NUS @ASUGSVSummit: How Social Emotional Learning Can Help Youth Cope With Trauma


Communities in trauma is a topic that has taken on greater urgency as schools and agencies look for ways to support cases where families have experienced severe hardships such as abuse, neglect, homelessness or hunger. More communities are considering ways to integrate social emotional learning into outreach services to children, to help equip youth with the skills to cope with these stressors.

According to the National Survey of Children’s Health over 40 percent of children in the U.S. have experienced one or more traumatic or adverse experiences in their homes, neighborhoods or wider communities. Research further suggests that exposure to events such as violence, criminal behavior and substance abuse can severely impact a child’s academic performance and health throughout their lives.

monday.SEL and Trauma
monday.SEL and Trauma

On the first day of the ASU GSV Summit, experts discussed how schools and after-school locations are increasingly offering interventions that include how to cope better with these challenging situations, such as the use of social emotional programs like Sanford Harmony. The topic was addressed during two sessions: Trauma-Resilient Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs: A Vision for Transformational Change and A Community Based-Approach to Trauma and Social Emotional Learning.

The panels included: Dr. Marc Brackett, Founding Director of the YALE Center for Emotional Intelligence, YALE/RULER; Dr. Heather J. Clawson, Chief Program and Innovation Officer, Communities In Schools National Office; and David Adams, Director of Social Emotional Learning, The Urban Assembly.

Additional panelists including Eric Gurna, President & CEO of LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program and Elizabeth Cook, Senior National Advisor of Social Emotional Health at Alliance for a Healthier Generation discussed how their partnerships with the Sanford Harmony SEL program better enable them to embrace an effective trauma-resilient approach in their organizations.

“Half of public-school students in Los Angeles report moderate to severe traumatic stress symptoms,” said Eric Gurna, President and CEO of LA’s BEST Afterschool Enrichment Program, which has been dedicated to positive youth development for nearly 30 years. “Our partnership with Sanford Harmony has expanded our social emotional toolkit to equip staff to care for themselves as well as students and transform not only our programs but also our systems and culture.”

Sanford Harmony’s social emotional learning program offers lessons that emphasize communication and mutual respect to support student development and growth, which aligns with studies that indicate social emotional learning contributes to more positive academic and personal outcomes for children into adulthood. Sanford Harmony, which is based on the vision of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, has been recognized as a leader in SEL by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the national organization that evaluates quality SEL programs. The program is being expanded nationally and globally through the San Diego-based National University System, a network of accredited nonprofit education institutions, and is now reaching more than 8 million students.

About Sanford Harmony
Based out of the National University System, the Sanford Harmony social emotional learning program is being offered at no cost to schools and youth-focused nonprofit organizations, thanks to the generosity of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford in conjunction with the San Diego-based National University System (NUS). NUS is a network of accredited nonprofit education institutions that includes National University, Northcentral University, John F. Kennedy University, City University of Seattle, and the Division of Pre-College Programs. The San Diego-based National University is home to one of the Top Ten largest schools of education in the country, the Sanford College of Education. Nationwide, Sanford Harmony is being expanded to the nation’s largest school districts. To learn more: