School-Connect was incorporated as a small business "with a big heart" in Fall 2003, but the seeds of what would become the School-Connect program took root 20 years earlier. In the late 80's Kathy Beland was writing and piloting what would become the award-winning Second Step, A Violence Prevention Curriculum (Pre/K - Grade 8), and Julea Posey (now Julea Douglass) was beginning high school. Kathy dreamed of eventually developing a high school program that would reach the kids who either "destroyed school lockers or faded into them," and Julea discovered her life work through a positive youth development workshop that transformed her experience of high school and goals for the future.
Fast forward to 1998 to the Character Education Partnership in Washington, DC, where Kathy and Julea worked together and discovered their mutual goals. Through discussions with national leaders in character education, positive youth development, and social and emotional learning (SEL); visits to high schools across the country as part of the National Schools of Character program; and attendance at presentations on high school reform on Capitol Hill, they became convinced that a high school program that developed students' personal and interpersonal skills was long overdue. By this time, Kathy's own two children were in high school, providing a window into the challenges adolescents face today, and Julea was beginning graduate studies in psychology with a focus on adolescent development.
In 2003, Kathy and Julea finally had the time and resources to start School-Connect. They spent a year researching and writing School-Connect: Optimizing the High School Experience and a year piloting the curriculum in high schools in and around Washington, DC. In the development process, they consulted with and enjoyed the support of leaders in the fields of social and emotional learning, character education, prevention, and positive psychology. School-Connect published the first edition of the curriculum in 2006 and released a second edition with minor updates in 2009. To date, School-Connect has been in all 50 states, primarily in freshman seminars, at-risk programs, special education, student leadership courses, and advisory. But the story doesn't end here.
In 2012, Kathy and Julea visited the classroom of R. Keeth Matheny, who developed, taught, and honed a freshman success course called MAPS (Methods for Academic and Personal Success) at Austin High School in Austin, Texas. Keeth had been using School-Connect lessons along with his own lessons; he felt such synergy between his course objectives and School-Connect that he reached out to Kathy and Julea about ways to collaborate. The three worked together for two years to reformat the curriculum for multi-media and redesign lessons, pilot them in five high schools in his district, and refine them based on feedback and classroom observations. Over a four-year period, freshman class failures have fallen by 41% and discipline referrals by 71% at his school, and the other pilot schools are beginning to see positive results as well.
We remain open to the varied paths this educational adventure might take and welcome suggestions from educators, parents, and students on what is needed in our high schools to help young people succeed and flourish.
School-Connect seeks to foster academic engagement, enhance social and emotional competencies, reduce risk behaviors, and facilitate supportive relationships within high school communities. Our ultimate goal is to prepare adolescents for adulthood both personally and professionally.