In Conversations aims to provide safe space for difficult topics

By Kellen Olshefski

The Elkhorn Resilience Coalition is hosting a monthly panel and discussion called “In Conversations.” The goal of the program is to provide members of the greater community a safe space to discuss various topics.

Elkhorn Area School District Community Resilience Outreach Coordinator Senta Holmes said the idea stems from her goal of continuing to educate the community. And in a discussion with Walworth County United Way Executive Director Tammy Dunn, the two of them came up with the idea to host a mini seminar series, she said.

“Let’s do a little bit of a mini series in our community, break down all those walls, all those barriers, the things that have the negative connotations,” Holmes said. “Race, ethnicity, suicide, health, grief… it’s stuff people don’t want to talk about, but it’s what we need to talk about and we need to make a safe place for it.”

Holmes said she discussed the idea further with others in the resiliency coalition and the school district, ultimately creating a list of topics that will carry the program through the fall of 2021.

She said the reason for naming it In Conversations has to do with the design of the seminars. She explained that for each event she is reaching out to people within the greater community – Elkhorn, East Troy, Delavan and beyond – to ask if they would be willing to share their story as panelists and as it relates to that month’s topic.

The event is then scheduled with the panelists sharing their stories over about the first half of the seminar. After a short break, Holmes said, the event is open to attendees to allow them to ask questions of the panelists and experts who may be in attendance.

As the moderator, Holmes said she will be there to ask questions others in attendance – or those attending virtually – might not be comfortable asking themselves, and she’ll keep the conversation flowing.

“Either from feedback from people who aren’t able to attend and they want to know, or it could be from people who do attend but have spoken to me and are just shy or bashful on asking. So, it’s not putting them on the spot, but it’s also getting their questions answered,” she explained.

The right setting

Holmes said the setting is very informal in an effort to make people comfortable.

“To me, I think that’s how you break down those stigmas and barriers about some of these really, really hard topics,” she said.

Holmes said the seminars each boil down to making one major thing known, something that is included in the event tagline.

“You are not alone, our community thrives together,” she said.

“In all of these In Conversations, it’s a reminder to everybody, you’re not alone in this. Many people have very similar stories as you do, and this is to remind yourself of that,” Holmes added. “You’re not a stigma; you don’t have to be scared. It all goes back to a full circle: it’s the education about what’s happening around us and how much it really does involve your next door neighbor and you didn’t even know about it.”

Holmes said the first event, “Growth through Grief,” which was held in November, featured four panelists who shared their stories.

“Almost everybody that I had spoken to directly said that this is phenomenal information,” she said.

For future events, which begin in January, Holmes said she will be moderating and there will be an expert on the topic sitting with the panelists to help answer any questions attendees might have following the discussion by panelists.

“I try to team up with somebody that it’s their niche. So, they see a lot more of it, they know the expertise of it, they know the ins and outs,” she said.

Join the discussion

The In Conversations events will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at Elkhorn Area High School.

Events are open to in-person attendance, with a limit of 75 attendees and virtually. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. for in-person guests.

All who plan to attend – whether virtually or in-person – are asked to register online at Once on the home page, go to the Community tab and then under the subheading “More…” select Community Resilience Outreach. On the next page under In Conversation section is a link to learn more and register.

As of late December, topics planned are as follows:

• Suicide Awareness, Jan. 20 – prevention and sharing resources for survivors, their friends and families;

• Human Trafficking, Feb. 17 – shed light on the issue and learn how to help prevent and protect;

• Overcoming Addiction, March 17 – discuss drug and alcohol dependency, finding stability and how to manage the effects on families;

• Survivors, April 21 – discuss surviving sexual assault, resources for survivors and tools for recovery;

• Presence of Mind, May 19 – mental well-being, resilience and strength plus tools to cultivate and nurture;

• Planning Ahead, June 16 – finance, college and navigating the workforce. For the young and young-at-heart and to share resources;

• Summer Fun, July 21 – learn of great activities and events for families to participate in;

• Back to School, Aug. 18 – how to get ready for school and make it a great year;

• Healthy Relationships, Sept. 15 – tools to communicate, compromise and connect;

• Domestic Violence, Oct. 20 – a talk about healing and surviving as well as sharing resources to break the cycle.

For more information contact Senta Holmes at 262-723-3160, ext. 1440 or


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