Too Good Today

  • Introducing Too Good for Drugs High School Revised

    AHS3901 TGFD Binder cover for web 1-16 look at any reputable study on current alcohol and drug use among youth will bring no surprise; substance use is still prevalent among teens. As children enter their teen years, they face increasingly complex challenges and influences. According to a survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 60 percent of high school students, at both public and private schools, reported drug-infected campuses. Such statistics make prevention efforts more relevant than ever.

    This week, individuals from across the nation will convene in Washington D.C. for CADCA’s 26th Annual National Leadership Forum and SAMHSA’s 12th Annual Prevention Day. Coalition leaders, prevention specialists, public health professionals, parents, and youth will join together to address the essential part prevention plays in keeping our youth substance-free.

    And on this auspicious occasion we announce with excitement our latest prevention effort: the forthcoming release of our revised Too Good for Drugs High School curriculum. The revised curriculum builds social emotional competency through fun and age appropriate lessons that foster self-awareness and social-awareness. With the help of educators, counselors, and prevention specialists, our evidence-based curriculum equips teens with the skills they need to resist negative influence that may lead to substance use, as well as prepares them for academic success that will carry over into their college and professional careers.

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  • The Benefits of Responsible Decision Making

     

    Young girl in glasses, looking up

    "The time is always right to do what is right."
    - Martin Luther King Jr.

    As children grow, they face ever evolving challenges that require them to make increasingly complex decisions. For a kindergartner, this might be deciding to share a toy. For a senior in high school, this could be recognizing negative peer influence and incorporating that knowledge into their decision making. Learning to consider the positive and negative consequences of a decision is essential at any of these stages, and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identifies responsible decision making as one of the five pillars of social emotional learning. CASEL states that decision making skills can help children negotiate the following:

    Ethical Standards: By being challenged to make decisions, children evaluate and develop ethical standards that influence character building.

    Social Norms: Decision making skills that incorporate positive social norms as an influence help children navigate the difficulties of adolescence and resist peer pressure and peer influence.

    Consequences: Children with strong decision making skills can evaluate potential consequences of actions in order to determine what choice is the best option.

    By developing responsible decision making skills early on, children are prepared to face the real world challenges that will impact the course of their lives. And with those responsible decision making skills in place, children are equipped to lead happy and prosperous lives.

  • Volunteerism Encourages Social Emotional Learning

    Hands Holding VolunteerThe Holiday season is a time to be grateful for the many blessings we have in our lives. It is also a time we can help make the lives of others better. A report on National Public Radio states one in five families with children will go without enough food during the holiday season. Families, schools, and communities have an opportunity to address these needs by volunteering locally and by donating toys, food, and other goods. Children who volunteer become more aware of their own lives in relation to the lives of others. Volunteering also offers children the opportunity to develop and apply key social emotional skills.

    Social Awareness: Children exposed to and aware of the diverse backgrounds of others learn how to interact with others with respect, empathy, and open-mindedness.

    Responsible Decision-Making: Volunteering teaches children to make respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions in situations they may not have otherwise encountered.

    Relationship Skills: By listening to and interacting with the experiences of others, children learn to communicate clearly, listen actively, and respond to the needs of others.

    Social emotional skills are essential for academic, personal, and professional success. Through volunteering, children have the opportunity to better the lives of those around them and to develop skills that will lead them to lifelong success.

    All of us at the Mendez Foundation wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

  • Building School Connectedness

    Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised HandsThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocate school connectedness as an essential ingredient to buffer youth against engaging in risky behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol, and drug use or aggressive and violent behavior. Students who feel connected to their schools stake a claim in their learning and are therefore more likely to make healthy choices and stay on a path toward academic success. Schools, families, and communities must work together to create a caring and supportive environment for students.

    Adult Support: Parent engagement encourages positive student behavior and academic success. Schools can engage families to take part in their child’s education through interactive take-home activities or newsletters.

    Belonging to a Positive Peer Group: Students with strong social emotional skills are better equipped for positive peer bonding. Students are faced with the challenge of selecting their friends, and strong decision-making skills will help them choose positive peer groups.

    Commitment to Education: Students who have an active interest in their education are more persistent in succeeding academically. Participatory learning enhances students’ commitment to their education by keeping them interested and engaged.

    School Environment: A caring and supportive school environment fosters student learning. Students who feel they are valued are more comfortable and therefore more willing to take healthy risks as they try and learn.

    Students who are actively connected with their schools develop positive behaviors that reinforce their decisions to avoid risky behaviors and to set positive short and long term goals.  Strong social emotional skills, coupled with a supportive school climate and caring adult involvement, foster in students the resiliency they need to meet the challenges they face in childhood, adolescence, and beyond into adulthood.

