A new program that aims to bring people closer together and create a tighter-knit community through teaching the importance of social-emotional learning was introduced to Henry M. Gunn High School freshmen this year.

Last year, Titan Connect replaced Gunn’s freshman introductory course, Titan 101, as a test pilot program designed to focus more on social-emotional learning and less on academics. This school year, Titan Connect itself has been replaced by a new program, Social Emotional Literacy and Functionality (SELF).

The SELF program advises on social issues and connections with the students mentors.

While Gunn still has an academic advising program, the introduction of the SELF program advises on social issues and connections with the students mentors.

While previous programs such as Titan 101 and Titan Connect were only available during freshman year, SELF is designed to start in ninth grade and continue through all four years of high school.

“The SELF Program at Gunn focuses on the core SELF competencies of social awareness, self-awareness, self-management, self-efficacy, social management and social responsibility, and draws heavily from the nationally renowned School-Connect curriculum,” said Courtney Carlomagno, an SEL teacher at Gunn along with Tara Firenzi and Mike Heffner.

The ultimate goal is for all students at the school to be part of the SELF program by 2021.

“At the heart of the program are the relationships that students will build with their teacher-mentors and their peers,” Carlomagno said. “The idea is that for all four years, starting with freshmen year, students will meet regularly with the same group of peers and the same teacher mentor.”

At the beginning of freshman year, the SELF program breaks students up into groups ranging 20 to 24 students that last for the entirety of their high school careers.

Because the previous programs were not mandatory for sophomores, juniors or seniors, only freshmen are required to participate in the SELF program this year.

However, students from other grade levels have the option to join the SELF classes during their Flex time.

The ultimate goal is for all students at the school to be part of the SELF program by the year 2021.

“How the program will be evaluated is still in development but evaluation will be guided by the goal of having all students on campus connected to a trusted adult,” Carlomagno said.

“We are working closely with the district to develop mechanisms for getting clear, effective feedback and data from all stakeholder groups. This information will allow us to recalibrate when necessary, and make sure that we keep doing what’s working well.”

Teachers are also supposed to incorporate social-emotional learning into the cirriculum of regular math, English, science and history classes, in order to foster a constant feeling of social safety and social learning throughout the school, even in classes that do not directly teach in alliance with the program, in this way, further uniting the school.

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Christopher Pierno

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