Fostering empathy, social emotional learning, and educating with heart for students and educators.

What if every student felt safe, valued and cared for in school, where a culture of wellness was practiced and everyone knows they matter?

Photo of Tracy White
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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.

Acknowledge Alliance was started to help reach as many students as possible by supporting and fostering educators' resilience. The program has grown over the years based on the needs of the schools and community we serve and in 2009 our Social Emotional Learning lessons were piloted in Palo Alto in response to the student suicides by train. The lessons were requested by a group of parents and started at Palo Verde in 5th grade serving 30 students. Today we serve 3rd-6th graders and 950 students.

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]

  • California

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Mountain View

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

  • California

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

San Mateo, Redwood City, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Palo Alto, and San Jose.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Students, especially those from marginalized communities, are facing adversities that hinder success, both in & out of school. Those from homes that are not safe or lack support and love are more likely to be unprepared to learn effectively & are at-risk for negative life events, depression & academic failure. In California alone, there are 452 suicides of young people/year. Over 30% of students in California report being bullied or harassed.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the foundation of support needed to acquire the skills for lifelong effectiveness. In education, SEL helps create a positive school environment and safe, supportive classrooms in which students are respected, cared for and connected. SEL research validates that emotions are just as important to learning as academic instruction- and are important for the well-being of both students and educators.  In fact, the need for educators to be well-versed in social emotional learning competencies for their students and themselves is being talked about as “necessary and urgent."

Acknowledge Alliance has a unique approach to this way of learning and teaching by using a mental health lens. We work directly on school campuses, multiple days a week, offering comprehensive social emotional learning services that includes trainings to educators, 1:1 support for students, teachers, and administrators, classroom observations coupled with professional development, a social emotional learning curriculum for 3rd – 6th graders, and direct student counseling.

We do not have a product that is delivered to a school and then we leave, causing additional stress to educators and risking unsuccessful and inadequate implementation of social emotional learning strategies. The Acknowledge Alliance mental health professionals have the expertise to help both educators and students recognize and welcome emotions as crucial to success in education. We skillfully use approaches and strategies to help students feel more comfortable, safe, and engaged in their classrooms while providing knowledge, expertise and tools to educators, helping them to foster and implement social emotional learning when working with every student.   When Acknowledge works with a school, we are creating a network of caring adults who will support students’ success.

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

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages, and the next step will be growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

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

Our curriculum is structured to be developmentally appropriate for each of the grade levels we serve, currently 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. For example, the concept of feelings is first introduced in the 4th grade curriculum through an activity with rocks painted with the names of emotions. Students pass around the bag of rocks, pulling one out and sharing a time when someone might feel that way. All students are asked to reflect upon the weight of the bag initially and as it becomes lighter. At the end, we talk about the idea of feeling lighter by sharing your feelings with someone you trust.

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

Response from a teacher via our annual survey: “They (Consultants) support the students and school staff to help us all cope with the difficult backgrounds and lives that our students carry with them on their backs and in their hearts everyday. They are a vital part of the school community and allow us to make a bigger impact on our students.” Quantitative Results: • 91% of teachers reported an increased awareness of student social and emotional issues. • At least 91% of teachers reported using at least one strength-based strategies to engage and reach their students at least monthly. • 90% of teachers reported collaborating with others on behalf of their students at least monthly. • 91% reported increased empathy and understanding in the lives of their students. • 91% reported an increase in positive educator/student relationships.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $1mil - $5mil

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

Increased earned revenue from current 30% to over 50% in the next 3 years. Increase the number of major foundation funders, and multi-year funders above $25,000 Increase the number of individual major funders above $5000

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 a few other organizations who offer packaged social emotional learning lessons that must be delivered by current school staff without any training offered. These off the shelf programs can be stressful for teachers to learn and, if not implemented correctly, may not be effective. Our program is delivered by our own mental health professionals during the school day while the teacher observes. We also support the teachers (no other organization we know of does this) with their own wellness and resilience. We offer them professional development, 1:1 support, trainings and resources.

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?

