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PSJA ISD promotes social-emotional learning through 2021 Kindness Challenge Week

District becomes a Kindness Certified School District

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PHARR – As part of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s (PSJA ISD) efforts to connect all students with social-emotional support, students and staff districtwide participated in the 2021 Great Kindness Challenge to create a culture of kindness Jan. 24-29, 2021. Through these efforts, PSJA ISD became a Kindness Certified School District for its commitment to creating a culture of kindness at all schools. 

The Great Kindness Challenge, presented by the global nonprofit Kids for Peace, was launched with three Carlsbad, California schools in 2012 to address bullying and to foster connection, inclusion and compassion. The annual program has expanded in enrollment each year, having grown to over 15 million students in 30,000 schools, reaching across all 50 states and 115 countries. 

“Thank you to our entire PSJA Health & Wellness Committee which includes our counselors for going above and beyond for our students and staff,” said PSJA Superintendent of School Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo. “Offering this support is part of our efforts to keep health and safety at the forefront while ensuring every student has the experiences and resources necessary to achieve the highest levels of success.” 

As part of the first Kindness Challenge Week at PSJA ISD, students and staff participated in various activities throughout the week such as Kindness Spirit Dress Up Days and shared special messages expressing what kindness means to them on interactive platforms such as Flipgrid

“Teaching kindness and compassion in schools is so important. It fosters positive behavior and helps students feel a sense of belonging,” said PSJA Counseling & Guidance Director Virginia Saenz. “Students are learning acts of kindness toward their teachers, parents, community and how to take care of themselves. It’s exciting to see that our district has embraced ‘The Great Kindness Challenge’ to include all stakeholders to work together to support our students’ social -emotional needs.” 

In addition to the participating in the global Kindness Challenge Week, PSJA ISD has been offering students and families coordinated support following the effects of COVID-19 since the PSJA ISD Board of Trustees passed a policy in June 2020 that provided students and families social and emotional learning (SEL) with wraparound services. The district-wide policy requires each campus to have a team that focuses on addressing the non-academic needs of students to assist the district’s families and focus on the whole child. Services include mental health, community and social resources, as well as, recreational, cultural and spiritual resources, relationship skills, legal and safety tools, and crisis support. 

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“Our school counselors, Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Specialist in School Psychology, and Wrap-Around Specialists have been addressing the social, emotional, and physical needs of our students, faculty, and staff via counseling and/or supporting them with physical needs due to the effects of COVID,” said PSJA Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Dr. Orlando Noyola. “Some of the lessons the students are going over are emotion regulation, coping skills, and social skills. The Great Kindness Challenge Week allowed our students to focus on being kind and nice to others. Ultimately, we want to create a culture of kindness throughout the district and individual schools.” 

Teachers implemented SEL-focused lessons in interactive and creative ways to make an impact among students. At Kennedy Middle School, one class was tasked to find a rock, paint a message of kindness on it, and place it in other room as a reminder to themselves or leave it in a public place to bring joy to others. 

“With the pandemic our students need this emotional support more than ever,” said Kennedy Middle School Math Teacher Coleen Garcia. “My students loved the activity. I could tell it brightened their day. I think PSJA ISD is remarkable for helping students and ensuring we support them.” 

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