SEL & Equity for Prevention

Blog by Herren Project’s Youth Engagement Specialist, Natalie DeLaCruz

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is at the heart of all of Herren Project’s prevention efforts. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the definition of SEL is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions”. SEL fosters important protective factors, including the ability to have healthy relationships with others, that work to prevent substance use in young people.

There is a branch of SEL called Transformative Social-Emotional Learning (tSEL) that has a specific focus on equity. Like other kinds of SEL, it focuses on interpersonal relations and community-building, but it also teaches skills needed to “ensure democratic, fair, and inclusive communities.” This could mean teaching students about the importance of activism or teaching them how to speak up for what they believe in. In the wake of 2020, many young people have become passionate about a variety of issues, but particularly race and racism have come to the forefront. Having access to tSEL teaches them how to adequately and effectively channel that passion.

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding what SEL teaches which has led to tSEL becoming particularly politicized. SEL does not teach people to support a particular political party or movement. It is also sometimes deemed ‘controversial’ because of its connection to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). However, Herren Project will continue to advocate for SEL because we know that when we teach young people to show empathy for others and how to become passionate advocates, we are inherently promoting a more equitable society.

SEL is needed at all ages but is most effective when started young and continued throughout a person’s educational career. This is why Herren Project Clubs have SEL-based activities for K-12. We firmly believe that SEL is the key to creating a better, more just world.
For more information on SEL & equity, check out our podcast, the Purple Effect, and our episode “What is Social-Emotional Learning?”

Social Emotional Learning