After the program’s successful debut last May, Rondout Valley brought back “Unity Days” for Grade 7 and Grade 9 students this fall. This social-emotional learning program is designed to help students develop empathy, understanding, and a connection to their peers, with the goal of reducing isolation and exclusion within the school community.
The program was facilitated by representatives from Real Matters, Inc., a group that runs experiential programs that build safe, inclusive, and respectful schools and communities with youth.
Prior to the events, facilitators worked with the Junior High School and High School to identify a group of student leaders to receive a full day of training in group-facilitation and leadership skills. These students then co-facilitated small group activities and modeled appropriate participation at the November 1 and 3 events.
The program included icebreakers and trust-building exercises, which were carried out in small groups that united students with others whom they might not otherwise interact with. During the course of the days, the program’s focus gradually moved to research-based, trauma-informed activities and discussions.
Overall, these Unity Days are designed to help students see that they can connect through shared experiences, and that their words and actions have a big impact on those around them. Grade 7 student Aubrie Chase shared, “I enjoyed the activities at Unity Day. It was comforting knowing that I wasn’t alone going through hard stuff. I’m glad that we got a chance to do this.”