By Grace Wong, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

ONTARIO >> Malachi Compton, 13, from Colton, listened intently to Garret Hawthorne, president of Healthy Thinking, Inc., as he talked about how to choose educational paths that align with career paths at the 2015 National Innovative Communities Conference.

“We’re just learning about life and how to have a back plan,” said Malachi Compton, 13, from Colton.

“I want to do basketball but if that falls through, to have a back plan. I also want to hear about college and making plans, finding funding and trying to make a living.”

Hundreds of people gathered at the Ontario Convention Center Tuesday for the conference, hosted by Reach Out and Partners for Innovative Communities.

The theme was “It’s All Connected” and the mission was to connect local groups with each other to promote healthy and safe communities for free.

“All of us have a role to play in creating health and a high quality of life for our families and communities,” said Diana Fox, executive director of Reach Out. “NICC brings together speakers from throughout the country; and most importantly showcases the innovative work happening right here in the Inland Empire.”

This is the sixth year that the conference has run and features workshops that cover topics like teen alcohol and drug prevention, LGBTQ support, mental illness, health and wellness, sex trafficking and cultural enrichment.

Non-profit, law enforcement, charity, and youth organizations set up booths outside the main conference hall with resources and materials for attendees.

“We’re here to help them connect career paths with education,” said Garret Hawthorne, president of Healthy Thinking, Inc. “I think It’s a pretty good turnout. It’s a great arena to disseminate about this kind of information, and there’s a definite need.”

The conference runs through Wednesday afternoon and features distinguished speakers during the opening ceremonies, lunch and closing ceremonies. For youth who attend the conference, special sessions geared toward them are also provided.

For more information, visit we-reachout.org or picsocal.org.