On Saturday, November 19, the Westbury Union Free School District hosted its first Social Emotional Learning Fair, one of several events being held this school year to provide social emotional learning (SEL) sessions and support for the entire Westbury community.
The event, organized as the first district-wide SEL health and wellness fair, featured an array of workshops for kids, parents, and community members focused on yoga, meditation, mindfulness, the risks of vaping, Narcan training, reading, art, basketball, dance, double-dutch, and more. There were also two bouncy houses for kids to enjoy, plus the 17-piece band Yes We Can Community Band, several food trucks, gift bags, free dental hygiene supplies, and a fire truck with demonstrations and tours courtesy of the local fire department.
Ahead of the event, held at Westbury High School, fair organizer Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams told Nassau Illustrated News that while the Westbury school district has previously held health fairs, this was their first event with an SEL component. “By trade, I’m a psychotherapist, and I focus on social-emotional wellness programs for school districts,” Dr. Williams explained.
This latest event, which will be followed by a pop-up SEL event later this winter and another fair in the spring, came together to be “really huge” because organizers wanted to make it an available resource for the entire community, Dr. Williams said.
At the Westbury Union Free School District, Dr. Williams is working to assist in the development and expansion of Superintendant Dr. Tahira A. DuPree Chase’s SEL initiative throughout the district’s six schools, “Not only for students but also staff and administrators,” Dr. Williams said.
By phone, Superintendant Dr. DuPree Chase reiterated to Nassau Illustrated News that, since her arrival in the district, her team has “prioritized social emotional health not just for our scholars and staff, but also for their families.”
“We know the pandemic has impacted all of us in a negative way,” Dr. DuPree Chase said.
“We also know that as we return to a school environment it’s important to address those needs that we don’t often talk about, and may be taboo in some communities.” In other words: “Prioritizing not only a sound education but the mental health aspect,” she said.
In addition to putting on further health events this year, her school district will be hosting health and wellness activities at each school this school year based on individual schools’ needs, Dr. Dupree Chase said.
“We’re working on putting together an SEL team at each school in the district,” she explained. “We didn’t want to take this initiative as a broad stroke and assume that every school needs the same model, but every school needs a model.”
Dr. Dupree Chase said that her district has also received a grant which will allow them to have a dedicated SEL room at each school.
“I’m very, very fortunate to lead this district at this time. Great things are happening for the scholars and families as well,” she continued.
“It’s the season of gratitude, so I do want to thank the committee for their hard work and dedication in putting this event together. I also want to thank our school board for giving full latitude of vision to create these events for our community.”
“It’s really a collaborative initative.”