of Greater Santa Barbara


Social and emotional learning is essential for girls to thrive


Inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold relies heavily on girls having caring and supportive mentoring relationships, positive peer interactions, and an affirming environment where they can learn and pursue self-discovery. Our approach at Girls Inc. stresses the importance of building self-confidence in girls while also emphasizing healthy relationships inside and outside the classroom.

At Girls Inc., we fully invest ourselves in girl development and social-emotional learning (SEL) is an integral way in which we help prepare girls to navigate the challenges and opportunities life throws their way. SEL is particularly important for the girls we serve, girls from low-income communities and girls of color, who experience even greater inequality and thus face unique and compounding challenges. How does SEL play out in real life? Let’s paint the picture.

Girls enter the program space and join a group discussing relationships and standing up for others who are being teased and bullied. The facilitator blends into the circle and listens as the girls drive the conversation, which includes sharing stories, asking questions, and showing a range of emotions. The facilitator only steps in when there is an opportunity for the girls to think a little deeper, use empathy, reflect on how they can use their skills, or consider alternatives to past decisions.

We approach SEL focusing on the types of skills that are particularly important to girls — those that help them push past stereotypes and limited expectations. Girls feel empowered to take healthy risks and lead as role models. They are more comfortable stepping outside their comfort zones. They readily share their ideas and ask questions. As girls learn to succeed–and to fail– in a supportive space, they build the confidence and self-awareness to push past barriers and grow up to be successful women.

Our intensive outcomes work allows Girls Inc. to measure the impact of SEL and shows us that it does indeed play a critical role in girl development. Not only do social-emotional skills correspond with higher levels of diligence, perseverance, leadership, standing up for one’s beliefs and fairness, social responsibility, and self-regulation, but educating girls in social-emotional learning also produces higher academic performance.

At Girls Inc., we are dedicated to continuous implementation of SEL so that girls can see the benefits in their school, social and family spheres. This comprehensive, holistic approach to development provides girls a foundation to build healthy relationships with others and importantly themselves. We take great pride in helping girls cultivate these critical skills to overcome serious challenges, set and achieve their goals, and become successful in school and in life.

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