Mind in the Making teaches essential skills to boost early childhood development

The Patterson Foundation's Kelli Karen, a consultant and facilitator for the "Mind in the Making" program in Sarasota, here with "Team Wisdom," who completed their course in learning about empathy, communication, critical thinking, goal-setting and more. Next to Karen is Elysia Krueger, 19, Phoebe Mitchell, 32, Bouchra Nouri, 37, SAble Walker, 28, Genika Farlin, 33, Sandra Gadison, 51, Kellie Bowens, 28, and April Y. Glasco, CEO and founder of Second Chance Last Opportunity, New Life Center. [Herald-Tribune staff photo/Thomas Bender]

The Patterson Foundation's Kelli Karen, a consultant and facilitator for the "Mind in the Making" program in Sarasota, here with "Team Wisdom," who completed their course in learning about empathy, communication, critical thinking, goal-setting and more. Next to Karen is Elysia Krueger, 19, Phoebe Mitchell, 32, Bouchra Nouri, 37, SAble Walker, 28, Genika Farlin, 33, Sandra Gadison, 51, Kellie Bowens, 28, and April Y. Glasco, CEO and founder of Second Chance Last Opportunity, New Life Center. [Herald-Tribune staff photo/Thomas Bender]

They’re not measured on report cards or listed in resumes, but executive functions — the managing of attention, emotions and behavior — can predict academic success more than IQ tests. Beyond learning, they’re in charge of applying knowledge.

Executive functions give information legs, and children start learning them from day one.

Created by early learning and child development expert Ellen Galinsky as a followup to her book “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs,” the Mind in the Making program teaches parents and people who work with children the tools they need to help children thrive, boosting school readiness and parent engagement and leading to greater academic success in the future.

April Y. Glasco, CEO and founder of Second Chance Last Opportunity, New Life Center. [Herald-Tribune staff photo/Thomas Bender]

April Y. Glasco, CEO and founder of Second Chance Last Opportunity, New Life Center. [Herald-Tribune staff photo/Thomas Bender]

The Patterson Foundation, on behalf of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, is spreading the program across the region. Following a three-day training session, facilitators lead workshops in early learning centers, schools, community centers and office buildings.

At Second Chance, Last Opportunity, a nonprofit in the heart of Newtown that seeks to empower individuals in crisis by providing them with essential skills and tools to manage their lives, CEO April Glasco has taught life skills in the community for more than 20 years. The Mind in the Making program was a fit.

Mind in the Making

The Patterson Foundation is supporting the Mind in the Making program through May of 2018. Classes are free to attend.

Glasco teaches the 16-hour program at the nonprofit twice a week, for two hours. The first module is an introduction, followed by seven more that include communicating, making connections and self-directed engaged learning.

While attendance is voluntary, there are some rules that apply, such as confidentiality and no judgment. And if anyone gets off topic during discussion, Glasco helps the students stay on course by slashing a checkmark across a makeshift sign that reads, “kitchen.” It’s where tangents go to simmer until the module’s mission is taught.

Elysia Krueger, 19, graduated form the "Mind in the Making" program in Sarasota, completing the course in learning about empathy, communication, critical thinking, goal-setting and more. [Herald-Tribune staff photo/Thomas Bender]

Elysia Krueger, 19, graduated form the "Mind in the Making" program in Sarasota, completing the course in learning about empathy, communication, critical thinking, goal-setting and more. [Herald-Tribune staff photo/Thomas Bender]

At the end of each session, the kitchen tangents are welcome points of discussion, and often turn into an opportunity to apply and share experiences that connect to Galinsky’s seven skills.

“The bonds that are made within each group have been impressive,” said Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Since its inception about a year ago, approximately 450 people have participated in the workshops, enriching their families and their work with children across the Suncoast region.

Elysa Krueger, 19, says she never liked class at school and did as much as she could online. “But this class is comfortable. It’s like home,” she said.

With a 5 month-old infant in and out of All Children’s Hospital and an 18-hour work day with the county cleaning government offices, she still finds the time to participate.

Her favorite module was “communicating.”

“It helped me act less on impulse, like I used to,” Krueger said.

Sandra Gadison, 51, graduated from the "Mind in the Making" program in Sarasota, completing the course in learning about empathy, communication, critical thinking, goal-setting and more. [Herald-Tribune staff photo/Thomas Bender]

Sandra Gadison, 51, graduated from the "Mind in the Making" program in Sarasota, completing the course in learning about empathy, communication, critical thinking, goal-setting and more. [Herald-Tribune staff photo/Thomas Bender]

Glasco’s work at Second Chance, Last Opportunity is especially crucial within Newtown, a community with a higher concentration of poverty.

Research highlights links between lower income levels and lower reading proficiency in children, a predictor of their long-term academic success. But parent engagement, one of the core values of Galinsky’s Mind in the Making, can help change that.

But regardless of economics, “we all need skills to do what’s best for our families,” Glasco said.

She sees many parents who don’t understand the value of talking and engaging with their young children, and who may be missing out on important cues. She stresses that social media is a big distraction and, coupled with a lack of one-on-one interaction, developing infants can fall behind on learning and connecting with their world.

“That’s one of things this program does, it teaches creativity. Take the kids to the park. Take a walk. Talk to them about the grass,” Glasco said.

And the two-generation approach at helping parents and professionals help kids isn’t relegated only to children.

“You take from it what you need,” said Krueger.

Sandra Gadison, 51, has no children and doesn’t work with them, but finds value in the Mind in the Making program.

“I used to be shy. I was so sensitive. People would misunderstand me and there would be conflict at the workplace. Now I take more time to think about how I say something,” she said.

Interested in attending?

April 8-29
Second Chance, Last Opportunity
1933 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
941-360-8660

April 10-May 15
The Glasser Schoenbaum Center
1750 17th St., Sarasota
941-371-8820, ext. 1040

May 6-27
Montessori School
6024 26th St. W., Bradenton
941-447-8419