Social and Emotional Skill Building
Advisories address the social and emotional skill deficiencies of our students. With in-depth data, our tailored curriculum provides maximum immediate benefit.
About Your Organization
Domus Kids, Inc.
United States, CT, Stamford
Country where this project is creating social impact
United States, CT, Stamford
Is your organization a
Non‐profit / NGO / Citizen sector organization
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
More than 5 years
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for 1‐5 years
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
To successfully transition to a post-secondary experience, students attending Stamford Academy, an urban charter high school, need to acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to recognize and manage their emotions; demonstrate caring and concern for others; establish positive relationships with peers, parents, and adults in positions of authority; make responsible decisions; and positively handle tough situations. Our students suffer from being negatively stereotyped, yet improper guidance and perspectives of their actions causes them to unknowingly perpetuate the misconceptions. Many students have justice system involvement, modeling violent behaviors they witness. By conducting regular advisory meetings with these urban youth, students will acquire the necessary skills.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
Our team of family advocates (FAs) work very closely with students at Stamford Academy and their parents to address the social and emotional issues that make it hard for these students to regularly attend school ready to learn. These FAs collect data on each student through social and emotional report cards that have been carefully designed with the characteristics of our students in mind. These report cards have four main focus areas: social awareness; self-awareness; responsible decision making; and self-management. This data informs each family advocate on areas of strength and struggle for each student and collectively within age groups and grades. This data is used to create the advisory curriculum which creates a plan and lesson to teach each particular area of weakness.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Interdisciplinary teams consisting of the student’s family advocate, a teacher, and a support person such as a literacy specialist, teaching fellow, or discipline advisor, meet three times a year to rate each student on grade-specific benchmarks. The teams collect the data on their students, analyze it to see the patterns of shared weakness, and use that information to prioritize lessons designed around necessary skills at each grade level. Once a week, family advocates and social work interns meet with students to use the designed curricula to teach important skills such as conflict resolution, interpersonal skills, advocating for oneself, understanding the school grading system and credit accumulation, communication, and empathy for others in the school, neighborhood, and community and implications for healthy collaborative living in the wider world. These lessons take the form of an activity, role play, or discussion. For example, an advisory lesson was taught around school rules and policies. The group was asked to create their own school and generate the rules they would implement. Small group conversations led to skill-building around accepting those policies that are best for the whole community versus just those that feel personally comfortable and lead to personal gain.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
Our charter school consists of low-income (80% FRL), mostly minority (96%) students in an urban setting who struggle with low academic achievement. No other nearby school purposefully recruits these students and has such a high concentration of students with Individual Education Plans (27%) and poor behavior. While advisories occur in other public and private schools, we aren’t aware of another high school serving urban youth in the same way. We painstakingly assess our students to find areas of greatest weakness and strength and then tailor our programming to address the results of our triannual interdisciplinary team meetings.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Advisories address the social and emotional skill deficiencies of our students, tailoring our curriculum to provide immediate benefit.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Social and emotional competency data drives life skills instruction for student growth and to improve school and community culture.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
We have successfully integrated advisories into the academic day for the 135 students attending Stamford Academy and are becoming more comfortable analyzing the data we collect from the social and emotional report cards. Our students learn language that helps to articulate expectations of students and community members with whom they interface. The skill building continues to create an environment that uses appropriate, effective language when expressing frustrations or need. This helps our students develop positive relationships at school, in their families, and in their communities. Peace in the student’s personal lives brings improvements in academic performance.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
Improved empathy and communication skills will lead to higher graduation rates, greater job skills, better job retention, and fewer arrests. They live in poverty, in families who fail to communicate effectively, and lack involved adults who model appropriate behavior. School staff witness poor coping skills and want to change this. These advisories provide students the language and understanding necessary to more effectively advocate for themselves, recognize and manage emotions, solve problems effectively, and establish positive relationships. We plan to enhance this effort by providing more time on task, establishing credit-earning opportunities through acquisition of these skills, and exposing students to their local and regional community through field trips.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Students join Stamford Academy with significant academic deficiencies, reading on average 3.5 years below grade level. Competing for time in a demanding academic schedule proves challenging. Demonstrating the importance of social and emotional well-being as the foundation for academic achievement remains paramount to gaining school-wide support. Designing ways to offer graduation credits for achievement of necessary skills signals the commitment to educating the whole child. Reinforcing these skills at home requires structuring methods for parent enrichment; our family advocates have strong relationships with parents. It is hard to raise money in this climate for engaging activities: Volunteer speakers and the recruitment of community resources enhance the advisory curriculum.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Mainstream the advisory process into Stamford Academy so students acquire skills to function effectively in the wider world.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Receive buy-in from school and organization leaders
Structure academic schedule to incorporate ideal amount of time for grade-level advisories
Formalize data evaluation process
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Revise the curriculum to incorporate the most critical skills, as seen in their social and emotional report cards.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Continue to refine the curriculum to best meet the needs of the students
Train teaching staff to support benchmarks, skill development, and actual skills
Schedule volunteers and community leaders to participate in advisory teaching
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
Several years ago, members of Stamford Academy staff stood talking outside the front of the building near a group of Stamford Academy male students. A young couple walked past, pushing their baby in a stroller. The boys made rude, provocative comments to the couple as they passed. The couple were visibly shaken by the comments but continued along so as not to become involved in an altercation. The staff observed this interaction and collectively agreed that they should address this inappropriate behavior. Discussions with the boys, the couple, and other staff members made clear the need to conduct advisories to teach these youth how to interact with others in a positive, appropriate manner. When parents aren’t conveying these norms, the school needs to.
Tell us about your partnerships
Stamford Academy is operated by Domus, the largest social service organization in Stamford, CT, helping over 1,200 youth and their families each year. As we enter our fortieth year working with vulnerable youth in Stamford, our relationships with the local government, school districts, police department, court system, nonprofits, mental and physical health providers, and community organizations continue to run very deep. We seek out the most vulnerable youth in the area and those who others reject.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
Family advocates work in the school addressing the student’s social and emotional issues and conduct the advisory sessions. Teachers, school staff, mentors, and program staff in related Domus programs reinforce concepts and model appropriate behavior. The director of clinical services, an LCSW, oversees the program and ensures targets are met on a timely basis. The associate executive director of Domus oversees the family advocate program and Stamford Academy.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list