from around town.

“I’ve had a huge amount of community support and that’s what it takes to pull this off,” she said.

She said she is looking forward to the activities.

Tipton summed up the significance of the conference which has visited Natchez a few times before.

“The nature of the conference is very important to our community but also the state of Mississippi,” Tipton said.