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Reengaging young people with insights from the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative

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Reengaging young people with insights from the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the entire education and youth development field is going through a turbulent time right now. Afterschool and summer programs, schools, and districts are all scrambling to figure out how to meet the needs of young people and their families this summer and into the next school year. In this pivotal time, it is critical that we leverage the power of partnerships between school and districts and community partners in order to provide opportunities for our young people to reengage, reconnect, and accelerate their learning in the wake of the pandemic.

The American Rescue Plan has provided a tremendous amount of funding to help support evidence-based strategies for accelerating learning and reengaging young people, but forging strategic, genuinely impactful partnerships between community partners and schools is no easy feat even when the funding is there to help support them. Fortunately, the Wallace Foundation-funded Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative (PSELI) has already begun providing some invaluable and timely insights for the field about how to make these partnerships work.

PSELI is a comprehensive, six-year initiative that’s digging into the question of how children can benefit from long-term, strategic partnerships between schools and out-of-school time programs that focus specifically on social and emotional skills. Now in the third year of the initiative, in February the Wallace Foundation had already begun sharing out some of the lessons that have been learned so far through a 5-episode podcast series that gives listeners an opportunity to hear from practitioners in schools and out-of-school programs about their experiences working together to help kids develop the social and emotional skills that they need to thrive. As we are collectively preparing for this summer and trying to figure out how best to leverage the opportunities make possible by the American Rescue Plan funds, we thought it was the perfect time to resurface the lessons and insights that the podcast offers.

The podcast series features experts from each of the six communities that are involved in the PSELI initiative – Boston, Dallas, Denver, Palm Beach County, Tacoma, and Tulsa – as well as other experts in the SEL and out-of-school time fields and helps distill the myriad learnings from the initiative into digestible kernels of knowledge that can help schools and programs set themselves up for success this summer and into the coming school year.

The first episode provides a lot of information about the specifics of why these types of partnerships are not just beneficial but necessary if we are to ensure that all young people have access to high quality opportunities for social and emotional development. The second episode digs further into what it really means to support the development of adults’ capacity to promote social and emotional learning, and how important it is for adults to focus on the development of their own SEL skills. The third episode covers how to structure these types of partnerships in ways that set them up for success, and how to make sure that the partnership isn’t just transactional but becomes strategic. The fourth and fifth episodes give a great snapshot of what it looks like to support school and out-of-school efforts to adopt SEL instruction, provide ongoing feedback, and really integrate and infuse SEL across all settings.

The timeliness of the insights these podcasts provide cannot be overstated; after the challenges of the past 14 months, this summer will provide schools, districts, and youth development programs with much-needed unique opportunities to partner around reengaging young people, and these podcasts provide some great insights on what those partnerships can – and should – look like.

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