This spring, the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) PROGRESS (Partnership for Resident Opportunities, Growth, and Economic Self-Sufficiency) Center offered a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) pilot program called Project Happiness, which served children in grades K-6 and youth attending middle and high school at West Ford, a community owned by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) in Alexandria, VA. The Project Happiness program ran from February 22 – April 26. The program was facilitated by PROGRESS Center staff and George Mason University (GMU) Masters level social work interns, Nakshin Behrouzi and Arianna Butler.
The Project Happiness nine-week after-school program held sessions once per week for each age group. Project Happiness Social and Emotional Learning curriculum provided the framework for weekly sessions and focused on cognitive regulation (attention, planning, flexibility), emotional processes (knowledge, expression, behavior regulation, and empathy), and social/interpersonal skills (understanding social cues and conflict resolution). Students were introduced to mindsets and learned how the brain works and that the brain can always develop new capacities with effort and practice. The curriculum included pre- and post-assessments, videos, textbooks, activities, and additional reading suggestions.
“Research shows that children do their best when they feel happy, rested, alert, and motivated, manage stress, and feel connected to people in their community,” said Nakshin Behrouzi. “I truly enjoyed watching the kids grow over the course of nine weeks as it was an experience better than words can express,” stated Arianna Butler. Both GMU interns expressed that they hope the program is implemented again at the Westford community.
One parent expressed their appreciation for Project Happiness and stated: “My boys look forward to the program every Thursday. They really enjoy the activities! Thank you so much for doing this.”
Project Happiness received funding through a grant from the Partners in Prevention Fund (PIPF), which was established in 2006, and provides grants to community-based organizations to implement evidence-based prevention programs. The PIPF is funded annually through Carryover appropriations from the county’s health and human services agencies. The use of funds is managed by the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services Prevention Unit.