By Priscilla Rodriguez | m/Oppenheim Media Writer
Beyond academics, Momentous Institute in Dallas, Texas, focuses on shedding light on the importance of the social emotional health of children and the impact it can have on their performance within and outside of the classroom.
“We believe in the ‘north star’ of social emotional health for all kids so that they can achieve their full potential,” says Executive Director of Momentous Institute, Michelle Kinder, who explains that this key element can make all the difference in a child’s ability to succeed.
Through both its mental health programs and a social emotional health-based curriculum, the nationally acclaimed Momentous School helps children and families at high risk, or living in poverty to overcome stressors in their lives and to develop important skills that make them, “good communicators, problem-solvers, empathetic, grateful, gritty and optimistic.”
Every year, Momentous Institute delivers therapeutic services to more than 6,000 children and families, many of whom are already living in poverty and in high-stress situations. Therefore the institute focuses on equipping children with tools for achieving high quality emotional health, such as learning about which areas of their brains are activated when they are experiencing certain emotions, or learning a wider range of vocabulary to express the emotions they are feeling, “beyond happy, sad, or mad.”
The institute engages children as young as three years old, which Kinder explains allows educators “the opportunity to engage [children] during that incredible period of development.”
Even three-year-olds can understand concepts of social emotional health that will stay with them throughout their lives, she explains.
Additionally, the institute ensures that parents become highly involved in the process so that children feel supported and ultimately so that the impact is far-reaching, beyond the classroom setting.
During her more than 20 years of experience working in education and in therapeutic services, Kinder says that one of her observations is that parents are a heavily underutilized resource in education, yet they are key players in ensuring the success of children.
“Of everything that we do, one of the biggest levers for us has really been tuning into that relationship with the parents and learning from them and trusting their wisdom and inviting their wisdom, and letting that guide us,” says Kinder.
“We often think about ‘how do we launch the energy between the school, the therapy services, the parent, the child, the stakeholders the funders, how do we create a space where everyone feels valued’ and like they can bring their ‘best self’ to the table.”
The institution therefore collaborates closely with parents to deliver impactful experiences for students at Momentous schools. From the very first day that a child enters the program as a three-year-old, parents are asked to accompany them for the entire day to celebrate and support the child on their important new journey. Parents are also asked to develop a vision statement that outlines their goals for their child, and that becomes a “guide” for both educators and parents throughout the child’s education.
Kinder explains that the approach has “resulted in a real focus on family strength a real effort to prioritize the voices of the family.”
“That means the expertise is shared between the therapist and parents,” she adds.
“For kids, that is a winning formula when they see their parents engaged, and when they see their parents treated as equal players in helping launch the child’s future.”
In addition to directly serving thousands of children and families each year, Momentous Institute also builds long-term partnerships with educational institutions and trains teachers across the country in hopes of disseminating its 90 plus years of experience in working with children and families as educators and therapist.
“We focus how we can take their work and commitment to social-emotional health to the next level,” says Kinder.
In the long run, the results speak for themselves. Of the students who graduate from Momentous schools, many of whom are Latino, black and Native American, an impressively high rate of 82% go on to pursue higher education, and 81% persist through to their sophomore year.
Seeing the success of past students, Kinder says, inspires younger students to dream big and to envision a bright future for themselves and their families.
“It’s our hope that this work and our kids and families will inspire you to sit across from the kids in your life expect momentous outcomes, and develop social emotional health, and to create that relationship and that space, where every child can achieve their full potential.” ‘