On Thursday, September 27, over 70 community members joined Promise and WS/FCS staff at Forsyth Tech for Educating the Heart and Inspiring the Mind: Social, Emotional, & Academic Learning in Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools.

This informative event introduced the audience to the underlying concepts of social and emotional learning, and showcased WS/FCS’s ongoing efforts to build these promising practices into student’s daily lives. The event included networking, a short film, a presentation on SEAL in WS/FCS, a panel discussion with principles, educators, and support staff, and facilitated table discussions to gather participant’s perspectives.

Kathy Fitzjefferies, Program Manager for Safe and Drug-Free Schools with WS/FCS gave the keynote address:

SEAL (Social, Emotional and Academic Learning) is the heart of learning.  When social and emotional needs are supported there is improvement in student behavior, school attendance, academics, as well as, social and emotional well-being. Our schools alone cannot create this change; we know it takes a village to educate our children. We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with The Forsyth Promise so we can begin our journey in strengthening our understanding and building capacity to work in partnership for the greater good of our children and community. We strongly believe that when our schools, families, and community join as collaborators, together we can make a significant difference in our children’s lives, not just in school, but also in the community; not just for now but for the future.

Community Perspectives

Near the close of the event, attendees participated in small table discussions to process what they’d heard and share their perspectives. The Promise captured this input and analyzed the qualitative data around four key questions to identify prevailing themes:

Considering the needs of the whole child, do you think exposing students to a range of social and emotional experiences can have a positive impact on academic leaning? If so, how?

  1. Yes. This is a necessity.
  2. Contributes to total life experience and the whole child (well-rounded kids).
  3. Contributes to a more effective school experience.
  4. Parent awareness of SEL can help support children.

Critics of SEL say that it’s a fad. What are your thoughts?

  1. No, not a fad.
  2. There has always been a need for this and a need for awareness.
  3. There’s not enough parent capacity in high-need families to devote to SEL.

What role can the community play in a child’s social, emotional, and academic learning?

  1. SEL needs to be driven by the community.
  2. Encouraging involvement of students via awareness of volunteer options and connection to resources and activities.

Do you believe that SEL programming can be transformational for the school district?

  1. Yes.
  2. Foster a school climate supporting teachers using SEAL.
  3. Can’t do it without parents.

Representation through Participation

The Promise has identified a key goal of making the groups we convene more demographically reflective of the broader community. To measure this at Be The Change, we ask all attendees to complete a brief, anonymous demographic survey. To hold ourselves accountable, we publish the results:

Total Respondents: 63

Average age: 43 years old

Race / Ethnicity:

  • African American: 31.7%
  • Hispanic / Latino: 9.5%
  • White, Non-Hispanic: 55.6%
  • Other: 3.2%


  • Female: 85.5%
  • Male: 14.5%

Learn More and Get Involved

  • Learn more about Social Emotional Learning: https://casel.org
  • Get connected to SEAL in WS/FCS:
    Contact Kathy Fitzjefferies, Program Manager for Safe and Drug-Free Schools KEFitzjefferies@wsfcs.k12.nc.us
  • Watch this six-minute introductory video: