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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 2

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:

· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)

· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts. The second portion was The City Artifact Shareout, which is a space for selected SEL Educators and professionals to share the resources they utilized to help guide EQ activities within their communities. This year, seven eager SEL experts volunteered their go-to tools. This article highlights three.

  1. Tozyea Reed (Dallas, TX) - SEL Calm Corner are physical spaces designed to help students check in with themselves. In these spaces are handouts, and hands-on tools for self-awareness and mindfulness.

  2. Kara Hader (Tulsa, OK). - Yale University’s Mood Meters are color-coded zones that help students identify their moods and that mood intensity. These meters are helpful in setting up norms and practice for noticing how you feel and then regulating those emotions.

  3. Lavone Walker (Omaha, NE) - Vibratone is a percussion bell that is used to focus group attention. At the sound, SEL student practitioners are intentionally centering.

Other impactful artifacts shared included Cooking Clubs for kids and staff, SEL Calm kits, and stipends geared at SEL initiatives. All of the artifacts provided takeaways that could be specified to our own communities and EQ practices.

The Arete SEL Challenge: Thank you for reading this article. As a part of our growing SEL community, we invite you to join the conversation. Which of Adams's highlighted artifacts interests you the most? Which of the briefly mentioned artifacts would you like to hear more about? Do you have any cool SEL artifacts to share?

 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring
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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 3

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:

· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)

· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts. The third portion was The City Networking Session, and participants had a choice of three Breakout Rooms. The Breakout Room discussions were focused on Strengthening Community Partnerships, Youth Voice, and Policy and SEL Working Groups, respectively. I joined the Youth Voice room since Arete’s Vision, Mission, and Motto are aligned with youth advocacy and SEL Leadership. The facilitator, Farhen Johnson, was phenomenal in delivering this thought:

 “SEL can’t work if it’s being done to you. However, SEL can work if we are speaking life into each other and showing up for one another.”

She drove home her point by challenging us with this thought:

“ SEL is a thread. How can we braid it in culturally?"

I took this as: Where in Arete’s program can we emphasize beneficial customs and observations based on our specific cultures and experience?

The key is developing a Connected Environment. Johnson listed four strategies for developing Connected Environments:

  1. Know Names

  2. Practice Emotional Checks

  3. Introduce Community Circles

  4. Keep all spaces in alignment

 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring
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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 1

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:
· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)
· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts:

  1. The Welcome and Key Note Speech
  2. The City Artifact Share-out
  3. The City Networking Session,
  4. SEL Professional Development

The keynote speaker was David Adams, CEO of Urban Assembly, and the premise of his presentation was to drive home how Belonging truly influences one’s purpose and need for education. The main text of reference was W.E.B Dubois' The Souls of Black Folk. This literary work revealed to Adams several insights. He emphasized three:

     1.) The purpose of Education is to transform from a carefree man to a thoughtful man, and the responsibility of each educated person is to help us all through the struggles and into progress.

     2.) To belong is to understand your responsibility to the group, and the group's responsibility to you. Being named and claimed can be healthy and helpful.

     3.) Burdens are easier to bare if everyone carries their own weight. Keep in mind that the strengths need never be unformed, as long as their benefits are mutual.

In closing, Adams reiterated the importance of belonging to and in educated communities by emphasizing the standstill politics places on education. Adams expressed that when education is guided through teaching rather than learning, a student’s scope is narrowed. The solution to teacher-centered education is in our shared characters, groups, and mutually shared experiences.

The Arete SEL Challenge: Thank you for reading this article. As a part of our growing SEL community, we invite you to join the conversation. Which of Adams's three insights were most impactful to your concept of belonging? What are some of the groups you proudly belong to?


 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring
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Arete 2020, A Look Back


When Dr. Ramon Gonzalez envisioned that a small non-profit could be the difference maker for kids in the South Bronx, he created a legacy in Mott Haven. Every student coming through the doors of The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology can and will reach their full potential.

Arete, the notion that excellence is virtue, that investing in human potential will create positive and lasting change: that is who we are. Those are the ideals we embody.

Before the pandemic, we served our community by providing free services that expanded the school day with afterschool programming in the arts, STEM, fitness, SEL, and academics; free services that expanded the school week through Saturday Academy; and free services that expanded the school year through our Summer Bridge Arts Institute. We expanded career pathways through internships, leadership programs, College Office staffing, and college visits. We served the Mott Haven community through food and coat drives, community events and celebrations spotlighting youth achievement, and providing greater access to technology. From 2012 to 2020, Arete dedicated itself to cultivating excellence in the youth we served.

The past nine months of the pandemic have transformed the terrain of the afterschool sector and presented a call to action for Arete to respond to the dramatic humanitarian, mental health, and economic development needs of our students, families, and neighborhoods.

We have learned that in the current pandemic setting, youth can reach their full potential, and we have to work differently to set the conditions for youth to flourish.

