As a social worker in a local high school, Danielle Wright saw first-hand how many young people in the New Orleans area were exposed to trauma at a young age. These adverse experiences negatively impacted their academic success in school, limiting their opportunities for the future. After researching the importance of emotional intelligence, Wright created Navigate NOLA, a social-emotional and community wellness organization dedicated to teaching young kids how to understand and manage their emotions.
“Emotional intelligence is learnable and teachable,” says Wright. “People with high emotional intelligence have the tools to manage emotional distress.” Wright designed a program to integrate social-emotional learning into an academic setting, while also working with the short attention spans of children. By helping pre-K and Kindergarten-aged children better understand their emotions, Wright hopes to give them the tools for success into high school and beyond.
The intervention is divided into three centers, with computer, yoga and emotional intervention components. Kids rotate from each center every 20 minutes, and the change helps children get information in a variety of ways. Navigate NOLA has served over 11 schools and 1,400 kids in the past few years.
“We work with children who are extremely emotionally frustrated, but they don’t have the language to express this,” says Wright. Simply helping the children understand how to put a name to their feelings, and expanding their emotional vocabulary gives them the ability to self-manage.
In addition to the school programs, Navigate NOLA also provides professional development and training, policy and advocacy work, as well as data collection and research. And thanks to the program’s careful data collection, it’s easy to see that these efforts are already paying off. “Every year, we do a program evaluation and collect pre-and post-behavioral data. We see consistently that post-intervention students’ academic performance increases and behavioral issues go down,” says Wright. By focusing on the importance of emotional intelligence development, particularly in a classroom setting, Wright is helping children develop the skills they need to overcome adversity and thrive.
To learn more and to donate, visit NavigateNola.com.