Social-emotional Support for Students

As we navigate supporting students post-Pandemic, we’ve taken a renewed focus on their social-emotional needs. As noted by the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, “Amid the pandemic, we know that our students have experienced so much. We can’t unlock students’ potential unless we also address the needs they bring with them to the classroom each day.” With those words in mind, here’s how we’re helping to support social-emotional needs as students return to the classroom.

Affinity Mentoring

Affinity Mentoring’s (AM) mission is to facilitate equitable growth in academics, social-emotional skills, and self-esteem through mutually beneficial weekly mentoring sessions for students in grades K-8 in Grand Rapids and Godfrey-Lee Public School districts. Through feedback from Affinity’s most recent Community Listening Project and work with students, the organization noticed an increase in students feeling unsafe about returning to school, disconnected from school staff, and experiencing depression and anxiety. As mentors are often the first to know when students are in need of support, Affinity provided in-depth training to mentors and staff on how to recognize needs and connect students to Affinity staff who are trained to engage in equity-based barrier reduction efforts to provide timely support to students and families. Affinity also provided training about the individual, family, and structural burdens its students face to understand the systemic context of how and why these needs have arisen to help educate and dismantle inequitable systems that affect their students. We’re excited to partner with Affinity as it invests in comprehensive social-emotional supports to help students re-engage in education and feel safe at school.

Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids

Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids’ (BGCGR) mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential as responsible citizens through education, recreation, and positive community experiences. In recent years, the organization has increased efforts to provide social-emotional learning to its members and staff in response to heightened needs as a result of the pandemic. BGCGR recently added a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) as Director of Social Emotional Learning to provide consistent, practical, hands-on training to staff on trauma-informed care, de-escalation techniques, self-care, and supporting youth and families in crisis. BGC will further this support through Program and Behavioral Specialists onsite at each Club to ensure that youth and staff have access to support professionals in times of need We’re excited to support these efforts over the next three years to ensure that youth in our community have access to the supports they need so they can thrive.

Wyoming Public Schools  

In a response to the heightened needs of students during the pandemic, Wyoming Public Schools (WPS) sought out a strategy to help students learn emotional intelligence and transform communication between students, teachers, and staff. Through collaboration with teachers and staff, WPS chose RULER, a method developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and used by over 2,000 schools around the world. “RULER, which stands for recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions, is a systemic approach to social-emotional learning which aims to infuse the principles of emotional intelligence into the immune system of Pre-K to 12 schools, informing how leaders lead, teachers teach, students learn, and families support students (Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence).

As Superintendent Hoekstra said during our interview, “We recognize to be a ready learning students have to have their basic needs met. It’s not a quick solution, but a process of seeking to understand and then providing the best-needed support.” He expects that RULER will help teachers and administrators be thoughtful and cognizant of needs within their classroom and school community. We’re excited to partner with WPS as they embark on infusing RULER throughout their classrooms and district.