• Stephanie Orr


When a vaccination is discovered in the US to cure a pandemic disease we aggressively make sure every child has the cure, right? In the 1960s, for example, the US government mandated every child be given a sugar cube with the polio vaccination stopping the spread and destruction of polio.

You may not realize it but there are now vaccinations in the form of prevention education that can help all children in American reach their fullest potential while preventing meanness and bullying! Discovered in the 1990’s, this prevention education vaccination teaches children social and emotional learning (SEL) as young as pre-school. SEL teaches children how to identify and manage their emotions, become aware of their own behavior patterns and the positive or negative effect they have on others, and how to use this information to make positive choices that improve behavior, relationships, and overall effectiveness.

These powerful self-management tools ultimately aid academic learning and increase the students’ ability to work well independently and advocate for themselves and others. The research is strong: when students participate in an SEL program, their behavior improves in school, and so do their test scores. When students have emotional support, and they feel their school environment is safe from bullying, they can focus on learning math, science, art, and history. SEL also significantly decreases children, teens and adults from turning to anger, and violence to workout challenges in their lives. Building individuals SEL skills provides the tools needed to live in positive cultures of support and compassion. People can spend less time trying to figure out how to avoid bullies, they can learn the skills to not become bullies, and they can learn how to de-escalate problems, instead instigating negative situations.

Why hasn’t this solution been taught in all schools throughout the country? Because, unfortunately, the general public is unaware of social and emotional learning and the positive outcomes it can create. Therefore, it is essential we educate everyone about this powerful solution so they can spread word to reach as many children, teens as adults!

Every time we hear of another violent mass shooting, we turn to each other distraught as we mourn the loss of lives full of anger and sadness. What is our national response? We stand by and watch recounts of the violence and hurt and ask “why this is happening? What can be done about it?” Political, and Social leaders saturate the media with their discussions and debates some partial solutions to the violence. Unfortunately, few conclusions are reached and we continue to have more aggression and brutality. We hear of girls in middle school taking videos of each other fighting. We hear of cruelty by children bullying each other on the Internet. On national news, we saw Ray Rice punch his wife in the face in the elevator, and we learn of horrific acts of prejudice and violence of police brutality. One after another, these scenarios, which used to be considered outrageous, appalling events, are becoming more and more commonplace. Furthermore, we become more accustomed to these horrific acts, accepting that there is no solution.

The great news is that we can do far more to get to the root of the problem by teaching Social and Emotional Intelligence learning (SEL) to all children, teens and adults. The solid evidence of the positive outcomes gained by teaching SEL gives huge hope and positive proof of something better! AND the only thing standing in this SEL solutions’ way is the lack of awareness and advocacy movement to get everyone excited and motivated to integrate this solution in every school and in our communities as well as families, organizations, and business. Once you learn more about SEL you will realize it is just common sense. Humans experience up to 3,000 emotions yet there is little to no opportunities for our children, teens, and adults to develop these positive social and emotional intelligence skills, equivalent with all academic subjects. We can teach children, teens and adults skills how to live a positive, non-violent life.

Through the Arizona State PTA, in 2012 I met Mitzi Epstein, who was the Legislative Issues Chair. After talking with her about SEL, she recognized the power of teaching SEL skills to dramatically improve the positive potential of all human beings and decrease negative behaviors. She and Rochelle Wells, President of the AZ PTA also at that time, invited me to start working with local PTA units to bring SEL programs to more schools reaching, students, parents and teachers.

Because of the tremendous need for an SEL education and advocacy Campaign, Casa has formed SEL4AZ as the movement across Arizona. And we are recruiting Arizona youth and adults to join this free membership, grassroots crusade. I have been working with Mitzi Epstein in the Warner/ Kyrene area to help spread the word about this powerful movement to empower people, instead of escalating violence. She is helping me to reach out to community groups to bring information about SEL to you.

Please join us in learning more about SEL4AZ. Sign up today!

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Stephanie Orr has been Casa’s leader, spokesperson, and soul, for longer than I can count. When I first got to Casa in 1997, it seemed to me that she had been there forever, even though I know that is