Obtained through a mini-grant, this initiative, Second Step, is a global, research-based program designed to teach children how to understand and manage emotions, control their actions, and be aware of others' feelings. The program also focuses on prevention of substance abuse, bullying, and violence by teaching empathy, communication, and emotion management.

“The social and emotional components of a child's education are equally as important as academics in Catholic education,” explained school Principal Dr. Diane Greco. “Although we are not a school overrun by bullying, if even one student feels his or her classmates are mean or overly competitive, that's one too many. Second Step provides guided professional development for teachers that will enable them to promote skills that will sustain a positive school environment where all students are supported.”

The program will be implemented through developmentally appropriate lessons for each grade level that focus on empathy. It will create a consistent message and common language for students and teachers, which will strengthen positive behavior, maintain cooperative relationships, and promote responsible decision-making. “We view this initiative as a way to improve and reinforce our Catholic values as taught in our religion classes,” noted Dr. Greco.

Second Step has been applauded for it success across the country. In a 2015 study that occurred over a one-year period with 7,300 students and 321 teachers in 61 schools across six districts from kindergarten to second grade, significant improvements in social-emotional competence and behavior were reported with Second Step. Additionally, the number of lessons completed and student engagement were predictive of improved student outcomes.

Media-based, highly interactive, engaging lessons will teach concepts in younger grades such as learning to listen, respecting differences, and fair ways to play, in addition to managing disappointment, embarrassment, and anger. As students transition to sixth, seventh and eighth grades, Second Step teaches and models communication skills that help adolescents navigate common challenges like peer pressure and bullying. This program supports the Catholic core competencies of self-awareness, self-management, responsible and ethical decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness.

Dr. Greco added, “Our goal is to have all of our students develop and deepen empathy for others, which will help maintain positive relationships and successful conflict resolution, along with the confidence to make the correct decisions. This will enable every student to feel safe and secure at school, so they can concentrate on getting the best possible education.”

- Julie Krumenacker