Past Press Releases

For Immediate Release: May 7, 2014

More than 150 mental health providers, teachers, and school administrators will gather at Wellesley College on May 22nd for the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts (SAM) 3rd annual conference, entitled, "Leveraging Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in an Era of Accountability.”

The mission of the Alliance is to bring the educational process known as social emotional learning (SEL) into every school in Massachusetts, whether private, public or charter. Effective SEL promotes students’ academic success, health and wellbeing and provides them with opportunities to practice skills such as resiliency, problem-solving, and emotional management. Through SEL, children become good communicators, cooperative members of a team, effective leaders, and caring concerned members of their communities.

“What we hear from our members is that they want SEL in their schools, but need to learn how to leverage the tremendous benefits of SEL to overcome the natural tendency of schools to be concerned with testing and compliance,” said Mitch Lyons, one of the organizers of SAM, a two-year old nonprofit coalition of individuals who work in schools, hospitals, associations, businesses and nonprofits.

“In fact, the demand for a seat at our conference is consistent each year we’ve held it, with waiting lists almost as high as the number of attendees allowed in the space,” Lyons added.

Open Circle, a founding member organization of SAM and co-sponsor of the conference, is pleased to once again host the annual event at Wellesley College. "SEL is critical to students' success in school, work and life," states Open Circle Co-Director Nova Biro. "With the help of SAM and this annual conference, more and more educators, parents and community members are learning about SEL and advocating for student curricula and educator training for SEL in every Massachusetts school."

SAM members have banded together, over 350 of them, to bring SEL into the forefront of educational discussion and will be sponsoring legislation next year to make SEL training a requirement for all new teachers.

“While we often hear that educators feel overwhelmed, we also hear that the schools and districts that take the necessary steps to implement SEL see that it pays off – for student achievement and wellbeing, and for the adult community – in a matter of months, if they focus on climate and practices,” said Rachel Poliner, this year’s conference organizer. “So we focused this year’s conference on helping administrators and teachers strategize around the obstacles.”

The conference will speak to how to make SEL a focal point for schools, on equal footing with teaching content. “The evidence is in,” Lyons says, “and it states unequivocally that social-emotional learning is a powerful tool that helps students develop thinking habits that lead to their success in school, relationships and life."

For further information about SAM, please contact: Mitch Lyons 617-519-1232

Since its inception in 1987, Open Circle has reached over two million children and trained more than 13,000 educators. Open Circle is currently used in over 300 schools in more than 100 urban, suburban and rural communities across the United States. Open Circle is a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. For more information, visit

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