“How We Are Going to Create Community”

SEL Competency: Interpersonal Skills

Driver of Focus: Building an Equitable, Inclusive Culture, Fostering Caring Relationships

Cohort Demographics: High School


Through their community guideline process, Sadie Nash Leadership Project’s Sisterhood Academy strives to create a space where young people and adult facilitators can be their whole selves, be vulnerable, and openly explore their own lived experiences and social issues. Participants feel valued as individuals with different perspectives and learn how to be with one another in community while tackling difficult issues and conversations resulting in an increase in Interpersonal Skills on the SSN Survey.



Always the first two sessions; about first 30 minutes of each session


Facilitator and dean (assistant) take great care to set tone before participants arrive — with chairs arranged in a circle with no desks to avoid over-emphasis on “adults” or “facilitators”.


Facilitators start with “go-around” — an introduction activity in which young people share their name, pronoun and the answer to one exciting question like “What would be your superpower? Who would play me in a movie?”

Then facilitator introduces concept of “safe space” and asks how we can create community. While taking notes on a chart paper labeled “How We Create Community”, facilitator takes suggestions from participants.

Facilitators and deans model repeating and citing individual community guidelines like “one mic” until young people integrate them.


Youth voice and ownership in program is established from the very beginning.

Sets foundation of “safer” and “braver” space that allows participants and facilitators to delve into self-reflection, community dialogue, teamwork, and leadership.


Based on Network-Wide SEL Survey Analysis, Sadie Nash Leadership Project’s Sisterhood Academy 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. The chart shows the change in the percentage of youth responding positively to Survey questions related to Interpersonal Skills. Participants also moved from relying on themselves to working as a team with other Sisterhood Academy participants.


  • Chart Paper
  • Student Survey Results


Encourage participants to praise each other for internal characteristics rather than external appearances.

Staff should consistently remind and show students that they belong and are valued.

Set a welcoming ambience, mindful of music, lighting, snacks and greetings.

These five guidelines are set consistently throughout all Sadie Nash programs, with descriptions and titles varying by group.

  • Don’t yuck my yum – We don’t devalue perspectives different from our own.
  • Oops, ouch – If offended or hurt, say “ouch.” If you offended or hurt someone, say “oops.” in order to open dialogue about what was said, and its impact, sans hostility or blame.
  • One mic – One person speaks, others listen.
  • Make space, take space – Being aware of how much you participate (or don’t) and adjusting so group members contribute equally.
  • Stories stay, lessons leave – Don’t tell others’ personal stories – share lessons learned.

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Find the printable version of this practice here. If you have questions or thoughts about this practice, comment below.

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Alexandra Lotero

Alexandra is passionate about the power of putting actionable data in the hands of practitioners and youth. Her mission is to support practitioners, researchers, and youth in creating data-informed, relationship-driven cultures that continuously improve student experiences that put all youth on a path to success. She is the proud daughter of Latin American immigrants, a City Year New York AmeriCorps alum, and the former Operations and Program Director for the 115-member NYC Civic Corps and 10-member NYC VISTA AmeriCorps programs at the NYC Mayor’s Office.

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