Beginning mid-August, Wings for LIFE’s after-school programs will offer on-site and free of charge to children and youth at both elementary and middle schools. Wings for LIFE recently conducted a pre-registration for returning students and supplied new backpacks filled with school supplies to those registering thanks to Roswell Sertoma Club. Additional backpacks will be donated to Roswell Independent School District for distribution.
Building Assets Social & Emotional Learning Skills Program for elementary school children utilizes Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets. These 40 assets are research-based positive experiences that influence young people’s development, helping them become responsible, productive and caring adults. Included in the program are the five competences of Social and Emotional Learning Skills which complement the 40 assets: Self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
Marty Garcia, Building Assets coordinator, said, “After working with a prevention program for more than 25-plus years with the Department of Health and seeing the difference prevention can make, I can truly say that this program is on target.” “We provide the tools children need to make the right choices and we make it fun.”
Garcia added, “It is rewarding to see the confidence students exhibit after a few weeks and the relationships they build with students with whom they normally would have never crossed paths. We reinforce on a weekly basis they matter, that they are important and what they have to share makes a difference.”
WhyTry Leadership Program is the program offered in the middle schools. This evidence-based program teaches social and emotional principles to youth in a way they can understand and remember. The WhyTry curriculum utilizes visual analogies that teach important life-skills (decisions have consequences, dealing with peer pressure, obeying laws and rules, plugging into support systems). The visual analogies are reinforced through creative use of customized hip-hop music, video, and learning activities including journal activities that help students reflect on program concepts and engages all major learning styles (visual, auditory and body-kinesthetic). There is also a substance abuse prevention segment taught by a Licensed Substance Abuse Associate and presentations by various guest speakers.
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Shelly Currier, executive director of Wings for LIFE, said that both school programs run 33 weeks during the school year. Students already in the program are encouraged to continue each year.
“This gives Wings the opportunity to reinforce skills already taught as well as introduce new ones,” she said.
New students are recruited to fill vacancies left by those transitioning to middle school or high school.
Some lessons taught include regulating one’s emotions, respect, peaceful conflict resolution, building relationships with diverse individuals and groups, listening and communication skills, awareness of strengths in self and others, and bully prevention. One very important skill taught is empathy — being aware of, and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another, or as the children in the program say, “Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
This is especially true considering the impact of social media that many say has a negative impact on empathy. It is easy to text a hurtful and/or hateful message to someone without having to witness the effect such a comment has on the individual to whom it was directed. Currier states that the children take to heart what they learn and readily practice these new behaviors. In April of this year, a survey was sent to parents/caregivers whose children were in the Building Assets Program. There was one comment section that was optional and asked if there were any noted changes in behavior. Currier said that the comments by parents that the children were modeling the behaviors taught.
Here are a few examples:
• She has shown she values herself recognizing her positive attributes. She loves the projects.
• They are more communicative and open.
• Improved behavior and respect for others.
• Takes interest in others — cares about others has gain more confidence and is more positive about school.
• I have notice my daughter is more social and has different positive ways to solve issues she comes across.
• Always looks to make someone else’s day better.
Currier said all of staff members at Wings for LIFE are grateful to the Roswell Independent School District administration and school staff that have been so welcoming to our programs since we first began in 2009. Currier noted that RISD is proactive in advancing the educational needs of the children and youth in our community.
Programs that ensure school safety, support school attendance, reduce truancy, expand school literacy initiatives as well as increased family engagement in the education process, are just a few that have been put in place. In addition, RISD has partnered with local nonprofits, such as Wings for LIFE and CASA, that are already actively involved in positive youth development.The focus is and always will be on the children and families in the Roswell Community.
The Wings for LIFE office is located at 505 N. Pennsylvania Ave. behind the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church office. For more information, call 575-317-2042
“We need to see children for the hope that they are. We need to educate their whole being, so they can face the future. We may not see this future, but they will, and our task is to help them make something of it.”
— Sir Ken Robinson