21 Sep Creating a Student-Centered Program to Build SEL Skills
SEL Competency: Interpersonal Skills; Belonging; Growth Mindset
Driver of Focus: Elevating Youth Voice, Caring Relationships
Cohort Demographics: 6th-12th Grade
The Leaders Club at Prospect Park serves as an entry point for teens in Brooklyn, so the staff made it a priority that this diverse group of teens feel welcome to take leadership roles both in the Y and in their community. Y staff introduced a group meeting model that grants opportunities for older students to take leadership roles and for all students to share insights and advice. These discussions gave way to a significant increase in Interpersonal Skills, Growth Mindset and Belonging.
- Vent Sessions: Once a week, 30-45 mins
- Group Discussions: Once a week, 45-90 mins
- A separate room, for students to sit in a circle
- 10:1 student to staff ratio
Vent Session: Depending on the relationship with students, try not to have too many authoritative figures in the room, so students feel safe sharing negative opinions.
- Set community guidelines with students, including a talking piece.
- Ask students to share anything on their mind. “the past week, month.” Place emphasis on sharing, regardless of it being good, bad, silly, whatever. Remind them to adhere to community guidelines. If relevant, ask if any other students have advice to offer. “Could they do something differently? How could they move forward with this situation?”
- After all have shared, it’s “Shout out Time” – Students give a shout out to at least one person in the room. ex: “Shout out to Tom for helping me with my essay earlier today…”
- Try to make it a recent issue, or something relevant to students. Ask students for topics.
- Train students facilitators with PARC (Plan, Action, Reflect, Celebrate) / SAFE methods.
- Remind students of the group norms, and to respect each other.
- Each topic should have a section to give information; one for open opinions, ask for all to share; a reflection: Ask, “as a leader, how would you address this session?”; and student feedback on the structure and topic of the discussion.
Students at Prospect Park Leaders Club are expected to take a leadership role in their communities. These vent sessions and discussions are a means for them to get to know each other, with 7th graders and 11th graders forming relationships through these discussions, and serve as an opportunity for older students to take leadership roles in the group. They also give students the chance to share insights, emotions and advice.
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUR PRACTICE WORKED?
Based on Network-Wide SEL Survey Analysis, YMCA Prospect Park Leaders Club was identified by Research Alliance for NYC Schools as one of 18 Bright Spots; meaning they had a greater positive effect on youth SEL compared to sites that serve similar students across the Network. This site was recognized as a Bright Spot in ALL SEL competencies. These charts show the change in the percentage of youth responding positively to Survey questions related to Interpersonal skills, Belonging, and Growth Mindset.
TIPS FOR IMPLEMENTATION
- Make sure to have student-led community guidelines
- Precede Vent Sessions with an icebreaker — different icebreakers each week
- When thinking about topics, ask “What do i wish I spoke about when I was a teen?”
- Be vulnerable!
- Share your own background, but validate their experiences by not comparing them to your own
- Engage student families and share what’s going on in program to build that relationship.
- Build a suggestion box with the students
- Emphasize importance sharing and accepting different perspectives vs changing them.
- Take student feedback seriously, and do best to implement that in the following discussion to promote buy-in.