SEL and Your Community: Five Ideas for Involving Community Members to Support Your Students

5 Ideas for Connecting SEL to Your Local Community

Brainstorming ways to support students and their social, emotional, and academic needs? Try looking outside of school and students’ homes. Consider reaching out to local community leaders to promote social and emotional learning (SEL) and academic achievement. Here are five ideas to get you started.

  1. Afterschool Programs

Quality afterschool programs, which are often a part of larger organizations, can effectively build students’ social and emotional skills and improve academic success. Involve local organizations such as libraries; parks and recreation departments; and churches, synagogues, and mosques. There also are many national organizations that can support your program, including the YMCA, 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and scout groups. Here are a few best practices for integrating SEL into your afterschool program to increase success:

  • Integrate SEL with activities that support core academics. Students will be better equipped to learn and retain academic content when they possess strong social and emotional skills.
  • Increase staff buy-in with professional development on the importance of SEL. When staff understand the power SEL has to increase student engagement, they are more likely to embrace SEL and implement with fidelity.
  • Strengthen your afterschool program with a mentoring program. Promoting strong connections between mentors and students can be an effective way to increase academic interest, engagement, and success.
  • Engage students in remedial instruction through an SEL framework. SEL helps students understand the importance of education. By helping them realize its connection to their future goals, students will be more engaged in the learning process.
  1. Internships

Community-based internship programs can promote SEL as well as build workforce readiness skills. Establish partnerships with local businesses and organize internship programs where students can gain professional experience while earning course credit. Exposing students to different areas of the workplace early on can help them build a variety of social and emotional skills, including self-confidence, self-efficacy, motivation, goal-setting, organization, and responsible decision-making.

  1. Community and Family Workshops

Bring community and family members together by hosting an in-service event. Invite community leaders to share stories about challenges they’ve experienced and how they worked through those challenges to achieve success. Learning about these experiences will help families and students understand that even successful people face hardships, but obstacles can be overcome with effort and the right supports. The in-service can also help parents and students start planning for what comes next after high school. Too often, there isn’t a plan for after graduation. By involving community members in the discussion, students can start visualizing and setting goals for their future.

  1. Quality Programming and Assessments

Quality programming is essential to the success of an afterschool program. Look for evidence-based programming that includes community involvement. SEL programs can help fit these needs, and many work well in afterschool settings. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has compiled a helpful report of quality SEL programs, and several of these include a community component. A quality SEL assessment can provide critical insight into students’ needs. This data can help afterschool staff identify areas for improvement, as well as areas of strength. One SEL assessment that can be used within the classroom, in afterschool programs, or at home is the DESSA. The DESSA, a research-based SEL assessment that is used within Aperture Education’s Evo SEL system, works in conjunction with SEL programs and helps educators tailor interventions and supports based on students’ individual needs.

  1. Create a Program that Reflects Your Community

When looking to involve the community in your school or program, consider which cultures and ethnicities are represented. This will help ensure that your program reflects the diversity, interests, and members of your community. Exposing students to a variety of cultures, traditions, and beliefs will help them become more accepting of differences in others. Try these ideas for involving the community in students’ social and emotional learning. They can strengthen your SEL programs and help students start seeing themselves as contributing members of their communities. Need more ideas? Contact our experts at Aperture Education.

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