Rep. Val Demings (Courtesy photo)

Congresswoman Val Demings will deliver the keynote address for the 17th annual Tools for Transformation Conference at 8:30 a.m., on Saturday, April 22, at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), located at 1000 E. Victoria St. in Carson.

The Tools for Transformation Conference, sponsored by civil rights attorney and child advocate Areva Martin and the Special Needs Network (SNN), is the largest and most comprehensive free autism/ADHD/learning disabilities conference in Los Angeles. The conference presents workshops by the country’s most renowned experts in intervention strategies, education, healthcare, culturally competent services, advocacy, and social justice.

Hosted by Fox TV’s media personality Elex Michaelson, the workshops will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the college campus. Plus, Carson Mayor Lula Davis Holmes, State Senator Steven Bradford (35th District) and Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-65th Assembly District) are scheduled to appear. The opening session and keynote address are co-sponsored in partnership with CSUDH and its Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political and Economic Institute (MDAAPEI).

Demings will speak on the conference’s theme of “In Pursuit of Equity.” Demings, the first in her family to go to college, showed up with $50 in her pocket, and worked at a fast food restaurant to pay her way through college, earning a bachelor’s in Criminology from Florida State University and later a master’s in Public Administration.

She became a social worker, working to protect children in broken homes. Then, dismayed at a system that was leaving too many families behind, she signed up to become a police officer — that is, an officer with a social worker’s heart.

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Although a tough path for an African American woman in a male-dominated profession, she graduated from the police academy of the Orlando Police Department as class president, receiving the Board of Trustees’ Award for Overall Excellence, and earning the reputation of a bold, creative cop willing to take on conventional thinking and the toughest parts of the city. Serving 27 years on the force, she rose through the ranks of the Orlando Police Department, eventually becoming the city’s first female chief of police.

From 2017 to 2023, Demings represented Florida’s 10th District in Congress. While in Congress, she served on the House Committees on Judiciary, Intelligence, Homeland Security (chairing the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery) and Oversight and Government Reform. She was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Women’s Caucus, and New Democratic Caucus, a member of the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Review Board and the Elections Security Taskforce, and served as assistant and Regional Whip for the House Democratic Caucus, co-chair of Candidate Recruitment for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and vice chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

“We are excited to welcome Congresswoman Val Demings, who has been a  lifelong public servant, working for the good of children and families in marginalized and BIPOC communities while breaking many glass ceilings along the way,” said Martin, SNN founder and CEO.

“With such a diverse background  and stellar career, she brings a unique perspective in addressing our theme of ‘In Pursuit of Equity.’”

Martin is one of the leading voices for children with autism and developmental disabilities. In 2005, she founded the nonprofit organization, Special Needs Network (SNN) after she was met with obstacles in accessing necessary services for her autistic son, Marty. Based in California, SNN is one of the nation’s leading disability, children’s health and social justice nonprofits in the country.

The free one-day conference includes book signings with notable guest authors, an advocates summit, a plenary session, a networking luncheon and an awards presentation for exemplary community figures. Plus, families will be treated to a comprehensive resource fair where they can meet with health service providers, disability rights attorneys, and other special needs professionals.

Sponsors of SNN’s Tools for Transformation Conference  include CSUDH, the Children’s Institute, Just Two Dads Podcast, Molina Healthcare and Prominent One Realty. SNN also thanks the generous support and promotional giveaways from the following: The Butterfly Effect, Chick-fil-A, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Costco, Doordash, Dot & Dough Carson, Niagara Bottling, NORMS Restaurant, Pollo Campero, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Suja Organic and Superior Grocers.

To register, visit Evite at or