K-12 Education

National Commission Spotlight: Commissioner Chris Harried

November 1, 2016  • National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

Chris Harried fills a dual role with the National Commission, sitting on both the Aspen Institute Youth Commission and serving as the Youth Commission representative on the Commission itself. As such, he’s responsible for helping to connect the dots between the two commissions and ensuring each is informed by the discussions, perspectives, and experiences of the other. We invite you to learn more about Chris and his take on the importance of social, emotional, and academic development.

1) You just graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Congratulations! What’s next?

Thank you! I am so grateful for the many individuals who have invested in my growth and helped foster my achievement and scholarship. There are quite a few different opportunities on the horizon that I am considering. I’m excited that each of these paths before me includes graduate studies in the upcoming fall semester. It’s quite a wonderful situation in which to be.

2) In your own words, how would you define or explain social, emotional, and academic development (SEAD) to a friend?

The concept of SEAD is fairly simplistic at its core; the notion that resources and attention should be directed towards developing the whole child in a collaborative manner. Thus far, we’ve frequently seen our public education system focusing solely on what takes place within the classroom. While ensuring content mastery should always be a priority, care needs to be taken to invest in nurturing the full potential of our students.

3) Can you tell us a little bit about the Youth Commission and what you hope it accomplishes in the next two years?

The Youth Commission serves as an advisory body to the National Commission in helping to provide a contemporary and relevant perspective on the current state of education. We’re fortunate to have Youth Commissioners from a vast array of backgrounds who lend their varied knowledge to our joint mission. During our time together, the Youth Commission aims to supplement the work of the National Commission by providing lived experiences and advice to strengthen the forthcoming recommendations. In addition, members of the Youth Commission are excited about serving as ambassadors to their communities in regards to promoting the SEAD approach.

4) What has been the most rewarding aspect of serving on the National Commission and Youth Commission so far?

I am afforded the wonderful privilege of standing in an intersection of sorts. With the Youth Commission, I am surrounded by incredibly innovative peers who are asking questions and developing new ideas about our world that make me so excited to not only be in their company but to also collaborate on realizing a future where SEAD is the norm, not the luxury. Conversely, with my colleagues on the National Commission, I am able to benefit from their great wealth of knowledge while concurrently encouraging the consideration of new perspectives. It’s a delightful crossroads to straddle.

5) If you could ask schools and educators to do one thing to support the whole student, what would it be?

I would encourage our educators to create spaces where students can explore their differences. As someone who was educated in the midst of the NCLB era, I grow weary of this notion that all children learn exactly the same way. I would like to see more of an effort to meet students where they are, address their comprehensive needs in addition to their academic ones, and help them develop into better versions of themselves. For it is the developing minds of today that will be able to rise to the occasion and find innovative solutions to our world’s most challenging circumstances.

6) Looking back on your K-12 experience, do you have an example of when your school addressed your comprehensive needs through SEAD or when it should have, but didn’t?

Middle school was a tough time for me. I went from the safety of my elementary school where I knew many staff and faculty to a place that was very large and operated differently. I was an outsider in my new school culture—often harassed and ostracized by my classmates for earning high marks in my studies. Due to the shifting needs of my district at the time, there was more focus on addressing administrative issues than proactively dealing with school climate and students’ social and emotional needs. Although I had little support during my middle school years, I was so fortunate to attend a high school that did nurture my full development.

7) Twitter-bio: Who is the real Chris Harried? Tell us in 140 characters or less.

Faith. Family. Fulfillment. One Day At A Time.