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EQ as a basis for academic and career success

By Margo Herman

How are we preparing our youth in terms of social and emotional growth?

Daniel Goleman, one of the emotional intelligence gurus of our day, calls this educating the whole student by "bringing together mind and heart". Goleman speaks about the journey of bringing intelligence to emotion and keeping distressing emotions in check.

Emotional intelligence is:
  • Being self aware
  • Being socially aware
  • Being able to manage feelings
  • Having empathy for and awareness of others
  • Being able to bring this awareness into relationship skills, as illustrated by Jean Hammink's emotional intelligence model
These are life skills for all people, young and old. But how do youth workers go about intentionally nurturing these competencies?

I learned more about this recently when I attended the Building a Grad Nation Summit 2013 in Washington D.C., put on by America's Promise Alliance. The summit focused on the potential we have to impact the achievement gap in education. My favorite break-out session was "Nurturing Social and Emotional Growth" in which the speakers discussed the realities, latest research, and compelling examples of how families and communities are strengthening social and emotional skills as an essential part of every child's education. The session included a rich interchange about how the school day blends with out-of-school time as well as family life to best support youth. I walked away very encouraged.

The National Human Services Assembly recently issued a report called "Keeping Kids On Track In The Middle School Years". On page 5, a model describes how youth development programming connects to promoting educational success for school achievement. The model proposes that youth workers who improve the quality of youth development programming help strengthen the psychological, social/emotional, as well as academic and career development domains of middle school students, who then enter high school better prepared to succeed.

I particularly homed in on the specific list of social and cognitive development skills included in the model. I find this recognition about the importance of all these domains contributing to educational success an important focus for youth development programs.

Is social emotional intelligence on your radar in your youth programming? In what specific ways do you see youth workers nurturing these skills in youth?

-- Margo Herman, Extension educator, educational design and development

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  1. I really appreciate your post, Margo, particularly because with all the recent attention on socio-emotional skills (or “soft skills” or “21st century skills” or …) the emphasis tends to be much more on the social than the emotional. As part of the Pathways Project, one of the things we’re exploring is how young people learn to manage emotions that arise in youth program settings as well ways that program staff support this learning. We have found that youth not only learn about emotions (like frustration, anger and worry) but how to regulate them and even use them in constructive ways. Our team has a chapter on this in a forthcoming book on positive psychological research, applications and interventions being used among adolescents and children (see Thanks for shining some light on the importance of emotional learning and the role of youth programs in promoting it!

  2. Margo Herman, Extension Center for Youth DevelopmentApril 12, 2013 at 3:38 AM

    The Pathways Project is one great example of youth programming having the interest, capacity, and knowledge to nurture emotional learning. Thanks for sharing the description. The panel at the Grad Nation Summit session on Nurturing Social and Emotional Growth included a young man from Texas who spoke very eloquently about how the coaching and mentoring role of a significant adult changed his emotional outlook in high school from gang member to high achieving student. Other tangible examples people can share to illuminate how to promote emotional learning in youth programming? BTW, Kate, the book chapter looks amazing- worth looking into, so let us know when it is published!

  3. It's very exciting to see this discussion about the importance of emotional social intelligence development for youth. From my experience, the most important focus of this work might be investing in the emotional social intelligence of the youth workers. For any of us, our work in this area will be most effective if you're invested in and experiencing it personally. That in turn becomes the most powerful part of supporting this development in others.

  4. Margo Herman, Extension Center for Youth DevelopmentApril 15, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Thanks for your contribution, Jean! I value your perspective that we need to know and value the emotional social intelligence perspective ourselves before we can be helpful nurturing it in others. It can be years of appreciation to understand the self awareness well enough to carry it proficiently into relationship with other. Over the years I have followed your work, I have most appreciated becoming better at identifying emotional triggers for ourselves that often mess up our ability to relate well with others. I thought the "Keeping Kids on Track" resource in the blog did a nice job showing how the social/emotional domain is equally important to the other domains in student success. If we as youth workers recognize triggers and emotional reactions in ourselves we can be infinitely more helpful to the youth we work with as they navigate regulating their emotions. I imagine each of use wish we had learned this skill earlier in life with the support of adults who understood how this works. For more in-depth view of Jean's work visit her website at!
    P.S. I just saw the Jackie Robinson movie this past weekend called 42! Great portrayal of emotional social intelligence and regulating the emotional triggers that can unravel us if we let them.