SEL experiences!

Hi Friends,

Summer has officially arrived! Free book giveaways, Heal the Hood, Jazz in the Park, Summerfest and Garfield Days, we have so much to look forward to and celebrate this summer. Over the holiday, I hope everyone is able to rejuvenate, enjoy the weather, friends and family. It is my hope that this summer brings our community closer together. Please be safe and take care of each other.

This week we are thrilled to have our Goal 4 Manager for Social and Emotional Learning Catina Harwell-Young. Since Catina joined the Milwaukee Succeeds family less than a year ago she has been tireless working to acquire and share her SEL experiences. There is great value in learning and developing social and emotional skills not only when working with children, but also when working with understanding, and appreciating your colleagues.

Take it away Catina!

See you soon,


Ask me about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in the Workplace

In my role as the project manager for the Community Social Support Network (Goal 4), I am always thinking about ways to talk about social and emotional learning. Being abstract by nature, its definition varies widely. Still, I always feel like there has to be a way to talk about SEL that we all can relate to. Hopefully this helps us begin the discussion about the impact social and emotional learning can have in our community--specifically in the workplace.

About a month ago, I was asked by Danae to meet with our Community Engagement VISTA, Mimi. Mimi wanted to share her story with me. When we met, she told me that she recently realized that maybe she should have worked with Goal 4. She talked about how she connects with the value of developing social and emotional skills at an early age. She talked about her love for music and swimming and that she can memorize just about anything. She also shared that she was diagnosed with Dyslexia at a very early age – so was her Mom. Mimi wanted to share her story with the Milwaukee Succeeds community to help them understand why social and emotional supports matter to her….

Throughout her childhood, Mimi felt she was born with a “social strike” against her. “I hated hearing my name attached to LD [learning disability]”, Mimi reflected during one of our conversations. Fortunately for her, she had the support systems in her life that allowed her to excel, despite her dyslexia.

Mimi’s mother consciously exposed her to experiences that were different than the typical black girl growing up in Milwaukee - Waldorf schools, violin lessons, Spanish as a first language, opera. These experiences helped Mimi develop self-discipline, provided stress management and helped her identify her strengths. Her mom’s partner pushed her to be fearless, build her self-confidence and appreciate diversity. Her school IEP (Individual Education Plan) helped her set goals and become comfortable with asking for help. The circle of people around her worked tirelessly to ensure that Mimi would have the tools to be successful during her childhood.

But, now Mimi was in the workplace. She learned that it was challenging communicating with those outside her circle of trust. She was not used to the space constraints of working in a cubical. She didn’t handle conflict well. She categorizes herself as “obsessed with reflection” and she found herself overanalyzing every move she made. Mimi eventually recognized that she struggled in her role as VISTA because much of what we do requires tons of reading and writing (email, meeting notes, metrics) – all the things that challenge her most. Mimi reached out for help and Danae’s response was epic! Not only did they make adjustments to how and where Mimi did her work, it resulted in the story I am sharing today.

Mimi’s story is not unique. Many young professionals entering the workforce bring with them the baggage of their childhoods. A few, like Mimi, break out and share their experiences - not only to grow themselves but to challenge how we view and support our colleagues’ social and emotional needs in the workplace.

So what can you do? Here are a few strategies for incorporating social and emotional awareness in your organization:

  1. Take the time to understand how your employees/ co-workers learn and communicate best. Tailor your approach to meet those needs.
  2. Provide opportunities for team members to collaborate with one another. Interdependent roles allow people to use their strengths while having their limitations balanced by someone else on the team.
  3. Offer coaching that extends beyond topics that impact the “business side” of your work. Coaching that offer emotional management strategies and stress relief techniques can also improve performance.

Thank you Mimi for sharing your story with us! Thank you for reminding me that the best way to get people to understand social and emotional learning is by sharing the stories of those who value it. Thank you for reinforcing the biggest lesson we learned from Ruth Cross, our CASEL (Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning) Consultant - that social and emotional learning is not just for kids.

In order for this intervention to be effective, adults have to be active participants. The role of adults in this process extends beyond modeling positive SEL behaviors for our children. It hopefully makes us more conscious of the environments we live and work in, ultimately making Milwaukee a stronger community.

Join us for our next SEL learning opportunity!
MPS Leading the SEL Charge – The Second Step! Curriculum
Friday, July 14, 2017
9:00 am-11:00 am
Greater Milwaukee Foundation
RSVP by emailing Ari Everts at

Enjoy your holiday!

Until we connect again,

Catina Harwell-Young
Goal 4 Manager for Social and Emotional Health
Milwaukee Succeeds/Center for Youth Engagement

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