As part of our #givingtuesday and holiday season campaign, we’re highlighting stories from teachers, health workers, and community members from the Westside of Santa Barbara. The Westside Health Collaborative participates in Harding School’s behavioral health support work mentioned in the story below, told by Harding School Educational Psychologist Erin Adelchanow and UCSB students Bella Lerner and Shayne Huynh.
Humans are social animals. We need attention and connection--not just to survive but also to learn. Every good teacher knows that relationship is the single most important factor in student learning and achievement. The more connected, loved, and valued a student feels, the better their test scores, feelings about school, and overall wellbeing.
Even with the most loving and supportive teachers, some students still need a little more. Some students need an extra “push”--more practice with social skills, more opportunities to interact and solve problems collaboratively, more attention from positive adult role models--to be successful in school. At Harding University Partnership School, we realized there are a lot of students needing that extra push. And there are a lot of eager college students at UCSB looking for opportunities to help kids. Through Harding’s partnerships with SBACT and UCSB, with the support of Cottage Hospital’s Community Partnership Grant Program, the “Friendship Group” program was created. Small groups of students (no more than five students each) meet with their Friendship-Group leaders from UCSB once a week to learn about mindfulness, gain social skills, and--most importantly--build relationships with peers and adults at school.
Two Friendship-Group leaders, Bella Lerner and Shanie Huynh, shared their story about a once-shy, withdrawn little girl who has blossomed into a shining example of enthusiasm, friendliness, and positive attitude for others in the group. When Shanie and Bella first began working with Lilly, Lilly was very quiet and hesitant to engage in group discussions. In the previous school year, Lilly had a very hard time getting along with others and behaving in class. “When she was asked to share in the first couple of [friendship-group] sessions, she would hesitate and answer quietly or shake her head and not answer,” Shanie reported. “She would always be engaged and listening, but she tended to be more observant of the other students in the group rather than actively speaking up. However, as she attended more friendship groups, she eventually became more outgoing and responsive to questions.”
Lilly has not only come out of her shell to answer questions and participate, but she is initiating conversations and sharing her own ideas with excitement. “Over time, I have seen Lilly grow more comfortable in the setting of the group and speak up to answer questions, chip into the discussion, or even open up a new topic about something she wants to share,” Bella reported. “From once talking down towards the floor, to now jumping to finish my sentence, ‘Emotions are the way that we’... ‘FEEL!’ Lilly has really shown a positive change in her attitude. Since we have been working on greetings and eye contact, Lilly has also been doing an amazing job at expressing these pro-social skills when we meet - showing excitement that it is time for the friendship group!” Though Lilly was sad to say goodbye to her group when it was time for her "graduation" from the program, she will no doubt stand a little taller and carry this confidence to the classroom.
Want to make a difference in the lives of Westside families? Please consider donating to this year’s SB Gives! campaign to expand all healthcare services offered at Harding School.