By Sam Piha
One of the most important things about expanded learning programs (ELP) is for youth to have the opportunity to check-in with a trusted, caring adult. This is reinforced by the literature on positive youth development, social emotional learning (SEL) and trauma informed practice. We have written several blogs and articles on the importance of checking-in with youth.
But how can we continue that when our programs are closed due to COVID-19 and our afterschool participants are sheltering in place?
Brandon and Ryan Sportel, brothers and educators, developed an online application to allow young people to check in, called HelloYello. We first learned about HelloYello while researching our paper “Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs.” We will offer a webinar introducing this application and showing afterschool practitioners how to use it. Below we include some responses from an interview we did with Brandon. (Because this was developed for teachers, they use the terms “student” instead of “youth,” and “teacher” instead of “youth program leader”).
Q: Can you briefly describe what the Hello Yello app is for?
A: The HelloYello App is for strengthening student/staff relationships. It is a web-based app that students use to "check- in" with their teachers to express their thoughts and feelings, and share their daily experiences. Teachers, educators, counselors, and afterschool staff use HelloYello to understand all of their students from a "whole child" perspective, monitor their students' emotional wellness, and sustain trusting relationships.
Q: Can you briefly tell us the origin story about the development of the app?
A: Our work began with students that struggle with emotions and behaviors. As Education Specialists, we noticed that students benefited significantly when given opportunities to send us confidential messages about their feelings and experiences. So, we created a platform that validates student voices, and guides educators to be mentors and support staff. To read more about the origin story, click here.
Q: During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, do you think this would be a good resource for afterschool programs that are shuttered, but want to maintain contact with their youth participants?
A: Yes, especially because it allows meaningful connections but maintains important social boundaries.
Q: Can you briefly describe how the HelloYello app works?
A: Students login and are invited to share their feelings (using emoticons), thoughts and/or experiences; program leaders view a feed of student comments, and respond by simply letting the student know they got their message. We invite people to visit our website to learn more.
Q: Is the app easy and safe for children to use?
A: The app is designed to be very easy to use and is completely safe since students can only share information with the leaders/coordinators in their ELP. HelloYello is also registered with The Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC).
Q: If program leaders are interested in contacting HelloYello, can you provide an email address/ name?
A: email@example.com Brandon Sportel, CEO
Ryan Sportel is a Dean of Students at Goleta Valley Junior High and Brandon Sportel is an Educational Specialist that runs a Learning Center at Barbara Webster Elementary. Both have combined experience of over 37 years in education. Brandon was the 2014 Milken Educator for CA, 2015 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, and 2014 Carpinteria Teacher of the Year. Ryan was the Principal at Deveruex of Santa Barbara, a non-public school that served students at all grade levels. Both are highly regarded as pioneers in the social emotional learning space, and have had significant success in leading professional development training for districts on how to work with students that need mental health and behavior support.
Click here to review a recent article entitled, "There's An App for That- School Counseling and SEL Go Online."
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.