Committee for Children Blog

Meet the Team That’s Creating SEL for High School

Have you heard? Committee for Children is building a new social-emotional learning (SEL) program for high school students. Like high schoolers, we’ve been thinking about our future and what we want to strive for as an organization. And, mirroring most adolescents we know, we wanted to take a risk and build new skills and knowledge. Instead of looking to established approaches, we’d like to create something innovative that can help high schoolers grow into confident, capable adults who can change the world in positive ways.

What else do high schoolers and the Committee for Children high school team have in common? To answer that question, let’s look at the people, passions, and processes behind the program.

We’re Learning and Growing

Major changes begin occurring inside the brain once teenagers reach puberty. The teen years are second only to infancy in terms of brain plasticity, or the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experiences.1 This period of heightened plasticity is an ideal time to promote positive development through social-emotional learning and set teens on pathways to success.

Like teens, we’re learning and growing as we find new ways to solve problems and build our high school program. The program will be rooted in research and evidence-based practices, which our team is studying and collecting as they develop their expertise.

Erin Raab, Senior Research Scientist

Senior Research Scientist Erin Raab is delving into the science of adolescent development and how SEL can complement adolescents’ development cycles. She’s also examining ways to integrate developmental science and research-based practices into the program’s learning. “We started by diving into a diverse research base in the fields of neuroscience, developmental science, social psychology, and education, so we truly understand what young people need to learn and thrive,” Erin says. “Then, what’s been exciting is we get to work closely with young people and educators in our lab schools to create a program that they actually love and will use.”

We Want Learning to Be Fun and Rewarding

By the high school years, many students are thinking about what they’d like to accomplish after graduation and are learning the importance of the skills that will help them reach their goals. Developmentally, teens are primed to want experiences that are relevant, authentic, and exciting.2 For school programming to keep their attention, it needs to feel engaging and challenging.

Paige West Shaw, Program Manager

Program Manager Paige Shaw has a PhD in neuroscience and more than 20 years of experience creating digital learning experiences, which has helped her understand the importance of SEL for high school students. “I love making learning fun,” she says. “But the important part is making a huge difference for the young people we serve and everyone they go on to interact with throughout their lives.”

“The brain of a high school student is affected by their daily experiences more than the brain at any other stage of life,” Paige continues. “Students who practice social-emotional skills in high school will be set up to thrive in adulthood in a variety of areas, including higher education, career, community, and family life.”

We Value Our Peers’ Feedback

Friends and peers are some of the most important people in teenagers’ lives. Positive friendships and communities can have tremendous benefits for high schoolers’ social-emotional well-being.3,4 As we build our new program, we’re also relying on the feedback and support of our communities.

We’re consulting with educator advisory groups to ensure our program is not only relevant and engaging for students, but also is practical and easy for educators to implement. And we’re learning from teens themselves: program development includes feedback from student advisory groups, so we can ensure high school students’ voices are heard and their input is incorporated into the program.

Lin Pang, User Experience Designer

User Experience Designer Lin Pang is excited to hear from our high schooler and educator advisory groups. A former instructional designer, Lin hopes to create a digital platform for the program that’s easy, intuitive, and engaging. “An important part of my role is researching the lives, needs, and goals of our users,” Lin says. “My hope is to create interfaces that are visually appealing and design moments that will delight.”

We’re Excited for the Future

Just as teenagers are looking ahead to their next goals and challenges, we’re thrilled to be creating a program that will expand our SEL offerings to the high school level. Our team is eager to listen, learn, and help benefit students’ well-being through social-emotional learning.

Laura Craniey, Senior Instructional Designer

Senior Instructional Designer Laura Craniey is passionate about helping teens make positive changes in their communities. Laura brings to the team her experience as a former teacher working with high school students on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “High schoolers are my favorite humans,” Laura says. “I have so much love for them.”

Stay Tuned

We’ll be sharing more information about the program in development as it’s available. If you’d like to receive updates or join an advisory group, please visit to submit your information.

If you’d like to learn about how adult SEL can benefit your high school, read this blog post about how our Second Step® SEL for Adults program can benefit educator well-being and provide your next step toward cultivating a more positive school climate.

You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to be the first to hear about new and exciting program developments.


1. Steinburg, Laurence. (2014). Age of opportunity: Lessons from the new science of adolescence. Eamon Dolan Books.

2. van Duijvenvoorde, A. C., Peters, S., Braams, B. R., & Crone, E. A. (2016). What motivates adolescents? Neural responses to rewards and their influence on adolescents’ risk taking, learning, and cognitive control. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 70, 135–147.

3. Bishop, J. A., & Inderbitzen, H. M. (1995). Peer acceptance and friendship: An investigation of their relation to self-esteem. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 15(4), 476–489.

4. Hodges, E. V. E., Boivin, M., Vitaro, F., & Bukowski, W. M. (1999). The power of friendship: Protection against an escalating cycle of peer victimization. Developmental Psychology, 35(1), 94–101.