Emotional, social learning program helps students succeed in Gogebic, Ontonagon counties

The Miss Kendra program gives students opportunities to express and work through their worries.
Stress management part of Upper Michigan student curriculum
Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 5:26 PM EDT
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WAKEFIELD, Mich. (WLUC) - Two Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District (GOISD) elementary schools are the first in the state to implement a nationwide social and emotional learning program.

This academic year, Wakefield-Marenisco School and Ewen-Trout Creek School began piloting the Miss Kendra program. The program is a curriculum designed to meet students’ needs outside their academic work.

Great Start Collaborative director Meghan Lane says when she first heard “The Legend of Miss Kendra,” she was touched. She says she knew the program could benefit students in the U.P.

“She lost her son at a very young age,” said Lane. “From there, she would meet the kids getting off the school bus every day and ask how they were doing, how they were feeling. As the months went on, the questions got a little deeper.”

Once a week, a social-emotional learning consultant meets with the students to go through Miss Kendra’s List of items they should remember, including phrases like “No child should be hungry for a long time,” “No child should be left alone for a long time,” and “No child should be bullied or told they are no good.”

One of those consultants, Danielle Grayson, says the curriculum also includes a worry board. Students place their name on the category that best describes how they’re feeling that day, from “No worries today” to “Worries make it hard to learn.”

“All kids have worries,” Grayson said. “They might be everyday worries, or they might be the great big Miss Kendra worries, but it gives them an opportunity to be heard.”

Grayson says Miss Kendra time is a safe space for students to express what’s on their minds, helping them deal with toxic stress so they can focus more easily on school.

Lane says the goal of the program is to help students develop resilience.

“It’s been proven to reduce suicides, expulsions, suspensions, and trips to the principal’s office,” said Lane.

Grayson says she’s already seen results in her students.

“We’ve seen children blurting out answers, and through the year now we can see them stopping and thinking, raising their hands,” said Grayson.

Students also write letters to Miss Kendra. Miss Kendra always writes them back, letting them know someone is always looking out for them.

To learn more about the Miss Kendra program, click here.

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