Social and Emotional Learning | Peace Through Action USA

Social & Emotional Learning (SEL): Cultivating Essential Skills for Life & Wellbeing | Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Peace Through Action USA held a virtual learning event about social and emotional learning, or SEL. The event took place Tuesday, April 25, 2023.

Event Description

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): Cultivating Essential Skills for Life and Wellbeing explored strategies to support the developmental needs of youth and adults and equipped parents, caretakers, and others with the knowledge about practices used to cultivate emotional awareness and build resilience among youth. The event welcomed two youth-focused organizations to review a range of programs, activities, and experiences related to SEL best practices so participants could leave with tips to model positive coping strategies and lead youth in navigating the social and emotional aspects of their lives. Through this interactive event, participants also developed a better understanding of SEL as an array of activities and methods that foster emotional growth and promote a thriving future.

Presenter Biographies

Hunter Thompson, of Saint Petersburg, Florida, is the co-founder of SailFuture Academy, an education provider doing revolutionary work at the intersection of SEL, foster care, project-based learning, and youth development. SailFuture is an innovative foster care agency, and private school based in St. Petersburg, Florida. They serve children and families across seven different programs throughout the Saint Petersburg community. SailFuture’s comprehensive continuum of care is designed to serve Florida’s highest-risk teens in foster care, meeting many, if not all, of their needs under one umbrella. The academy is a co-ed tuition-free entrepreneurship high school that teaches students how to think critically and solve real world problems. In tandem with this academic focus, SailFuture provides mental health services and residential programs licensed by the Department of Children and Families rooted in the transformative and therapeutic power of integrated school, therapy, job training, and 60-day international sailing journeys. These sailing expeditions function as adventure-based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) capsules that support youth leadership and development.

Maryanna Lanham, of Hughesville, Maryland, is the Executive Director of the Dream Queen Foundation. With a strong focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), the Dream Queen Foundation operates programs for women and girls. Their Gals Lead Certified Facilitator Academy trains women to run Gals Lead, their signature teen mentorship program, which teaches teenage girls the importance of responsibility and leadership. The Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Community was also formed to provide a unique gathering place for purpose-driven women. Maryanna became a facilitator and helped launch the program’s site at Leonardtown High School during the 2019-2020 school year. As an active volunteer and frequent public speaker, Maryanna recognizes the value of strong communities. She is a member of the Southern Maryland Women’s League, St. Mary’s Business Partners, the Calvert Interagency Council, St. Mary’s Behavioral Health Action Team, and is an alumnus of Leadership Southern Maryland, class of 2023. She wrote a chapter for the book The Extraordinary Makeover: Hidden Expressions of the Every Day Woman and was profiled in the 2022 and 2023 issues of Women to Watch. She has also been featured in several local newspapers for the work she is doing in the community.

Chris Walonski, of Saint Petersburg, Florida, is the director of programs and partnerships development and delivery with Peace Through Action USA. Chris is responsible for designing instruction in civic engagement and social engagement concepts and practices; writing and editing educational and promotional materials; planning and delivering educational activities; implementing performance management procedures; and engaging with organizations and networks aligned with Peace Through Action’s mission. Chris’ programmatic work has engaged a broad range of community intervention strategies and performance-based teaching methods. Prior to joining Peace Through Action USA, Chris served as a program researcher and professor of public speaking at East Tennessee State University. In this capacity, Chris married his passion for project development with the power of personal narrative to help produce a campus-wide sexual consent training program. Chris’ love for crafting educational experiences has taken him from public schools in Thailand to the Amazon rainforest of Peru. Upon returning to the United States as a program manager for the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), Chris designed and delivered a bilingual training program that incorporated an array of community partnerships serving multicultural and multilingual youth. Chris has served as an AmeriCorps member through Teach For America’s Colorado Corps. Chris holds a Master of Arts in communication and storytelling studies from East Tennessee State University. As an avid learner, Chris has completed training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) and holds a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) certification from Cambridge University. Chris is a grateful recipient of the Hemera Foundation’s Fellowship for Contemplative Education and is an eager student of Buddhist meditation. In his personal time, Chris has toured the U.S. as a spoken word artist and National Poetry Slam champion.

Learning Resources

Resources and Services in Calvert County, Maryland

  • Connect with the Dream Queen Foundation to engage in their activities supporting women and girls through SEL activities.
  • Review Calvert County Public Schools’ Parent Toolkit to support youth development at home.
  • Implement SEL practices and connect with other parent groups, moms clubs, and support groups with this list of resources for Southern Maryland.

About Peace Through Action Events

Peace Through Action Events gather youth and adults of all ages to learn about civic and social topics with a focus on peace. Using delivery methods of subject expert lecture, skills training, film discussion, artistic presentation, reflection, and experiential activities, Peace Through Action Events participants gain knowledge on compassionate living, peaceful practices, and social justice concerns.

To keep informed of Peace Through Action Events sign up for our national email or our Calvert County, Maryland email.

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