Social and Emotional Learning for Traditionally Underserved Populations


Social and emotional learning (SEL) plays a critical role in preparing young people for success in college, careers, and life. In order to ensure that SEL benefits all young people, it is important to consider how SEL initiatives affect traditionally underserved student populations and how they can be tailored to better meet the unique needs of different learners. This webinar featured a deep discussion of the importance of SEL for three traditionally underserved groups: students with disabilities, English language learners, and youth involved in the juvenile justice system (justice-involved youth).

Additional Resources

AYPF Policy Brief: Social and Emotional Learning and Underserved Populations
CASEL: SEL Discussion Series for Parents and Caregivers (English)
CASEL: SEL Discussion Series for Parents and Caregivers (Spanish)
Oregon Social Learning Center: Project Overview for Study of Preschoolers in Foster Care

Presenter Biographies

Logan Beyer is a child development researcher and an advocate for youth. A Benjamin N. Duke Scholar, a Truman Scholar, and a recent graduate of Duke University, Logan served as a summer intern and subsequently as a consultant for the American Youth Policy Forum to explore the implications of social and emotional learning for traditionally underserved youth. Her work as a court appointed special advocate for youth in the dependency system fuels her passion for ensuring all students have the opportunity to succeed, as does her work with Special Olympics University Leaders (SOUL), an organization she co-founded to help college students across North Carolina more effectively advocate for their peers with intellectual disabilities. Outside of the education policy sphere, Logan constructs homes fulltime as an AmeriCorp National Service Member with Habitat for Humanity.

Dr. Sara Castro-Olivo is an associate professor in the School Psychology Program at Texas A&M University. She received her doctorate in School Psychology and Masters in Special Education from the University of Oregon. Her research focuses in the development and validation of culturally responsive social-emotional and behavioral interventions for Latino ELL youth and families. For the past 10 years she has directed the Facilitating Universal Emotional Resiliency for the Social and Academic Success (FUERSAS) for ELLs lab. As part of her lab, Dr. Castro-Olivo and her team have validated a culturally responsive SEL program for Latino ELLs and are currently piloting a parent SEL component.  Dr. Castro-Olivo has over 15 years of experience working as an interventionist for Spanish-speaking populations in Texas, California and Oregon. She has worked as a bilingual community health educator, social skills trainer, parent trainer, school psychologist, and mental health care provider.

Dr. David Lichtenstein holds a doctoral and master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Oregon and an undergraduate degree from Brown University. As a licensed psychologist, Dr. Lichtenstein is currently a Classroom Team Leader and Staff Psychologist for Lifespan School Solutions, a private non-profit that serves students with emotional, psychiatric, and developmental difficulties in both public and independent schools. He also holds an appointment as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University.

Melissa Marini Švigelj-Smith has been an educator in Cleveland (Ohio) public high schools for nearly two decades, and has been teaching high school students at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center for four of those years. Her blog is part of a national network of education bloggers, and her posts have been featured on other national and state education blog sites. Interviews with Melissa can be found in the archives of the Rick Smith Radio Show, It’s About Justice local radio show, on the podcast Quote Unquote, and in news articles in the The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio’s KQED blog, Mindshift. She has been asked to present at conferences nationwide, and to consult on education policy locally and nationally related to social and emotional learning and on behalf of students entangled in the juvenile justice system. She also recruits her four sons and therapy dog to join her in the fight for equity and justice for all.

Jennifer Brown Lerner manages the policy efforts of the National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development at the Aspen Institute. She is also responsible for developing partnerships on behalf of the Commission’s efforts. Previously, Jennifer served as the Deputy Director of the American Youth Policy Forum, where she managed the organization’s work on a wide range of issues that ensure all students graduate ready to succeed in college and careers. Prior to joining AYPF, Jennifer worked as a classroom teacher and communications officer for a number of schools in the Boston area. Her career began supporting the creation of a Summerbridge (now Breakthrough Collaborative) site in Atlanta, Georgia. Jennifer received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and her MA from Teachers College, Columbia University.

The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF’s events and policy reports are made possible by the support of a consortium of philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.

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