Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series on the importance of giving today’s inner city youth the tools they need to be ready for college, career and life. Link for part 1
To help get youth ready for the road ahead, L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) partners with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) to recruit Ambassadors for our programs. With an army of great educators, facilities and state of the art technology, students in the inner-city communities of Atlanta have an awesome opportunity to enhance their educational experience.
At L.E.A.D., we have made it our mission to bolster the social and emotional learning (SEL) capacities that our youth inherently have at varying levels. To help do that, we teach SEL development by first speaking this language to our Ambassadors and Junior Ambassadors. This helps them understand what SEL is and why it is important.
To succeed, students must develop an awareness of SEL capacities before they can understand and develop them. When they understand it, they win.
That is why sports, and specifically baseball, is such a powerful vehicle for youth development. By way of preparation and competition, sports offer many opportunities to practice something and test it out through healthy stress and pressure.
When our metrics show that SEL development is low or not on track, we not only use the data to evaluate our youth, but also to evaluate our programming. The key is to assess whether we are the problem, and if we are, we must make the proper adjustments in our programming—just like in sports.
Likewise, if our assessment shows our Ambassadors are the issue, we continue to train and practice through leadership development. They must continue to get opportunities to fail because overcoming failures while under stress is how you develop skills.
We liken L.E.A.D to the Navy SEALs. Just like the highly trained and efficient SEALs, we have high standards, clear expectations and swift accountability. These are the standards we use when teaching SEL capacities. We remain intentional about our Ambassadors getting quality, frequent, consistent opportunities to develop SEL capacities.
Developing SEL capacities ensures our Ambassadors can win at the game of life. L.E.A.D. has defined three curveballs that threaten the success of our Ambassadors: crime, poverty and racism. Possessing a high potency of SEL capacities means they have what they need to make better decisions and to position themselves to have viable options for employment/career opportunities.
SEL capacities give our Ambassadors a level of positive consciousness that can hopefully help them defeat the negative threats and impulses that arise daily. The winner between positive consciousness, and negative threats and impulses depends upon which they feed the most. That is why we provide them with high doses of SEL building programming all year long, which has the potential to change them, their families, their communities, their city, our country and our world.
Photo credit: Chase Reichenbach