My name is Will Wolf, and I am a junior in high school who is committed to sharing the stories about benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL).
I am extremely fortunate to have been introduced to SEL at an early age, and have taken formal classes dedicated entirely to the topic throughout high school. These classes were called Science of the Mind (SOM), and they combined SEL with neuroscience and biology to create an excellent hybrid program. Some of the interesting topics we have covered are the biology of emotion, the impacts of stress, and the scientific significance of community.
However, my most important SEL experience was not curated entirely in the classroom. Instead, one of my favorite elements of SEL is the deep self-reflection that it often ignites. During one such reflection, I was feeling rather lost in relation to my purpose in life and what I wanted to pursue. Through multiple reflective sessions and conversations with my peers and teachers, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of myself as well as greater confidence and self-worth.
This point of turmoil in my life occurred a short way into my sophomore year. This was during the thick of the COVID pandemic, so I was isolated, bored, and lacked motivation to pursue my interests. I felt that because I had been reduced so much by the lockdown, there was very little of me that I was actually proud of, and I slipped into a period of deep insecurity and self-doubt. Luckily, my SOM class continued into remote learning, so I was able to slowly beat back the waves of challenges that the pandemic wrought through certain SEL practices.
At some point, I discovered a new passion: reflection during physical exercise, namely running, after it was recommended to me by my teacher at the time. I found that going on runs every day, sometimes 30 minutes and sometimes for hours, (depending on how I was feeling) allowed me to feel better about my physical condition, be in nature, and reflect on my goals and passions.
My reflections went something like this. First, I would consider the things that I love and care about: family members, friends, music, athletics, reading. Then I would think about things that I can dedicate myself to that align with these things. At this point, I stumbled upon my passion, activism. I came to this realization by considering my sister, who is disabled, and realizing that one of the most fulfilling things I can do is work toward bettering her relationship with the world and the relationships of others like her.
So I joined local and national organizations, started work in my school, and began to invest more and more in this passion. Eventually, this dedication helped pull me out of the sense of aimlessness that had been dragging me down for the past months. Finally I had purpose, drive, and passion—thanks to the critical lessons and practices of SEL. Throughout my life, SEL has been a useful framework for reflection and empathy; however, in this moment, it changed my outlook on who I am and who I want to be.
Will Wolf is a high school junior living in San Francisco, California. He is an avid contributor to local and national organizations such as CASEL for the advancement of SEL and accessibility. In addition to his passion for activism, Will enjoys spending time with his family, running, reading, playing guitar, and studying economics.
The views in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CASEL.