A Year of Propel SEL

For the past year, 11 youth serving organizations across the Twin Cities metro have participated in the Propel SEL initiative, a professional development cohort dedicated to supporting organizations in understanding and implementing social emotional learning within programming. Participating organizations came together for monthly meetings to reflect and dialogue about SEL as a concept, and about innovative strategies on how to embed it in their programs.

Lessons Learned 

Although the cohort included many different organizations, each with their unique social emotional learning journey, participants expressed similar lessons learned. For many of the participants, such as David Woods from Urban Roots, this cohort experience reinforced the “realization that SEL for youth starts with the staff’s own SEL and learning environment.” As David pointed out, “We want to keep building an environment that we [staff] want to continue being a part of, because youth really value and recognize the importance of seeing the same adults year after year when they come back.”

 Another lesson seemed to be shared by cohort members was the need to uplift the social emotional learning already embedded in youth and the cultures or contexts they come from, especially within culturally specific youth programming. “We’ve already been practicing SEL within African diasporic communities, but being intentional about our language and how we articulate it in the context of a traditionally white-centered approach to SEL, wouldn’t have happened in this particular way without this cohort,” shared ARTS US executive director Anthony Galloway.

What’s Next?

While these are only a few of the many lessons and practices resulting from the cohort experience, the development around social emotional learning is far from over. As the one-year learning cohort comes to an end, here are a few key next steps:

  • Organizations will have the opportunity to apply for an additional implementation stipend to use for their “next steps” on social emotional learning
  • Pilot will be evaluated to inform Sprockets and other out-of school time intermediaries on how to continue supporting SEL development at the individual, organizational, and systems levels

Seeds of Inspiration

During the final cohort meeting, participants were asked to complete a fun reflection activity where they created a proverb related to SEL, inspired by their learning journey so far. Below are some of the proverbs that emerged. We hope these proverbs guide these organizations on their continuous journey of SEL, and even inspire other organizations and individuals passionate about youth work, to reflect on their own SEL journeys in order to better support the journeys of young people!

  • “One cannot teach SEL if one does not know their own.”
  • “They who listen to youth shall have a more_____ (accurate, responsive, hopeful, etc.) view of the world.”
  • “It is difficult to grow a flower in a broken pot.”
  • “Those who feel they have mastered SEL shall always be misguided as the quest for improving never ends.”

Participating Organizations

  • Saint Paul Public Library
  • Fred Wells Tennis and Education Center
  • Hennepin County Library
  • PCYC
  • Sejong Academy
  • Simpson Housing Services
  • Urban Roots
  • WE WIN
  • Youth Farm