Around the Institute

Youth Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development Ready for National Call to Action

February 26, 2018  • Samantha Garzillo

In their first meeting of 2018, the Youth Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (YCSEAD) convened for their fifth working session at our new Institute HQ.

A group of 18 high school and college students appointed to two-year terms to advise the Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (NCSEAD), the Youth Commission works to re-envision what constitutes success in American PreK-12 education. By engaging educators, families, community leaders, researchers, and policy makers in communities across the country, the Commission is exploring how schools can fully integrate social, emotional and academic development to help students succeed in school, career, and life.

Students do not come into the classroom just as students, they have other parts of their life they’re dealing with.
— Chris Harried, Youth Commissioner for Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

Youth Commissioners’ fifth working session began with a presentation from founder of SEL Launchpad and NCSEAD Council of Distinguished Educators appointee Keeth Matheny. After spending much of 2017 hearing students’ perspectives on and experiences with social and emotional learning (SEL), Keeth presented the case for intentionality around SEL from the perspective of the implementer. Commissioners heard a first-hand account of both challenge and rewards of SEL implementation and were guided through activities intended to immerse them in implementers’ thinking around approaches to SEL in regard to effective collaboration, understanding the teenage brain, and managing emotions.

Keeth Matheny guides Commissioners through a debate.

Through breakout sessions, Youth Commissioners discussed the skills and values that need to be developed and nurtured in our education system to effectively build solid foundations for social and emotional learning. For one activity, Commissioners worked in teams to brainstorm what job skills HR directors look for, putting their own collaboration and listening skills to the test while fostering a discussion on the disparity between the skills our schools teach and those needed to succeed post-graduation.

I found a lot of value in sharing my thoughts and really getting to listen to the unique perspective of everyone in attendance.
— Gardy Labon, Youth Commissioner for Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

The latter half of the session was dedicated to introducing and preparing Youth Commissioners for their Call to Action report set to be published on Friday, April 6th. This report will articulate the urgent need for schools and communities to support students’ comprehensive development and identify what youth, parents, and families need from their schools and communities to more effectively develop the whole student.

Prompts were provided for Youth Commissioners to address topics including: the support structures needed for schools, classrooms, teachers, and families to support students’ holistic development and how to measure success.

Youth Commissioners Jessica Brown and Michael Degaga with Aspen Institute Program Associate Haywood Perry.

Although these questions were asked in the context of policy, I think they’re questions we should be reflecting on every day as we try to succeed in our own lives and become impromptu teachers to our peers.
— Isabel Geisler, Youth Commissioner for Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

After unpacking each prompt in small groups, Commissioners shared highlights from their discussions out with the group and heard feedback around any questions or concerns that were raised. Youth Commissioners will continue to fine-tune these narratives, and final drafts will be presented at the Call to Action report release event in April.

Commissioners read other groups’ responses and provide feedback.

Our working session was a capstone to the exciting work, vibrant thought, and diverse perspectives we have offered over the past year and a half.
— Eric Guerci, Youth Commissioner for Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

More information on the Youth Commission’s April Call to Action report release event will be provide at