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Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Helps Scholars Build Critical Life Skills

Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy SEL Team members sit on chairs wearing blazers.
Above: Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Team members Amber Forrester, Deirdre Schwiring, and Ezra Cabreros. The SEL team is responsible for empowering our scholars with the critical life skills needed to thrive in school, work, and life.

At Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy, we do whatever it takes to help our scholars succeed and build bright futures. 

High-quality instruction is critical to our approach. But to be successful, our scholars don’t only need to excel academically (though that is important!). They also need to flourish socially and emotionally. 

That’s why we’ve made Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) a key component of our curriculum. 

SEL empowers our scholars with the “soft skills” — self awareness, conflict management, and responsible decision making — they need to navigate everyday challenges and achieve their dreams, however they define them. Our data shows that, when scholars succeed in SEL, they are more likely to succeed in school, work, and life.

Keep scrolling to discover more about SEL at HCZ Promise Academy and the team that drives this work!

What is SEL?

SEL is not a feel-good activity. Nor is it an attempt at parenting or a form of therapy. It’s a robust, evidence-based curriculum that teaches our scholars real-world skills they need to succeed in college, the professional world, and throughout their adult lives. 

Just like English, math, and science, SEL is a core subject area — essential to our “whole child” approach to helping our scholars thrive. Among other activities, our SEL Team leads “restorative conferencing,” where scholars engage in conflict mediation, and “morning circles,” where scholars work through their feelings in a safe and judgment-free setting.

“Think of a young person in your life. What skills do they need to achieve their dreams? They don’t just need to get straight A’s or be good test takers — they also need to be self-aware, empathetic people capable of coping with life’s biggest challenges,” SEL Director Deirdre Schwiring says. “We believe emotional intelligence is as important as academic intelligence.”

SEL teams make an impact on scholars
SEL Director Deirdre Schwiring and HCZ Promise Academy I Middle School Principal Madelaine Schultz, who together oversee the implementation of our SEL curriculum.

SEL makes an impact on our scholars

At HCZ Promise Academy, 100 percent of scholars from the last three consecutive classes have gotten accepted to college. Our school leaders credit this success, in no small part, to the impact of our SEL curriculum.

Research demonstrates that this approach drives “a wide range of outcomes, including academic performance, healthy relationships, mental wellness, and more,” according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, the organization that helped inspire our curriculum.

“Scholars who engage in SEL show improved self-regulation, social skills, and empathy,” HCZ Promise Academy I Middle School Principal Madelaine Schultz says. “This is critical to their overall success.”

Scholars take lessons home

The impact of SEL isn’t limited to the classroom: Our scholars often take lessons home with them from school. This empowers them to better communicate with and build positive relationships with their parents and siblings. It also empowers them to model behavior that inspires family members to do the same.

Parents and guardians also work directly with our SEL Team. They can participate in positive parenting workshops and receive monthly newsletters filled with resources and tips. Additionally, trained social workers and guidance counselors share expertise with parents. This ensures coordinated support to scholars — both at home and at school.

Helping our scholars thrive into adulthood

We believe strongly in SEL because it’s critical to our scholar’s success — not only in school, but also long after they leave our classrooms. When they graduate from HCZ Promise Academy and start the next stage of their journeys, they will be empowered with the critical life skills needed to succeed in college and in their careers.

At the end of the day, our scholars thrive. Our schools benefit. And our workplaces are stronger — all thanks to SEL and the efforts of dedicated professionals like our SEL Team!

“SEL helps scholars cultivate life skills that are vital for success in school and their careers,” Principal Schultz said. “As scholars develop into socially responsible individuals. They contribute positively to their communities and to a culture of empathy and kindness.”