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Rural S.C. School to Be Expansion Site for Social, Emotional Learning Program

A Charleston, S.C.-based nonprofit that teaches students social and emotional skills will be expanding to its first rural site, and it hopes to one day have its programs in schools nationwide.

WINGS for Kids started 17 years ago as a summer camp in Charleston, and it since has grown to four Charleston County schools and two schools in Atlanta, Ga. The nonprofit works with students 2 1/2 hours each day in an after-school setting, and they learn 30 social and emotional learning skills that fall under five areas—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. Students with academic, behavioral or family challenges are given first priority to enroll.

WINGS Chief Executive Officer Bridget Laird said the group always wanted to grow into a rural area, and they chose Main Street Elementary in rural Florence County, S.C.

"We can make a lot of community change," she said. "And there are opportunities for younger people in the community to serve in the program and gain leadership skills."

Under the supervision of full-time staff, WINGS relies on college students to run its program, which is the subject of a four-year, $2.8 million University of Virginia study to scientifically measure its effectiveness. At its new rural site in South Carolina, the nearest college is about 40 minutes away, and students have committed to making that drive daily.

Other high-poverty schools are in the rural school district, so Laird said the group will consider whether it can grow further there.

WINGS is in the early phases of building a reputation beyond South Carolina. It recently won a $2.5 million, three-year grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation that will help it grow to 16 schools in four communities.

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