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SEL Webinar Series

Webinar 1: What is Culturally-Affirming SEL?


This webinar opened the Communities for Just Schools Fund's SEL Webinar Series by situating culturally-affirming SEL alongside more holistic definitions of safety. Participants joined the CJSF team and our community partners Carlos Rojas (Youth on Board) and Najla Gomez Rodriguez (Californians for Justice) for a conversation on what culturally-affirming SEL looks and feels like in their work. We learned together and connected around how to ensure SEL is not co-opted, but rather centered in community voice and demands.​

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Webinar 2: When Black Lives Matter at School: Educators & Organizers Building Relationships in Schools


Building on the momentum of the national Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, this discussion centered the need for school curriculum, pedagogy, policies, and supports that examine structural racism, and highlight intersectional Black identities, Black history, and anti-racism.

This panel sparked dialogue and action towards intergenerational efforts to dismantle structural and systemic racism in schools and communities. Together, the panelists posed a dream and vision for what safe, loving, and affirming schools look like and feel like for Black and Brown students and communities. This conversation focused on learning centered in the 13 Guiding Principles of Black Lives Matter and more.

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  • Allyson Criner Brown, Associate Director & Tellin' Stories Project ManagerTeaching for Change

  • I-ra Abubaker, Youth Facilitator, Critical Exposure 

  • Denyse Stamfard-Wornum, Youth Organizing ConsultantYouth on Board

  • Caneisha Mills8th grade History Teacher at Hardy Middle School (DCPS)

  • Cierra Kaler-Jones (moderator), Education Anew Fellow, Communities for Just Schools Fund & Teaching for Change

Webinar 3: SEL Beyond the Checklist: Turning Theory into Practice 


While there are over 200 types of classroom-based SEL programs and frameworks used in schools across the country, these programs often relegate SEL to being an add-on to an already crammed curriculum. What we know is that true SEL -- SEL that’s culturally-affirming -- is centered in deep relationships, which cannot be achieved by running through a checklist. 


This webinar highlighted educators and organizers who are creating relationship-centered spaces with young people and explored the questions: What does SEL look like inside and outside of the classroom when it’s done well (i.e. centered in culture and uplifts the ways of being and knowing of Black and Brown communities)? What are the best practices of implementing and sustaining SEL when white supremacy is so entrenched in society? What does and can SEL look like beyond the checklist? 


Panelists shared culturally-affirming activities and lessons to model their practices and provide examples to use in classrooms and communities during and beyond this moment.



  • Jessica Rucker, U.S. History Teacher at E.L. Haynes (Washington, D.C.) 

  • Andrew Yeung, Economic Justice Program Manager, RYSE Center

  • Deysi Chacon, Education Engagement Advocate, RYSE Center 

  • Cierra Kaler-Jones (moderator), Education Anew Fellow, CJSF & Teaching for Change

More About the Series

With the rise of the now-discredited "superpredator" language of the 1990s and the 1998 Columbine High School shooting, school safety and security has claimed significant public attention over the last several decades. Often, the state, district, and school-level conversations we hear most are about whether to arm teachers, hire more law enforcement officers in schools, and put funding towards hi-tech infrastructure or threat assessment, rather than how to protect and nurture the well-being and potential of every student. When asked what makes them feel safe in schools, students, families, and communities note that deep relationships with school staff and amongst students makes them feel safe. The narrative around safety, in many instances, has already been co-opted in ways that disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities. 


In this moment, there is a national spotlight on what safe and supportive schools look and feel like. It is the time to highlight work that embeds a more holistic conversation about safety into conversations about culturally-affirming social-emotional learning and overall student supports. Across the country, school districts, researchers, and policymakers are adopting social emotional learning (SEL) as a framework to define and measure the set of skills students need to be successful in school and in life. This work and these conversations run parallel to demands and campaigns around positive school climate that organizers have been advancing for many years. There is great opportunity to center SEL within organizer demands for culturally-affirming classrooms and schools before it is too late. 

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