When were you last captivated by youth voice on stage? Last month three young people blew a spark into my work when they spoke about the ways that social and emotional skills have helped them.
They spoke at the Children & Youth Issue Briefing to more than 1,000 people who came to think and learn about:
- Minnesota's innovative efforts to address key challenges and close the opportunity gap
- Issues affecting children and youth looking ahead to the 2014 legislative session
- Minnesota young people's experiences and perspective on the opportunity gap
In my work on the social and emotional learning initiative (SEL), my colleagues and I get immersed in research, develop resources and provide learning opportunities focused on moving SEL from research into action. During the panel, led by University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, I saw SEL skills live and on stage, articulated beautifully by this youth panel.
The three students spoke candidly about their lives, their school environment, challenges with cultural bias, barriers with teachers, and the reality of the opportunity gap. But they also acknowledged what worked well in their lives.
What worked well helps us to recognize what SEL skills and competencies look like. What I saw on stage was an impressive self awareness that illustrated these SEL skills and supports:
- youth with internal grit and perseverance
- youth benefiting from supportive mentors
- youth challenged by high parent expectations
- youth with a healthy dose of hope for the future in the midst of adversity
- youth with colorful-stories of self management
Malika is an immigrant who connected with an adult mentor eight years ago. This mentor has helped her develop her perseverance, assimilate into our culture and have hope for the future. Malika is articulate, engaging, carving a path with self motivation and will graduate from high school this June.
We all shared Corey's joy about navigating his way to college graduation. He spoke about the many financial and social challenges he experienced and conquered that demonstrated a persistence and self awareness of his personal goals.
These youth showed us SEL skills and competencies live and on stage, illuminating to a large audience how important these skills are to youth succeeding in a world full of obstacles, including a well recognized opportunity gap.
If you are interested in the perspective from some of the other speakers at this captivating briefing, I recommend these two summaries that focus more on the legislative and social issues addressed, from the Minnesota Council on Foundations and my colleague at the University of Minnesota College of Education.
We need more adults to recognize what these skills look like and to recognize the opportunity adults have to play a key role in supporting youth success. Have you ever been ignited by social and emotional learning skills demonstrated by a young person?
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