Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms delivered an impassioned and inspiring message to students at her beloved alma mater Frederick Douglass High School during a recent Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) session.
The virtual program included greetings from Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring and Atlanta Board of Education member Aretta Baldon, as well as an anti-bullying message from Twin Sportz TV, a District partner. Sophomore Elisha Gates (Mr. Sophomore), who was accepted into the Harvard Debate Program, led the discussion and also delivered a constructive response titled, “Freedom.” Sophomore Amiyah Scott, who is ranked No. 1 in the Class of 2023, introduced Bottoms.
School counselor Dr. Sheryl Neely said Bottoms was invited to speak to students and share her reaction to the Jan. 6 insurrection against the U.S. Capitol.
She also noted that SEL moments allow students to understand the importance of addressing their own emotional well-being to meet their social and emotional needs.
“We asked Mayor Bottoms to provide SEL support to our students in grappling with the violence that took place at our nation’s capitol, and to address inequalities in our society,” Dr. Neely said. “When the insurrection occurred, students articulated many emotions, including the inequity in peaceful marches and protests versus the violence that took place in Washington, D.C. Our students also asked Mayor Bottoms to articulate the key priorities she supported in President Joseph Biden’s presidential agenda.”
During her virtual address, Bottoms shared memories of her time as an APS student, including her former principal, Mr. Twiggs, at Collier Heights Elementary School.
“I just want you all to know that the memories and bonds and connections that you all are making today literally will last you a lifetime,” she said. “I’m also so grateful to have a school board and a superintendent who values Douglass High School. Everything that I am and all that I am is because of Douglass High School.”
She also encouraged students to persevere and reminded them that they are supported and surrounded by caring adults and administrators.
“I hope that you know that through your superintendent, board member, principal, counselors, and teachers, their success is because you succeed. So, keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing,” she added.
Designed to provide a strong whole-school initiative to include all students and staff, SEL involves teachers sharing their experiences to bring SEL to life through personal conversations and real-world examples. Teachers and counselors are included in the sessions and rotate, delivering quality SEL sessions to all students.
Atlanta Public Schools has made the teaching and modeling of SEL a district priority, as these skills provide students, teachers and staff with the tools they need for success. The SEL initiative focuses on building and maintaining strong relationships, a positive school culture, and more student engagement.