/ April 13, 2021

Social Emotional Learning: Giving their all, even during a pandemic

Two Staten Island Early Childhood Social Workers, Darlene Sierra and Vanessa Torres, have gone above and beyond to help students and families during the coronavirus pandemic.

As our schools and businesses closed their doors to stop the spread of coronavirus, Ms. Sierra knew that the families she supported were dealing with unprecedented challenges. There was extreme uncertainty and fear around the virus, and tremendous anxiety over job loss – many of the families she served had members out of work.

Ms. Sierra began sending emails to school leaders and site directors to see how she could help. When one site director informed her that an unemployed family was having trouble accessing food, Darlene spent the weekend connecting them to a food pantry.

“When someone is having a hard time, Darlene is the one to pick that person back up,” said Claremarie Bonafede, Mental Health and Wellness Administrator in Staten Island.

Ms. Torres is also committed to helping her students, regardless of the hurdles in her way. Some of Ms. Torres’ students were getting evaluated for special education services when the pandemic ground the process to a halt. She spent hours on the phone to help complete the process. Ms. Torres also created supportive, highly personalized videos to share resources directly with families—work she continued after she herself became sick with coronavirus. Ms. Torres also gave support to a Spanish-speaking family who had no computer access and limited ability to communicate with their school.

“These two are highly motivated and always want to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Claremarie Bonafede. “They’ve both given their all during this time, even through sickness.”

From Ms. Sierra:
“I was drawn to be a Social Worker since watching children grow is what I look forward to everyday. Helping parents be the best they can be is what I continue to do.  It is truly an honor being able to touch people’s lives in different ways.”

From Ms. Torres:
“The ability to witness the journey of a young learner has been the motivating factor of my work. The glimmer of a child’s eye during this experience is unforgettable.”

Community mental health program: Social Emotional Learning

Social, emotional, and behavioral regulation skills are foundational for learning and well-being. Through a partnership between ThriveNYC and the Department of Education, Pre-K and 3-K programs across New York City provide social-emotional learning support to students, families, program leaders and teaching teams. Over 3,000 schoolteachers or program staff participated in at least one professional learning through this program since the program launched in 2016. And, an additional 3,000 parents and caregivers have attended family workshops to learn social emotional development practices since 2016. Learn more about the program and its impact here.