Social Emotional Learning


Youth on Board is an organizing agency, and we learned over twenty years ago that you can’t do effective organizing without paying attention to the social emotional needs of the young people with whom you work.


The philosophy that guides our work is that caring, empathic, and respectful relationships are at the center of emotional and social change and a key component to success in our program, our society and world. Engaging young people as partners in community change in the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC),  as well as the supports and trainings we provide, gives our 

young people a greater feeling of safety and belonging, a heightened sense of confidence and self-efficacy, and a deep understanding of, and connection to, their peers and the broader community. The vast majority of BSAC students experience a variety of structural barriers, such as poverty, homelessness, community and interpersonal violence – factors that often contribute to students being labeled “high risk” for dropping out of school and entering the criminal justice system, and less likely to encounter social emotional learning practices in their daily lives. We have found that young people facing these challenges are not only able to effectively engage in community change efforts, but that joining BSAC is a particularly effective vehicle for their social and emotional growth and development.


The result of this philosophy and subsequent approach is a space where young people feel prepared to tackle injustices, but also feel safe experiencing a variety of emotions – exhaustion, frustration, relief, giddiness – without being made to feel that they are distracting the group from “the work.” Indeed, providing this space is part of the work itself. BSAC students even recently articulated their appreciation that YOB provides food, water and humor at every meeting. While it may seem basic, recognizing that young people need nourishment and laughter to sustain themselves is part of what sets us apart from some other “business as usual” groups.

This philosophy and resulting approach to supporting youth organizing has won us recognition from several foundations, including the Novo Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Most recently, Youth on Board and BSAC were selected to participate in the Susan Crown Exchange Social Emotional Learning Challenge 

along with 7 other groups picked from a nationalapplicant pool of 250 youth-serving programs. The Social and Emotional Learning Challenge aims to distill and codify the practices of the SEL field’s best programs for teens to elevate the impact and importance of social and emotional learning.


Check out this beautiful visual representation of our Appreciations philosophy that we use in all of our programming.

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© 2017 by YOUTH ON BOARD