SEL to Me

We Asked High School Graduates What SEL Skills They’ll Bring Into Their Futures. Here’s What They Said.

June 8, 2023

For the class of 2023, graduation season has arrived. High school seniors across the country will don caps and gowns, march to “Pomp and Circumstance,” and cross the stage into their futures. Parents and teachers will send them off, hoping they’ve prepared them to navigate adulthood.

As much as we hope we’ve prepared them academically, we also hope they’re prepared to be good citizens and happy, successful humans. We hope they’ve learned to think critically, set and achieve goals, make good decisions, and build positive relationships with others—all skills related to social and emotional learning (SEL).

In celebration of graduation season, we caught up with seniors at Galena High School in Reno, Nevada, where SEL is a key part of school culture. The school emphasizes engagement, belonging, well-being, and trusting relationships between students and staff. SEL is integrated into the curriculum and taught explicitly through evidence-based lessons.

As Galena seniors prepare to graduate on June 17, we asked, What SEL skills will you bring into your future?

“Next year I plan on studying business at the University of Colorado Boulder, where I will hopefully become a sustainable strategy consultant. Over the last four years, social and emotional learning has taught me many valuable lessons that I will carry with me, such as how to resist peer pressure, have empathy, and calm my nervous energy. 

“[SEL] is crucial now more than ever as the mental health crisis continues to grow. I know that by exposing students to SEL programs in a school environment, they can learn more about themselves in a way that may have not been previously accessible.”

-Carly Simmons

“My plans for the future are still being thought out and worked on. But with SEL, I have learned to be more confident in asking others for help.” 

-Brayan Lopez

“The best lesson SEL has taught me is simple! It’s just being honest with myself and others because I would rather work to be the best version of myself instead of becoming something I’m not. I’ll carry this lesson with me into this chapter of my journey through college, my health, my relationships, and above all else, my faith.”

-Miguel A. Ruiz

“I plan on attending the University of Oregon in the fall. When I attend, I hope to be a part of and better the community. Showing empathy to others and having an open mind are only a few of the ways I plan to build relationships with my peers.”

-Emma Talafuse

“While I don’t know the exact plans I have after college, I know that the interpersonal skills I developed through SEL will allow me to communicate with future employers and use my voice to express my interests. Also, learning to be empathetic and socially aware has been useful with building new relationships and listening to others—whether that be teachers or peers. I know that these core skills I developed partially through SEL in high school will continue to be of use in my future as a college student, and beyond that as well.”

-Stanley Sherry

A special thank you to Clara Mitchell, Galena High School counselor; Lindsay Marquez, Galena High School mental health professional; and Trish Shaffer, MTSS/SEL Coordinator at Washoe County School District.

SEL to Me

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