Positive Youth Development Matters

As Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of this global media platform, I was delighted to have the opportunity not long ago to be introduced to Elizabeth Reedy-Foley, CEO of Frameworks Of Tampa Bay, Inc., whose Mission is to teach youth to manage their emotions, develop healthy relationships, and make good decisions for academic, career, and personal success. They teach a core set of social and emotional attitudes, values, and skills that help children, teens and adults more effectively handle life challenges to succeed in academic, social and professional environments. In short, they teach youth and adults to manage their emotions, so that those emotions do not manage them. Learn more about Frameworks as we did during our recent inspiring interview with Elizabeth below ⤵︎

We’d like to hear about your professional journey before Frameworks of Tampa Bay.

Prior to joining Frameworks, I spent over 20 years advocating for and developing systems to enhance early childhood education in Massachusetts. Most recently, I served as the Vice President of the Workforce and Professional Development Division of Child Development and Education Inc., where I was responsible for managing multi-million dollar state contracts/grants to provide workforce innovation, data analysis, and competency development with the goal of ensuring high-quality opportunities for children ages zero to five.

Tell us about Frameworks and the inspiration behind it.

Frameworks is a nonprofit organization that supports educators in pre-K through 12th-grade settings as they teach youth to manage their emotions, develop healthy relationships, and make good decisions for academic, career, and personal success. We do this by supporting partner schools in implementing research-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programming to develop students’ emotional intelligence. Over the years, research has mounted showing that emotional intelligence is so much more than fluff. It’s the secret sauce—it’s what sets employees apart, what makes relationships successful, what helps us empathize with others… the list goes on.

What’s unique about your nonprofit?

Any school can purchase an SEL curriculum online or even get one for free, though quality varies. What sets Frameworks apart is the ongoing coaching support that we provide to our partner schools. Studies show that most teachers want to learn more about SEL and want to be coached on how to integrate it into their practices, but few districts and schools have a plan for meeting that need in a high-quality way. We are the difference between a one-and-done training where a curriculum binder ends up sitting on the shelf gathering dust and a training that leads to a transformation in teaching practices, in the climate and culture of classrooms and schools, and ultimately in positive outcomes for our kids. Witness some of our transformational work in action here:

When did your nonprofit launch and what’s been your biggest challenge?

Frameworks launched in 2002 as the Ophelia Project, which was a community initiative focused on girls’ issues related to peer aggression and bullying. Over time, we expanded to address all issues affecting girls’ social and emotional lives, adding on a boys initiative to become OPBI, Inc. under the umbrella of the YMCA. We have been an independent 501(c)3 since 2011. Since this time, we have shifted very deliberately from a direct service model where Frameworks staff visit classrooms to teach SEL lessons to a train-the-trainer model where we facilitate professional development to staff teams and then visit as often as weekly to coach and support teachers as they bring SEL curricula and strategies to fruition. Such a big shift inevitably brings its challenges, but it has been worth it in that we now are empowering teachers with the tools necessary to meet the needs of their students.

Any noteworthy surprises or ‘A-ha’ Moments along the way?

Some of us may not have grown up talking about the vital role that emotions play in our decision-making, whether those decisions are academic or personal, so this can feel uncomfortable. But it’s been interesting for us to realize that once educators see and feel SEL in action, something clicks. They understand that so-called “soft skills” can’t be separated from academics and technical skills—it’s all intertwined. The more educators are willing to embrace that and have the tools to do so in a very intentional, structured way, the better off our students are.

How would you describe your typical day?

There’s no such thing as a typical day in the nonprofit world! One day, I might spend the morning meeting with donors and the afternoon visiting one of our partner schools, and the next, I might be connecting with other local nonprofit leaders or revisiting our budget. As long as these tasks all tie back to our mission, I am honored to roll up my sleeves and get the job done.

What about your “social impact/outcomes?”

Research shows the benefits of SEL programming not only in terms of short-term gains in academics, interpersonal skills, pro-social behaviors, and reduced problem behaviors, but also in the long term, including in the realms of educational achievement, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health. But SEL isn’t a “fix”—it’s about prevention, about giving kids tools before they encounter challenges, so they’ll be prepared to face those challenges in constructive ways. One study out of Columbia University estimated the return on investment to our society to be $11 for every dollar we invest in SEL programming. When we’re proactive in thinking about the tools our kids will need to be successful, everyone wins!

What’s the next big thing/challenge for Frameworks?

Research also tells us that investing in high-quality early childhood education that promotes social-emotional skill development is critical for preparing children to enter school.  It is my hope that Frameworks will become positioned to expand our services to include partnerships in the early childhood community; to provide opportunities for SEL training and support of SEL standards to early childhood educators; teaching them how to foster those skills in young children.  Findings have shown that social and emotional intervention in early childhood improves outcomes in reading achievement, learning engagement and positive social behavior in kindergarten.  We will be challenged by funding as we expand into the field of early education, but the investment is critical to school readiness as well as the lifelong success of our children.

As a nonprofit leader, what’s non-negotiable for you?

It is imperative that our vision continues to be refined; to be articulated as a clear and compelling solution to teaching the foundational skills of social and emotional learning, and that our Frameworks’ team of staff and volunteers maintain their steadfast belief in the 5 core competencies of SEL:  self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

How can our readers learn more about / help Frameworks of Tampa Bay?

We are here to serve our community, so above all else, I would suggest that readers connect with us to learn how we can support them. That may take the form of offering a parent workshop on emotional intelligence or a related topic, partnering with their child’s school to provide professional development and ongoing coaching support, visiting their business to train staff on applying emotional intelligence to the workplace, and more. We welcome readers to visit our Website, where they can learn more about our approach, see upcoming events, join mailing lists, donate, and become part of the movement to make emotional intelligence an integral part of our community.

Dennis J. Pitocco
Dennis J. Pitocco
Dennis is the Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of our award-winning life, culture, and business new media digest, With an emphasis on action, our amazing writers empower people to transcend from knowing what to do to actually doing it. We are fueled by extraordinary thought leadership authored by some of the best and brightest minds from around the world. Today and every day, we simply deliver the very best Insights, Intelligence & Inspiration available anywhere. Period. More ABOUT US. He is also Founder & Chief Encouragement Officer of GoodWorks 360°, our affiliated global nonprofit social impact enterprise, dedicated to providing mission-critical pro bono services to good nonprofits worldwide. Connect with him on Linkedin to learn more about his background. Dennis is a contributing author to the Best-Selling Book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.
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