We have had limited access to school buildings to run Extended Schools programming. When the school buildings are open, we run program at just 15% of the capacity of pre-pandemic operations. Instead of 350 students in the building afterschool each week, we have 70 students.

We are working remotely; we are engaging volunteers; we are hiring and training youth. We have seen an outpouring of public financial and volunteer support from individuals and foundations who are dedicated to the success of youth in Mott Haven. We have channeled new funds from individual donors and foundations to feed our families, staff our family help hotline, provide wifi and computer access, and expand our paid internship programs for youth.

Our older students do not have the luxury to attend afterschool programming online; they are caring for siblings inside all day, struggling to connect via dropped cell and wifi connections, overwhelmed by the amount of time they are asked to be learning in digital spaces, and supporting caretakers who have lost jobs and homes during the pandemic.

Our approach to nurturing youth excellence in the pandemic has been to provide new, one-on-one tutoring and small group afterschool instruction and to pay, train, and hire our students and graduates to offer those services; to continue providing essential academic afterschool offerings (credit-bearing courses, book clubs, 8th grade algebra, debate); and to seek outside investments to provide food, PPE, school supplies, computers, and hotspots to our families.

The results have been inspiring. The creativity, passion, and expertise of our more senior staff has been funneled into our academic afterschool offerings and our expanded career pathways in teaching, the arts, and STEM for our students and graduates. Half of our staff are program alumni who work alongside our 35 high school and middle school students in paid internships to provide peer-tutoring and youth advocacy through the arts. We have raised over $120,000 (10% of our annual budget in 2020) in new funding sources to provide humanitarian aid and digital access for remote learning to our families in Mott Haven.

There is so much more to do in 2021.

Our work begins with gaining financial stability in 2021. We have weathered significant financial losses in 2020 due to unprecedented strains on state and city budgets due to the pandemic. Delayed reimbursements from the city and state agencies who provide roughly 75% of our program budget have threatened our ability to continue our programs uninterrupted in 2021.

We have not yet cut services to families based on the economic crisis in the city. For nine months we have thrived despite city and state budget cuts to the non-profit sector and specifically afterschool programming. We continue to seek public support for our work in 2021 through partnering with the Robin Hood Foundation, Hayden Foundation, Heckscher Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Gen Next, and the Tracy Family Foundation and through individual donor support. In 2020, we saw a $200,000 increase in foundation support (200% increase from 2019) and a $40,000 increase in individual donor support (200% increase from 2019). We are eager to see those numbers continue to soar in 2021 as we work to expand investment in Mott Haven youth.

We believe we have the talent, history, and vision to continue cultivating excellence in Mott Haven youth. We are eager to grow our programs to support our neighborhood in the South Bronx and explore new collaborations in Harlem to support schools and families interested in partnering with Arete in 2021.

Looking back, looking ahead, we are committed to training, empowering, hiring, and bringing out the full potential in our youth.



 - 01/01/2021 - sbsd@areteeducation.org
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New Research Revealed Positive Impacts of Community Schools Initiative (NYC-CS)

With the launch of the New York City Community Schools Initiative (NYC-CS) in 2014, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) has increased its focus on the implementation of a holistic strategy of education reform to address the social consequences of poverty as a means to improving student outcomes. NYC-CS is a strategy to organize resources in schools and share leadership among stakeholders so that academics, health and wellness, youth development, and family engagement are integrated into the fabric of each school.

Areté has been serving as the major Community Based Organization (CBO) for our partner - The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (MS/HS223), one of the Community Schools in School District 7.

This week, a new research study titled “Illustrating the Promise of Community Schools: An Assessment of the Impact of the NYC Community Schools Initiative” was released by the RAND Corporation, which examines the first three years of the Community Schools initiative and compares the performance of students in community schools with the performance of students in demographically-similar non-community schools.

The research has revealed several positive outcomes of NYC-CS, including but not limited to the following:

  • Students in community schools tend to have better academic achievement.
    • NYC-CS had a positive impact on math achievement
    • NYC-CS had a positive impact on credit accumulation for high school students
  • Students in community schools are more likely to graduate on time.
    • NYC-CS had a positive impact on on-time grade progression, and on high school students' graduation rates.
    • In 2017-18, graduation rates in community schools were 7.2 percentage points higher than comparison schools.
  • Students in community schools miss fewer days of school.
    • NYC-CS had a positive impact on student attendance for students in all grades and across all three years of the study.
    • Chronic absenteeism was 7.3 percentage points lower in community elementary and middle schools, and 8.3 points lower in high schools.
  • Students in community schools feel safer and more supported.
    • For every 100 students in elementary and middle community schools, community schools had 10 fewer disciplinary incidents per year.
    • NYC-CS was found to have a positive effect on students' sense of connectedness to adults and peers for middle school students.

It has been an honor for Areté to work closely with MS/HS 223 on this initiative. We are looking forward to utilizing this initiative and continuously making positive impacts to our students and the school community.

NYC Community Schools Work! from NYC Public Schools on Vimeo.

 - 02/03/2020 - Fiona Zheng

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