  • Four Attributes of Empathy

    Puzzle pieces cute-478945508Empathy is an essential trait that aids meaningful connection with others in both our personal life and work life. Instilling empathy as a norm for children at an early age promotes the development of good character necessary in the complex social environments in education and the workplace. Numerous articles highlight and explore ways to recognize and cultivate empathy in both children and adults. One such article by Theresa Wiseman published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing is “A Concept Analysis of Empathy.” Wiseman takes a practical exploration of the mechanics of empathy and its development.

    I would walk a mile in your shoes. The first step to developing empathy for other people is to see things from another’s perspective.

    Hey! No judgement here. Once we adopt another’s point of view, we must reserve negative judgment.

    No hidden agenda. Staying as neutral as possible, we can then gain an understanding of how another feels.

    I feel you. The final step to developing empathy is to communicate the understanding we have gained. In this way, the circle of empathy is reciprocated and barriers are dissolved.

    Empathy requires two fundamental social emotional components: understanding emotions and applying effective communication. The development of these skills from a young age establishes an intrinsic capacity to connect with peers. We can encourage children along the path toward empathy by helping them identify their emotions and to recognize those emotions in others. Furthermore, children who build effective communication skills are able to have an open dialogue about their emotions and the emotions they identify in others. Ultimately it is in the affirmation of one another’s emotions that we truly connect.

  • Social Skills for the Workplace

    Young Business WomanAs technology in the workplace advances, fears that computers will soon replace people in the workforce perpetuate. However, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review reassures us that jobs highly reliant on social skills are extremely secure. In the past thirty years, job growth has predominated in occupations that require finely tuned social skills. The ability to work with others seems irreplaceable, as computers simply cannot emulate human interaction. Not yet anyway.

    Effective communication ranks right up there as a top social skill essential to success in the workplace. The earlier children learn and master these skills, the better prepared they will be as they progress through school and into their careers.

    But what is a recipe for effective communication that we can teach children? We can begin by breaking down communication into two roles: the speaker and the listener. Of course, the speaker’s goal is to effectively share information, and the listener’s goal is to effectively receive information.

    What are some qualities of a good speaker?

    Be assertive. Good speakers have a confident tone of voice.

    Pay attention to body posture. Good speakers stand up tall and sit upright.

    Make eye contact. Speakers who make eye contact show they are serious about delivering their message.

    What are some qualities of a good listener?

    Pay attention to body language. Good listeners can read a speaker’s body language to pick up on any unspoken cues.

    Lean in. Good listeners pay careful attention to what the speaker is saying.

    Ask questions. Good listeners are not afraid to ask questions to clarify what the speaker says.

    Children develop their social skills by learning these best practices in effective communication. According to the Harvard Business Review, not only is there a demand for a high level of social skills in the workplace, but people who have good social skills earn more than those who lack them. Effective communication skills foster a thoughtful and assertive approach to navigating complex social environments. Children with this higher social intelligence can ask for what they need and advocate for their goals with a sensitivity to the needs of others. Preparing children with the tools they will need in the workplace sets them on a productive path to secure their prosperous future.

  • Mendez Appears in Summer Issue of SEEN Magazine

    Charles E. Mendez III appears in the Summer Issue of SEEN Magazine with his article "Addressing Youth Violence for Safer Schools." Mendez writes, "How do we address youth violence and create sanctuary within our schools? Character education and social emotional skill development are natural adjuncts in the establishment of safe and supportive learning environments."

  • The Impact of Media Violence on Youth

    portrait boyThe Emerging Trend in Youth Violence
    We need only look at recent school shootings and the increase of youth homicides to see the emerging trend of youth violence. These incidents raise the question as to how violence in the media plays a part in this trend. With advances in technology, youth today are exposed to ever increasing sources of media violence. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), studies have shown that children spend more hours a week watching television than they spend in school. By the age of eighteen the average American child will see in excess of 200,000 acts of violence in the media (AACAP). And The New York Times reports a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence that shows youth who play violent video games and watch violent television shows are more likely to show signs of aggression and to argue with their peers and teachers.

    Media Violence and Youth
    There are a number of factors contributing to this correlation between violence in the media and youth violence. The AACAP points out young children especially may not be able to differentiate between fiction and reality, so they may view violence in the media as a norm. Television and movies may even depict heroes that employ violent techniques to conquer their enemies, perpetuating the idea that violence is an acceptable means to resolving conflict. Interactive media, such as the Internet and video games, further give youth the opportunity to engage in violent scenarios, albeit virtually. Youth who are exposed to negative norms, and who may not receive the positive guidance from their caregivers at home, would greatly benefit from exposure to positive role-modeling and instruction. Fortunately, school gives us the opportunity to offer such a solution. School is the ideal environment to implement an evidence-based program that will help youth learn and practice social emotional skills.

