AmeriCorps Members Help Local Students with SEL

Dultuh, Minn. — The pandemic had, in the words of the Brookings Institute, a devastating impact on students.  It not only affected academic levels, but with students not having interactions with other students their social skills were also impacted.

True North AmeriCorps is helping 30 schools and other organizations work with children to help the students with their Social Emotional Learning.

These second graders at Marshall Forest School are back in class learning reading writing and arithmetic after two years being away from a school room. They are also having to learn or relearn something else.

8 year-old Lola Ray and the rest of the students are also learning about dealing with their feelings and with others, thanks to AmeriCorps members in the school. Lola Ray said, “AmeriCorps is mainly Cailee. She’s able to like if we are feeling upset, she’ll have us go on a walk around the building, she has special things we can do.”

The learning and growth takes place both indoors and out. Working on a winter temperature project does more than just teach some science. The kids are also enjoying themselves, interacting with each other, and are often more likely to share what’s on their mind.

Since September students have been put into 15 member crews. They are learning about Social, Emotional Learning, or SEL. In smaller groups students are encouraged to talk about their feelings. Cailee Peterson is one of the AmeriCorps members and had this to say about the progress she has seen, “Especially at the beginning of the year. It was like how was your day today? How did you feel today?  And they’d say, good and that’s it. Slowly, we’re building into, I was a little anxious about doing this today, but I got over it and I had a friend help me”

Peterson says that while the students have become more expressive, she realizes that she too has personally grown and learned more about how she deals with social, emotional learning
This program is in 30 schools and other places such as Boys and Girls clubs in the northeastern part of the state. Program director Alice Werle says that through assessments with students who were in an SEL program a 70 percent increase in SEL behaviors was attained last year. Student’s academics also improved.

The program director for True North AmeriCorps, Alice Werle said, “If a student is coming to the school day and they’re feeling anxious or didn’t sleep well, it’s really helpful to know that so that you can provide them with strategies so they’re ready to learn.”

Marshall Forest’s principal, Matt Whittaker, says he’s already seen improvements in the students. “One of the keys is that these students have been through trauma to certain degrees, and to have these tools then, to be helping them move through. Understand, yea, this is hard and you can do hard things. It’s been really good to see over the last several months.”

Whittaker says he’s thankful the AmeriCorps members are working with the students to help them cope with their social and emotional needs.

Categories: Education, Minnesota, News, News – Latest News