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Bridget Durkan Laird: CEO of WINGS for Kids

WINGS For Kids has afterschool programs that are focused on social emotional learning to set kids up for success in and out of the classroom. WINGS provides social emotional learning resources on a national level to reach as many schools and students as possible. Learn more about their innovative curriculum here!

What do your programs entail?


Our afterschool programs run in Title 1 elementary schools and are five days a week for three hours per day. As a direct service program, kids come to us after school and a WINGS team runs operations. The day is always fun and incorporates social emotional learning into the curriculum. Though our work is mostly based in South Carolina and Georgia, we share what we’ve learned through our program with other schools across the country to help them implement similar programs. We also are the social emotional learning provider for Discovery Education, where we provide digital materials to about 4 million children in the US.


What are the benefits of social emotional learning?


We like to say that at school you get your head smarts, and social emotional learning is your heart smarts. With us, you get the heart smarts. Kids learn how to persevere, how to hold themselves accountable for decisions, how to have empathy, how to support one another, how to make good choices, how to have healthy relationships, and so much more. These skills, coupled with academics, are what point kids to success. Social emotional learning leads students to have better classroom behavior, which improves their focus and grades. It helps with every aspect of life.


What is the goal for students leaving a WINGS program?


There are five key competencies that our students learn with us: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship building, and making good decisions. It’s important for kids to understand their emotions and identify their own strengths and weaknesses. When a student leaves WINGS, they know how to utilize their skills and what areas they can improve on. They have empathy to know how to reach out to the new kid at school on the playground, to stop a bully, and to say no to peer pressure. We’re able to have a deep impact with the kids we work with and know that these programs are effective.


What is the best part of your job?


It’s incredible to watch all these skills culminate in our kids. We have a short poem called “Words to Live by” that breaks down social emotional learning into kid-friendly terms. My favorite part is seeing students share those phrases to help and encourage each other. It’s amazing to see our lessons spread to staff, teachers, and parents. It’s turned into a whole movement of its own.



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