Music star Jewel partners with Dayton-area school group’s new program

Jewel Kilcher, who performs simply as “Jewel,” has partnered with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center on a new program. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

National singer/songwriter Jewel is partnering with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center to promote one of the local group’s school programs.

The Montgomery County ESC has created a Social Emotional Learning Language Arts curriculum (SELLA) to help teachers deliver writing and English instruction while also addressing behavioral concepts.

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In a video released Monday morning, Jewel — who was nominated for four Grammy Awards between 1997 and 2011 — talks about getting involved with this program in part because of her own difficult childhood, in which she left home at 15.

“I knew that statistically kids like me should end up repeating that cycle, so I set out to beat those odds,” Jewel said, talking about exercises to “retrain her brain” to deal with her issues of anxiety and depression. “So, I set out to put these skills to use to help more people. I am excited to announce this new partnership with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center in bringing you SELLA.”

Montgomery County ESC Superintendent Shannon Cox said educators have seen a shift in students’ abilities to be self-aware, to manage their own behaviors and have positive relationships.

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Cox said the SELLA program is on the market for grades 4-6 and is in a pilot program for grades 2-3. ESC officials said it covers all Ohio and national writing standards, as well as many other language arts standards. It has six learning modules for each grade level, according to Cox, addressing both academic skills, in part through journal writing, and social-emotional skills, through a breathing technique to control behavior.

“Teachers and districts as a whole have been asked to do more and more, but district staffs spend a lot of time handling social and behavioral issues that have resulted from the lack of social-emotional skills,” Cox said. “Our curriculum addresses those challenges using the child as the focus in their own learning.”

In Ohio, Educational Service Centers are countywide agencies that contract with local schools to provide a variety of services, including teacher training, special education and support services that many districts don’t offer on their own.

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ESC spokesman Guy Fogle said the SELLA curriculum costs $430, and several local districts use it — Northmont, Dayton, Fairborn, Valley View and Preble Shawnee, as well as the Dayton Regional STEM School and the ESC’s own programs. Cox emphasized that teachers don’t need to have counselor or therapist training to handle the digital curriculum.

Jewel is known for the mid-90s pop-folk songs, “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “You Were Meant for Me,” as well as her Grammy-nominated country music performances in more recent years.

She has also become a health and wellness advocate, headlining the Wellness Your Way Festival in Cincinnati last October. She said the SELLA program can help deliver social-emotional skills to students anywhere.

“Our hope is that by offering this curriculum to districts nationwide, we can grow happy, healthy humans and in turn build strong communities one student at a time,” Jewel said.

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