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Youth Bureau’s Halstead, Slimmer spearhead OMS PROS program, practice social-emotional learning

A new social-emotional learning program has made its way to Oswego Middle School to shed light on individualized behavioral and conflict management strategies for seventh- and eighth-grade OCSD students.
Led by the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau’s Tiffany Halstead and Kristen Slimmer, Proactive and Restorative Options for Students (PROS) is a research-based approach to better understand students’ behaviors and – more importantly – to proactively problem-solve issues through relationships with students as part of the process of activating effective solutions.
PROS also aims to avoid traditional punitive models and instead encourages students to reflect on their behaviors.
“The curriculum we’re working with is based in social-emotional learning. It also tackles the idea of a growth mindset. We’re also working with (OMS) to include three main pillars: self, others, and school,” Slimmer explained.
Halstead and Slimmer emphasized that PROS is often a one-on-one interactive environment outside of the classroom, acting as a safe space for students to showcase their thoughts and emotions appropriately.
“It’s very wrap-around – we do have the ability to mold and model this on an individual basis with each of the kids that we work with,” Slimmer noted. “That’s really the beauty of a lot of this material; it gives us the baseline for all of these different skillsets, but we can work very individually with these kids on their own specific settings: whether its school, home, interactions with peers or how they act out in the community. It gives us a lot of mobility to be able to apply this material in a very tangible, customizable way.”
With the guidance of OMS principal Mary Beth Fierro, Slimmer and Halstead note there have been positive improvements in student behavior as participants practice the strategies of the PROS curriculum.
“We know now that these connections that we have established have made a difference,” Slimmer said. “Not only do they come in during their scheduled times, but they’ll come in when they’re passing in the hallways just to say hello and see how things are going.”
The PROS program also serves as a space for OMS students to comfortably decompress and tackle negative emotions more effectively.
“It’s not always concrete. Some days we’re just mentoring and connecting with students, and giving them the ability to breathe and say, ‘I need to step away for a minute.’ The school allows for that to happen,” said Halstead. “If a kid comes in in crisis, that’s not the day to try to sit down and do a reflective journal activity.”
Halstead noted that part of this curriculum is the Big Life Journal: Teen Edition, created by Alexandra Eidens. Each journal page provides a place for children to document their feelings, as well as various prompts to help develop important life skills of self-reflection and introspection. The journal “helps adolescents to discover the power of their brain and mindset, understand they are in charge of their own lives and happiness, turn their negative self-talk into positive and empowering, practice setting goals and learn to overcome challenges and setbacks.”
The PROS program is free and available to OMS students. Anyone interested in obtaining more information or enrolling their student in the program can contact or or call the City-County Youth Bureau, located at 70 Bunner St., at 315-349-3451.

Photo caption: Pictured above, PROS coordinators and Oswego City-County Youth Bureau staff members Tiffany Halstead (left) and Kristen Slimmer (right).
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