Grant Sponsors SEL Experiences for Scholars

Grant Sponsors SEL Experiences for Scholars
Posted on 04/10/2024
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Student stress is real. Studies show that children are more likely to experience concerns related to mental and emotional wellness. As scholars approach statewide testing, these concerns can become heightened which is why schools are seeking innovative ways to help scholars work through and process these emotions.

Following the 2020 global health pandemic, schools across the country reopened campuses to scholars exhibiting unprecedented demonstrations of stress, anxiety, and other social-emotional manifestations of imbalance. As a result, schools across the country began designing intensive efforts to support students’ physical reintroduction to school which included strategic initiatives to support and embed social-emotional curriculum and wellness into academic experiences.

DeSoto Independent School District introduced supports like SEL (social-emotional learning) hours and expanded counseling services including access to district-provided no-cost virtual counseling, and other resources.

Most recently, thanks to the College Driven Gear Up grant, scholars again have access to interactive and engaging social-emotional wellness resources during the school day to assist with stress management, self-regulation, emotional coping capacity, and other soft skills that support healthy peer relationships, engagement with authority, self-awareness, emotional intelligence and more.

“On any given Wednesday our scholars can be seen engaging in activities that help with self-care, decreasing stress, and moments that allow them to recharge,” said College Driven Gear Up Grant Director Dr. Calvin Green. “ Our most popular activity has become yoga.”

The series was designed by CDGU’s Curtistene S. McCowan Middle School Site Coordinator AJ Jones and supported by Lifehouse Wellness’ Sheri Doucette, a dedicated College Driven GEAR UP grant partner. 

Green said the effort was an attempt to maximize efforts to support our DeSoto ISD scholars from a social-emotional lens and includes other strategies and activities like puzzles, painting, and other self-care activities. 


“Our College Driven GEAR UP grant not only focuses on academics and college access, the grant also has a huge social-emotional learning component which has become imperative and impactful for our scholars since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our educational sphere,” said Green.

About the College Driven Gear Up Grant

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) State Grant is a seven-year federal initiative designed to increase early college awareness, readiness, and success for low-income and historically underrepresented students. This grant serves an entire cohort of students beginning with seventh grade and following the cohort through high school. GEAR UP funds are also used to provide college scholarships to low-income students. 

College Driven GEAR UP will provide resources for educators, students, and parents on topics including: 

  • College Readiness
  • College Awareness 
  • Advanced Academics 
  • Promising Outreach Practices 
  • Financial Aid 
  • Parent Involvement
  • Mentors, Mindsets, and Relationships

The DeSoto ISD College Driven GEAR UP grant objectives are aligned with our DeSoto ISD board goals and are as follows:

Objective #1: Increase GEAR UP cohort students’ academic performance to adequately prepare them for postsecondary education.

Objective #2: Increase the percentage of high school GEAR UP cohort graduates and their participation in postsecondary education.

Objective #3 Increase GEAR UP students’ educational expectations and students’ and parents’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, and financing.

Objective 4: Increase students’/parents’ knowledge and skills, regarding work-based learning experiences, STEM, remote learning, use of technology, and mental health services to create a pathway toward increasing their competencies and aptitudes.

The DeSoto ISD College Driven Gear Up is a $7 million college readiness grant available to support this area of development for current middle school students that will follow this cohort to support and track scholars’ transition and success in higher education. 

“Our grant is all about exposure, exploration, and experiences,” said College Driven Gear Up Grant Director Dr. Calvin Green. “As a team, the College Driven GEAR UP grant is here to provide many of these opportunities for our scholars.  Our grant pushes college, career, and military readiness for all cohort scholars to help ensure that they are well-versed and knowledgeable about the opportunities that await them once they leave DeSoto ISD.”