    How Can Social Emotional Skills Prevent Youth Violence?
    We must first aid children with the ability to differentiate between fiction and reality, so they can decide for themselves what truly represents a healthy norm. Furthermore, youth who develop self awareness and social awareness are more likely to take a responsible approach to resolving conflict. Effective communication skills allow youth to understand and to be understood by others, and emotion management skills help youth calm themselves down before they act on anger or sadness. Youth who practice empathy and a respect for self and others, as well as learn positive ways to bond with peers and adults, will resolve conflict peacefully. They will be equipped with the skills they need to successfully meet life’s challenges and model their own positive norms.

  • The Backlit World: Youth Dependence on Technology

    Teenagers Using Mobile PhonesA recent article in The New York Times highlights the growing youth dependence on technology. The Times reports that even though “Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of ‘live’ action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development.” And this type of distraction from real life comes with ramifications.

    Referred to by The Times as screen addiction, youth who are too attached to their televisions, computers, and smart phones might not be developing and mastering the social emotional skills they need for success in life.  The Times reports that in our contemporary culture such dependency starts early as children engage in technology rather than “observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.” Peer and caregiver bonding, as well as real-world experience, are all giving way to a simulated reality.

    This type of reliance on technology not only interferes with times when youth could otherwise be studying, but late night texting and other screen time may lead to sleep deprivation.  As The Times points out, schoolwork “can suffer when media time infringes on reading and studying” and technology is a “poor substitute for personal interaction.” Phone communication also steals youth of face to face interaction, which may result in overall isolation and loneliness, as well as compromised social skills.

    Youth need a healthy balance between their relationship with technology and their human interactions.  Such a balance is essential to the development of school and career readiness, because nothing can replace the skills youth learn through relating to others in person.  Youth inexperienced in social dynamics and human interaction are disadvantaged in higher education and workplace environments that depend on social competency for success.

    The first step in addressing youth’s overdependence on technology is simply to become aware of it.  Caregivers can encourage youth to engage in face to face interaction, rather than rely so heavily on technology. Educators can foster in youth the social emotional skills that will help them bond with peers and adults as well as self-regulate the time they spend with technology.  Each moment is an opportunity for us to reach beyond the technology divide, to model for children what it means to truly connect.

  • The Benefits of Writing Down Goals

    Close-up of a boy writing on paper with a pencilChildren who set reachable goals for themselves make an investment in their future.  As a result, they are more likely to make responsible decisions that will keep them on track toward their goals and resist negative influences that would deter them from reaching their goals.

    Six key steps can help students set and achieve their goals.  Students must begin by naming their goals. And when students write down their goals it concretizes them.  The results are so positive it is hard to believe something so simple can be so effective.  According to Forbes Magazine writer, Ashley Feinstein, a Harvard University study compared a body of students who had not set goals, students who had set goals but not written them down, and students who had set goals and written them down. They followed up with the class ten years later and found that the “3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined!”

    Furthermore, NPR recently featured a University of Toronto professor, Jordan Peterson, who conducted a classroom experiment with goal-setting and writing.  Peterson began with the “’goal-setting theory’ [which] holds that writing down concrete, specific goals and strategies can help people overcome obstacles and achieve.” He asserts writing positively influences students’ motivations to meet their goals.

    Peterson designed an undergraduate course that moved students through a series of writing exercises related to their goals.  The results proved positive, especially with at-risk students, to increase student retention rates and overall academic achievement.  One student, formerly involved in drug use, even proclaimed it turned her life around.  Peterson’s process encouraged students to “reflect on important moments in their past, identify key personal motivations and create plans for the future, including specific goals and strategies to overcome obstacles."

    Once students have chosen a goal, picturing the goal as it is reached will help students define what they are aiming for.  A positive attitude goes a long way toward helping students reach their goals, so the next step is for students to say “I Can” to their goals.  With goals in place, students must then think of how to do it. This, again, is a place where writing is beneficial.  Making a checklist can help students tangibly keep track of their action steps. Which brings us to the next step—Go for it! Well-planned goals are ready to be reached.

    Once the goal is achieved, students can enjoy celebrating their success. Feinstein writes, “How will you celebrate once you’ve reached your goal?  As we journey to the realization of our goals, it’s important to remember our vision.”  Starting with a clear picture of the goal, as well as writing down the goal and writing the action steps in the process, keeps the vision alive.  Learning these best practices in school encourages students to aspire to academic success as learning becomes a means to a greater end.  Students not only have the satisfaction of meeting their goals but also the knowledge and confidence they need to keep setting and reaching increasingly complex goals as they grow older. With these goal-setting skills in place, students are emboldened to reach out to a galaxy of dreams.

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