Pilot program collaborates with groups to enhance emotional intelligence for high school girls

June 13
12:24 2024

By Felecia Piggott-Long, Ph.D.

The Superintendent’s Institute’s partnership with The Feelings Friends and WSFCS, Galilee Missionaries and the ACEY Group had a shared goal to enhance emotional intelligence for girls at Carver High School and Parkland High School. The Emotional Intelligence Pilot Program is touted as a possible year-round high school class

From March 7 – May 9, 25 11th-grade girls from Carver High School participated in the pilot program of The Superintendent’s Institute (TSI), led by Karen Cuthrell, affectionately known as “Ms. KK,”  the founder of The Feeling Friends Company (TFF). 

TFF is a transformative and innovative Black woman-owned educational company specializing in evidence-based products and programming that are rooted in the power of love and culturally, trauma-responsive social and emotional learning. The services of this 30-year-old company extend to mental wellness products which cater to educators, students, families, and communities. 

The nine-week program was also extended to 25 girls at Parkland High School. Cuthrell was pleased with the success of the pilot program this year.

Patricia Wynn, retired administrator from Mecklenburg County, is a member of the The Feeling Friends Board of Directors. She created the “Lunch with a Leader” aspect of the program from an initiative she directed in Charlotte. She has enjoyed connecting with the creative spirit of Cuthrell.

 “It has been an amazing ride! Karenn is the kind of person who has an idea; she finds people who have the gift of funding her project and carrying out each aspect of it,” said Wynn.

Some of the speakers who Wynn invited to speak to the participants included Dr. Lelia Vickers, retired college professor and dean who spoke about “Academics and Preparing for College” with life skills and organizational skills; Cheryl Harry from the Triad Cultural Arts organization, who shared a presentation of the history of Winston-Salem; Dr. Valerie Benton-Smith, executive sales/leasing professional at Bill Black Cadillac in Greensboro;  and A’nya Buckner, a junior at Winston-Salem State University, who has done amazing research in biology about going into space.

“The TSI pilot program has demonstrated significant effectiveness in fostering positive outcomes for Black girls at Carver and Parkland High Schools. Participants have improved emotional intelligence and well-being by prioritizing self-care and nurturing emotional health, reducing behavioral issues and deviant conduct,” said Cuthrell.

“In a recent pilot study, it was found that TSI should be offered as a year-round high school class. The pilot only covered one of the four crucial domains of emotional intelligence (EI), leaving a significant gap in students’ comprehensive understanding,” said Cuthrell. “To fully equip students with the essential skills and insights of EI, it is imperative that TSI be integrated into the curriculum throughout the entire academic year.”

The success of the TSI program is a testament to the effective partnership between TSI, WSFCS, the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church Senior Missionaries, the ACEY Group, and other community partners. The school system has provided essential educational support and resources for the students to benefit from. Other support staff from the school system included Tina Garrett, child and family team support social worker at Carver High School, and Alexia Mitchess, owner and mental health therapist of Reset and Heal.

The 30 Galilee missionaries, under the direction of President/Minister Velma McCloud, came each Thursday to serve lunch to the girls. The young ladies particularly remembered the Soul Food lunch when they dined on fried chicken, greens, string beans, macaroni and cheese, rolls, and tea. They also enjoyed the Walking Tacos, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, baked spaghetti and tossed salad, pizza and salad, as well as the chicken salad plate with baked beans, potato chips and cookies.

“Serving the young ladies had a profound impact on the missionaries as well as the young ladies. They enjoyed interacting with one another, listening to the lessons and providing encouragement,” said President McCloud. 

The participants enjoyed being a part of the program for nine weeks.

“I never knew it was important to understand my emotions. No one had ever asked me why I felt happy, depressed, angry, hurt, tired, or bored,” said Taniya Murphy, a rising senior at Carver High School. “Over the time we spent with Ms. KK and the other leaders, we learned new words to talk about our emotions. I could use optimistic, ecstatic, or joyful to explain that I am happy. We were never bored. It was very engaging.”

Nevaeh Lane and her sister, Nyyah Lane, participated in the program together.

“Dr. Maxwell gave me a permission slip to attend the program because she thought I would be a good candidate to participate. I did not realize that we had spent nine weeks in the sessions,” said Navaeh. “I am so glad I became a part of the TSI.”

“My sister told me about the program. I am glad I got in. It helped me realize that I was a little depressed. It made me more open to mental health support,” said Nyyah. “Before, I thought that mental health support was scary. I did not think I needed therapy. I thought I was peachy. But I realized after I started the program that perhaps I was not so peachy. I really like Ms. KK. She is an excellent role model.”

“Ms. KK was very supportive of the girls in the group. When things were tough or stressful, she always kept her composure. She would slow down and figure out a better way,” said Neveah. “She never let her emotions get the best of her. Before the program, I was an avoider. When things got hard, I just pushed people away. She taught me that there are more options instead of just giving up.”

Carver’s principal, Dr. Thyais Maxwell, describes The Superintendent’s Institute as outstanding. “It was phenomenal! Having our young ladies have the mentorship of community members who assisted them with navigating their emotions, the loving and nurturing hands of the ladies from Galilee who fed them weekly, and the young women to be there for one another was nothing short of amazing!” said Dr. Maxwell.


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