American Family Insurance Promotes Social-Emotional Learning By Partnering With Wisconsin Businesses

Connecting with One’s Emotions

American Family Insurance Madison Headquarters. (Picture courtesy of
American Family Insurance Madison Headquarters. (Picture courtesy of

It is no secret that American Family Insurance (AmFam) has been living up to its commitment to inspire, protect and restore dreams not only financially, but with volunteerism, creativity, and expertise. One of their latest endeavors is about the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and making that accessible to the community. AmFam is hosting the Youth Transformation Series focused on SEL in partnership with Milky Way Tech Hub, Sherman Phoenix, Connect Business Consulting, Grateful Girls Youth & Family Services, and Hands at Home.

The Youth Transformation Series consists of one-hour-long sessions headed by Wisconsin experts that started on May 13, 2021. This is an opportunity for youth ages 12-17 to receive the tools necessary to understand and manage their emotions. 

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

Taking Care of the Whole Person

AmFam Advisor and Co-Founder of Sherman Phoenix JoAnne Sabir understands the importance of SEL and believes in providing resources for the whole person, not just for one aspect of a person.

“What we’ve learned over the course of two years is that it’s hard for our young folks to be present when it’s unsolved trauma,” said Sabir. “I think it’s important to understand the spirit matters. Sometimes we only look at one aspect of a person’s wellbeing. We don’t focus on the human aspects.”

This series was put together by Lead Coordinators Kenge Adams, Chandra Cooper, and Monique Addison.

Community member and Owner of Purposeful P.LA.Y. Tiffany Gratton-McDuffie is a part of AmFam’s series. She was contacted by Sabir who wanted to include Purpose P.L.A.Y. because Gratton-McDuffie has years of experience helping children discover and celebrate what it means to care for their whole selves.

Gratton-McDuffie’s organization provides tools for children to reconnect with themselves and their sense of worth.

The Positive Impacts of Listening to Our Youth

Tiffany Gratton-McDuffie and the Purposeful P.LA.Y. youth. (Picture provided by Tiffany Gratton-McDuffie)
Tiffany Gratton-McDuffie and the Purposeful P.LA.Y. youth. (Picture provided by Tiffany Gratton-McDuffie)

Pre-COVID, Purposeful P.L.A.Y. used sports as a tool to connect with the youth, yet it was never just about sports for the organization. Purposeful P.L.A.Y. is allowing kids to just be kids, which is something a lot of Black and Brown youth don’t have the luxury of. Since in-person play has come to a halt, Gratton-McDuffie and her team went online to host virtual kickbacks and provide a space for the youth to have fun, remain connected, and voice how they feel.

“There’s no class at school that simply asks kids ‘how do you feel?’ Our young people need spaces where they are taught how to recognize, talk about, and deal with their emotions,” said Gratton-McDuffie. ”As parents, we make sure kids are housed, fed, and clothed but in the midst of our busy adult lives, it’s equally important to check in with kids and see how they’re doing and how they’re feeling.”

Based on an Elmhurst University article, youth will need a different approach to learning when returning to the classroom. This means learning will require more support for SEL for students to fully be successful mentally, physically, and emotionally.

As a person who represents both the community and the corporate sector, Sabir said it all starts with us.

“We love our children. We want them to be well,” she said. “How do we do more?”More programs are coming up to support the social-emotional needs of families in the community. This will be done by including and lifting practitioners of color who operate in this space within Milwaukee.

Nyesha Stone founded Carvd N Stone in 2017 to cover positive news while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Stone has a B.A. in Journalism. She has raised over $30,000 to award grants and scholarships. She has also been featured in ESSENCE and worked with the American Black Film Festival.

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