From Nice To Have to Necessity: SEL for Schools Takes Precedence

Students cannot learn while in a state of trauma. Seems obvious now, but it wasn’t always when it came to school district structures. In this episode of EdTech Today, EmpowerU Founder and CEO Katie Dorn talks about how the perception of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has been completely transformed during COVID and how if education systems are to recover and thrive, mental health treatments have to be at the forefront.

EmpowerU recently announced that the company has secured $1 million in seed funding to launch its highly personalized, tech-powered, social-emotional learning solution nationwide. The funding will fuel EmpowerU’s efforts to bring much-needed mental health support to students beyond Minnesota, where more than 1,000 students have already benefited with improved wellbeing, confidence, and hope.

“Although most students are unable to control their barriers, EmpowerU helps them navigate obstacles and come out the other side stronger. Students build hope that despite their difficult circumstances, they can feel better and thrive, today and in the future.” – Katie Dorn

This round of financing was led by Capita3, a Twin Cities venture firm with a focus on women-led organizations. Additional investment partners include ECMC and GreatNorth Labs.

A recent EdWeek survey indicated that 66% of high school principals are actively searching for effective solutions to battle the escalating levels of student anxiety, avoidance and depression. With EmpowerU, student growth happens one day at a time, one small step at a time through engaging, online skill-building lessons supported by daily 1:1 motivational coaching. This daily blend of support results in significant improvements in emotional wellbeing, school attendance, and grades, while decreasing the need for more costly interventions.

EmpowerU coaches are highly trained, empathetic therapists who help students face their obstacles and make the important connection between core concepts in online lessons and the unique challenges in their lives, fueling change.

“EmpowerU delivers transformational student support at a fraction of the cost of therapy,” said Katie Dorn, the company’s co-founder. “As a licensed school counselor and therapist, I know how desperate educators are for cost-effective tools that actually help students overcome struggle. Although most students are unable to control their barriers, EmpowerU helps them navigate obstacles and come out the other side stronger. Students build hope that despite their difficult circumstances, they can feel better and thrive, today and in the future.”

Independent evaluation of EmpowerU showed that:

  • More than 93% of students who complete EmpowerU make a dramatic shift from discouragement and anxiety to improved wellbeing, motivation, and hope.
  • More than 88% of students complete the program, compared to 5-30% completion rates with other programs.
  • More than 98.5% of students would recommend EmpowerU to a friend or classmate.

Students can access the EmpowerU portal on any computer or mobile device. The semester-long course can be completed online in only 20 to 30 minutes per weekday. EmpowerU’s approach is aligned with CASEL and National Health and Wellness standards, so students who complete all six units of the course can receive a semester wellness credit.

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