The Coastal Bend Violence Prevention, Preparedness and Response Symposium kicked off Thursday with speaker Alissa Parker, the mother of one of the 20 children who died tragically in the Sandy Hook school shootings in December of 2012.

The symposium, which runs Thursday and Friday at the Emerald Beach Hotel, is aimed at raising awareness of violence and how to prevent it.

In the wake of the tragedy, Parker was moved to engage parents in securing the safety of their children in school. She became an active member of the Newtown Public Schools’ Safety Committee and has become passionate about school security and safety, traveling, listening and learning in school communities across the United States.

Other speakers at the symposium include Robert J. Martin, one of the nation's leading experts on violence prevention and threat assessment, and Deputy David Austin, who has been with the Hays County Sheriff's Office since May and is currently assigned to the ALERRT program as a program manager.