Learning from Leaders at UCLA and the Value of Collaboration

CARES, SkipNV, ASSET teams.jpg

Field Notes from UCLA CARES & SkipNV Collaboration

In December, I was invited to attend the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Comprehensive Student Development Conference. The conference was designed to spark cross-pollination and collaboration amongst a variety of different stakeholders—from researchers to practitioners to academics. The attendee list was an extraordinary group of education innovators.

Before I flew to California for the event, I created a “must-meet” attendee list. One of these individuals happened to be Kate Sheehan of UCLA’s Center for Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Supports (CARES). I immediately thought, “Are they looking for a poster child? Because I could be one for the center.” (Kate, if you’re reading this, the offer still stands).

What excited me most about CARES’s work was that they conduct parent trainings at local LA schools. As a child who grew up with severe anxiety, my parents didn’t have access to the resources CARES provides. Because there was no programming for my parents, they felt stigmatized by their child’s anxiety. My schools didn’t have a network of programs provided by an organization like CARES. Brent and I felt compelled to learn about their work equipping parents.

As part of the conference, we were awarded funds to see CARES’s work in-action alongside Dr. Saras Chung of SkipNV.

Going into the trip, we made a list of questions we wanted to answer:

  • How can we provide more resources to parents of ASSET students?

  • How do other SEL programs evaluate their impact?

  • How can ASSET and CARES work together?

Our trip began with a parent training at Third Street Elementary led by CARES’s Dr. Diana Santacrose. This was the first of five sessions for the parents at Third Street. There are three goals of the parent trainings:

  • Support family resilience and communication;

  • Help parents coach their children in ways to manage stress;

  • Understand their child’s strengths and needs as they grow and develop.

Amazing right?

One of the many activities and resources provided during the training was a Feelings Thermometer, a tool for children to articulate how they’re feeling. The Feelings Thermometer wasn’t just for the kids, but also for the parents to communicate with their kids where their emotional state is at. The CARES team culminated the training with having the parents reflect on their child’s strengths and challenges. Then the parents’ had the opportunity to reflect on their own strengths and challenges parenting their particular child. From experiencing the CARES training, we were inspired to create “players cards” for students to be able to teach their parents the ASSET tools at home.

After the CARES parent training, we headed to Magnolia Elementary to see the program, Playworks in-action alongside their Operations Manager, Roderick.

First of all, Playworks may be the absolute best thing for anxious kiddos who fear the playground; they bring structure to recess. Students get to choose from several games on the playground and the games are monitored by junior coaches (4th and 5th graders). Playworks is designed to make the transition to and from recess less chaotic and smooth for both students and teachers.

At ASSET, we’re always asking ourselves: what else can we do to evaluate impact? We had the opportunity to learn from Roderick that one way Playworks measures impact is through teachers’ perceptions of the program. Going forward, we’ll be adding teachers’ perceptions of the program to our impact reports. Thanks, Playworks!

We’re in the process of selecting an LA school to be a catalyst site for ASSET in SoCal with the help of CARES.

Know a school that could be a fit? Send me an email at tessa@asset-edu.org.


About the Author

Tessa Zimmerman grew up experiencing severe anxiety in the classroom. It wasn’t until she received a full scholarship to a private high school that she learned the tools to cope with stress and anxiety. Tessa founded ASSET to bring equity to education and make sure all teachers have the tools to help their students cope with stress and anxiety. She has been recognized by Forbes as a “wildly successful millennial with an untraditional education.” In 2017, Tessa’s first book, I Am Tessa, was published by One Idea Press. As the single and childless member of the team, Tessa enjoys her free time, hot yoga practice, and cooking with friends.


Get Access to Our Stress Reduction Curriculum Now