Real Talk Program Cultivates Emotional Intelligence in Youth

Built on a philosophy that embraces the spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, and cultural love for self and others, the Center for Holistic Development (CHD) in northeast Omaha uses its extensive range of community events, youth programs, and outreach services to help individuals develop balance and well being.

Opened in June 2001, the Center for Holistic Development, a non-profit agency, formed from a desire to focus on prevention, education, and community outreach in the areas of behavioral health. Doris Moore, a licensed mental health counselor who had her own practice, founded the Center believing more could be done regarding behavioral health before moments of crisis hit.

“When I started the business, I tell people all the time my goal was to work myself out of a job,” Moore said. “Through prevention and community outreach, our hope is that the Center will provide the skills necessary to help individuals get through whatever it is they are facing before more extensive care is needed.”

Although the Center for Holistic Development does not exclusively serve any one population, the Center works mainly with underserved individuals and focuses on providing services related to the unique issues and concerns people living in poverty often deal with.

Outpatient behavioral health services including traditional therapy, and offered medical health services through a partnership, form the foundation of the Center for Holistic Development. Various support groups and community outreach programs like an African America Leadership Program, for example; plus an array of community events such as the Princess Dinner Dance, an event emphasizing the importance of the father-daughter relationship; combined with youth programs focusing on dating violence, drug and alcohol prevention, and skills development make the Center for Holistic Development an organization like no other.

These programs and services, and so many others offered by the Center, help individuals gain knowledge and insight into how thoughts impact feelings, behaviors, life, situations, and social influences. At the youth level, the Center’s after-school programs focus on developing social and emotional skills are some of the most unique and most requested programs.

“At some point during our work with kids in the school system it dawned on me that social and emotional skills are really lacking,” Moore said. “We saw the need for social and emotional development because it really isn’t being taught anywhere else.” To address that need, CHD put together a program called Real Talk.

Taught in five area middle schools, the Real Talk program is an after-school program offered through the Middle School Learning Initiative, which is a group created to provide students with a productive after-school environment that combines academics with enrichment programs. One of the enrichment programs offered, Real Talk, teaches social and emotional skill building by addressing six different areas: goal setting and decision making, bonding and relationships, maintaining and managing emotions, communication and conflict resolution, drug awareness, and community involvement.

Facilitators use a variety of mediums in the program including music, books, games, videos, and “whatever activities may help bring home the message of building social and emotional skills so that young people become more accountable and take responsibility for themselves,” explains Moore.

A combination of multiple established curriculums, the Real Talk program incorporates activities and programs specifically geared toward urban communities, which is something lacking in other programs. Meeting twice a week, facilitators work with students on the various topics on a six-week schedule.

“We have some great facilitators who really work well with the kids. They think on their feet very quickly and are able to address current issues using activities that address the issues and then tie the activity and issue back to the learning objective for that week,” Moore said. “After the six week rotation, for students who continue with the program, the facilitators review the skills again expanding on the topics, but using different activities. We believe you cannot repeat these skills too often.”

Moore explains that academics and emotional and social skill building (sometimes called emotional intelligence) go hand-in-hand. “If you look at the research, it shows that academics really improve when young people have good social and emotional skills,” Moore said. “When students have high emotional intelligence they are able to self manage so when emotions run high they can still focus on school work, treat people with respect, and deal with their emotions in an effective way. These are the skills that students need to be taught and through the Real Talk program we are able to do that.”

Moore hopes to expand the Real Talk Program to more schools next year and plans to add new community events and outreach programs early next year. To learn more about the Center for Holistic Development, visit www.chdomaha.org.