How can we help high school students be social? – Student Spotlight: Briseis Alvarez


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How can we help high school students be social?

By: Dr. Joseph Kashiwagi

Many people don’t understand how important a social life is for a high school student. When a child struggles socially, it can have major effects in all areas of life! It might not matter what grades they are getting or how good they are at extracurricular. Learning how to communicate with others, work as a team, building relationships, and have fun with other people can be paramount in a digital world where students feel disconnected. The Valley Guardians Leadership Program is a program to help underprivileged students to be more successful and get the help that they normally wouldn’t be able to afford. The main goal is to help students to have the skills and resources to be successful in life. The program does three main things to help students develop social skills and a social life:

1. One on One meetings

2. Leadership events and opportunities

3. Setting goals

1. One on One Meetings

The program provides coaches for each student in the program to have one on one virtual meetings either weekly/biweekly/monthly. A trained life coach is able to meet with a student to get to know them and practice their social skills. They talk about their life and what they struggle with. It is an amazing outlet for students to build a relationships with someone outside their family and learn how to communicate and talk about their life

2. Leadership Events and Opportunities

The program host 4-5 leadership events a semester for students in the program. They are meant to help students to learn how to interact with others, develop leadership skills, communicate with others, have fun, and make friends with likeminded students. The program creates a safe environment where everyone feels included, needed, and loved!

3. Setting Goals

The main part of the program is helping students to set goals and guide students to build successful skills. Each student is at a different level in their social skills. We work with each student individually to set goals for what they can do to improve their social skills where they are at. We help them track these goals and stay accountable for them to help them build these skills!

Meet Briseis Alvarez

One student that we would like to spotlight is Briseis Alvarez. She is smart girl and very talented but had trouble socializing in past years with COVID-19. She joined the program and knew that was something that she wanted to work on and figure out.

She was in cheer but didn’t seem to enjoy the atmosphere and didn’t really connect with the other girls. She had a few close friends but some of them lived far away and they couldn’t hangout much. It was a struggle for her to get out of her comfort zone and talk to other people.

It was a good start for her to have meetings with her coach. It was a little awkward at first talking to an adult about her life and what was going on but as the calls went on she felt more comfortable and enjoyed having someone to talk about her life with. It was a good step in helping her to develop her communications skills with someone other than her family.

Next, her coach invited her to come to some of the leadership events that were offered. She came to one of the events and had a blast. She was able to bring her sisters and all of the enjoyed the inviting environment created for students. She felt included and enjoyed being with other students doing activities and having fun.

The biggest step that she made in her social life was joining Band. She discussed with her coach ways to get more involved, and socialize with others. Her coach advised her to find a club at school that would put her in a good environment to make friends and have fun. They decided that Band would be the perfect option for her but joining was still difficult. She was supposed to join during the summer and go to band camp but didn’t communicate well enough, so she missed band camp and wasn’t in the class for school. She made a goal to go talk to the band teacher and see if she could switch her classes and get into it. Luckily and with great effort on her part, she was able to join. From being in band, she has completely changed her social life. She has gone to over 20 activities that she would not have participated in. She has made good friends and is now part of group. She feels happier, and more motivated for school. This has helped her to do better in school, have better relationships with family, and be happier in general. We are proud of the steps that she has made as a person! We wanted to spotlight her for her efforts and the person that she is!

Valley Guardian Program

The Valley Guardian program is a multiyear coaching program for underserved students in the community. It was created by successful business people in the valley. They got together and formed a non-profit to find ways to fund developmental programs for kids in underserved communities. This program was aimed toward the underserved kids in the valley who have good hearts and have a desire to be successful and be mentored. The kids who are a part of this program have access to all different kinds of services like professional coaches, coaching calls, getaways, leadership education and training workshops, access to professionals in the valley, college and career readiness and more. The Valley Guardian program started with a single school of 6 students, and overtime has grown to 13 schools, 7 districts, and 49 active students. Overall there have been 120 students who have benefited from this program.

The Valley Guardians program offers over thirty online and in person workshops per year. We do many different types of workshops per year including things like arcades, parks, hikes, parties, and online leadership training. Many of the kids who come are not very social and are looking for a place to feel comfortable and be able to meet new people while being themselves. When they come to programs they have a great time. The way we set them up makes kids feel comfortable, whether we ask them what they are interested in doing or set them up to meet new people through social activities at the beginning of each event. The students find they feel connected and accepted through the program.