Healthy Relationship 101

If relationship education were a required component of the learning process, we would see a reduction in social ills, especially bullying.

Photo of The Relationship Foundation
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

In 2007, I was invited to a high school in Chelsea to speak about relationship dynamic with a group of junior boys. Later that day, the administrator who brought me in sent an email to the principal saying that he had not seen a group of boys transformed within 42 minutes in his ten years at this school. Subsequently, they asked me if I could teach relationship ed as part of health ed. Today, our nonprofit has a book and a curriculum, both called Healthy Relationship 101.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

New York

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

New York

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Many of the schools and communities in our country are experiencing tremendous challenges in interpersonal communication. The Internet is fostering a level of social cruelty that is causing great psychological distress to children of all ages. This is affecting both their mental and physical wellbeing. If respectful communication skills were an essential element of the learning process, bullying and other forms of violence would be greatly reduced.

Social and emotional relatedness begins at birth and evolves through every age and stage of human development. The foundations of self-image and self-worth, as well as empathy, compassion and deep caring formulate in these earliest years, leaving an imprint, a mark, embedded in our cognition, our physical posturing, our sense of self-actualization and belonging. As we mature, the tools of Healthy Relationships ensures success in self-awareness, recognizing and identifying needs and feelings that serve us as contributing individuals in both intimate relationships, and familial, communal and global interactions and encounters. Ensuring Healthy Relationships results in solidifying effective communication, identifying self-awareness skills and effective engagements.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

We recently gave a workshop for 6-8th graders at a community center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The impact of just a two hour workshop can be seen in a video of one of the students who attended. The foundation of our work is based on a communications skill called Nonviolent Communication. In its essence, it is learning to articulate one's needs and feelings without blame of judgment and to listen empathically. With a foundation of communication skills that foster greater critical thinking, empathy, and respect, relationships can develop that are more meaningful, fulfilling, and healthy. This includes relationships with friends, family, teachers, and peers.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

According to a two- year K-8 social and emotional literacy intervention done by Harvard, New York University, and Fordham, both behavior and grades improved (Child Development, Wiley-Blackwell Publishers). This study indicated that with social and emotional learning, the atmosphere in any school can change for the better. In the last year, we gave teacher trainings to several schools. One was for 65 tutors, teachers, and senior staff at the Harlem Children's Zone. The qualitative data that we have from every school, from over 500 students and several hundred teachers, psychologists, and social workers, is that learning to articulate one's needs and feelings without blame and judgment and to listen empathically made a difference. We currently have an arrangement with Scholastic to get our curriculum to thousands of schools. However, they require us to enlist a corporate sponsor.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $10k - $50k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The steps to ensure financial stability include: to promote and sell our curriculum, to arrange for paid presentations in schools, to seek corporate sponsorship, and to continue applying for grants. Since the project began, it has been built and developed mainly through volunteer effort. We are seeking additional funds that will allow us to adapt our middle school curriculum for pre-k and elementary school students which has already begun.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

There are some fundamental differences between our work and the work of many character education programs. Some major character education groups promote proper citizenry via ‘responsible’ and ‘ethical’ decision-making as the makings of a ‘good’ student. ‘Good’, ‘responsible’, and ‘ethical’ are subjective moral judgments. With such labels as goals to aspire to, students receive messages that are incompatible with effective relationship education. Our work focuses on articulating needs and feelings without blame and judgment and listening empathically. This is an approach that builds resiliency.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

A child’s fundamental and essential state of well-being is rooted in an awareness of self and other – being attentive, attuned and self-reflective. Engaging in meaningful learning results in understanding wants, needs, and desires of the self. This happens when we tell our stories, listen to others, engage in empathic listening, compassionate understanding and create boundaries wherein growth and transformation can occur. This is possible in family systems, educational structures, local communities, and global infrastructures. All of this and more can advance a child’s well-being.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jennell Riddick

Thank you for this project that addresses healthy relationships. I agree that it is crucial to teach our youth social and emotional health. Healthy relationships are necessary for healthy communities. Keep up the good work!

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