The incorporation of SEL into the school environment is very exciting. Hopefully this will evolve into easier access for students to mental health services and eliminate the stigma. Mindfulness is also very exciting- for students to learn now how to calm their racing minds and take time to just be. This could be life saving for them now and throughout their entire lives.

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

  • Article in the news

Program Design Clarity

Acknowledge Alliance works in primarily underperforming K-12 schools. The program begins with a meeting between teachers & the facilitator, to coordinate the schedule, introduce the topics, & gather any general information that will be helpful to delivery. The facilitator then spends time observing the classroom before lessons begin, providing the teacher positive feedback to build on teacher strengths and reinforce their resilience, while introducing the lessons to students. As part of our model, teachers participate actively during the lesson and observe our interactions with students.

Community Leadership

Our organization is actively engaged with the community, school districts and other agencies to promote students and educators resilience and social emotional health. We meet throughout the year with our partners to discuss and gather feedback regarding our services, be an active listener and partner in helping them address key issues, work together to provide strategies and support to help students and educators thrive and succeed.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

In 2016-17, we will begin a new training project to address the goal of scaling services while being realistic to current limitations of resources. The new project will train other mental health professionals across the country to replicate our model of providing resilience consultation and coaching, social emotional learning lessons, educator and leadership resilience groups, and resilience-based student counseling, as well as sharing our models

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

Our lessons are designed to support the five areas of social and emotional development as defined by the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), as well as our own foundational philosophy addressing the importance of resilience, empathy, strengths-based support, and emotional intelligence. Our model is built on developing positive relationships among peers, educators and educators and students.

Leadership Story

Our founder, Cleo Eulau, was a beloved social worker in the community. In 1994, Acknowledge was started by a dedicated group of therapists with a desire to help at-risk children and adolescents rebound from adversity. Resilience research led us to believe that when children have a caring adult in their life who holds high expectations & believes in them, they can succeed, despite adversities. Quite often, that caring adult is a teacher. In working with children, we realized the importance of helping educators build their own strengths so that they could develop their students' strengths.

Organization's Twitter Handle


Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jonathan Cohen

I love, appreciate and applaud the goals that this group is focused on. And, they are clearly” doing it” in impressive ways! Although there is a growing appreciation that effective SEL informed efforts need to include adult learning, this group is clearly focused on this in great ways. I am curious what this group is doing to support a sustainable effort. When we focus on district level policy reform and/or leadership development and/or the creation of PLC’s we are taking a complimentary step that supports sustainability.

Photo of Tracy White

Thanks Jonathan, for your comments. Acknowledge Alliance greatly values the relationships with the schools where we work, which are long-lasting, involve thoughtful planning and collaboration and is systemic. We are strategically partnering with school districts who have initiatives around social emotional learning and building healthy school climates to ensure a strong collaboration for continued sustainability. In addition to the districts where we partner, we also have key partnerships with The New Teacher Center (NTC) and The Center for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child (CRTWC) from San Jose State University, in which over the course of the last few years, we have worked closely to help each organization develop expertise in the areas of social emotional learning in working with pre-service, new and veteran teachers. As partners, we work towards the same goals and shared vision for educator and student wellness with a focus in social emotional learning. Acknowledge is proud to have supported CRTWC and NTC establish the initial foundation and content material for their SEL teaching and mentoring curriculums. Acknowledge will continue to lend support to our partners, share our best practices, and provide the ground work needed to serve all educators in ever-changing school climates.

Photo of Jonathan Cohen

this sounds so rich..what you are doing. Too many SEL informed groups are only focused on instruction (as I/we were in our early years). It sounds like you are working to integrate school wide and instructional improvement efforts.. and that is so powerful.

Photo of Lauren

So motivational writing on Fostering understanding, social expressive learning, and educating with heart for students and educators. It is great programs of social emotional learning lessons. Being as career counsellor who offer executive CV writing services - to those candidates as who guidance about Job choice & recruitment process and getting guidance from professional CV writers CV Folks, and I will sure pass this program details with my co-workers, so they can also creating a network of caring adults who will support students’ success.

Photo of Nathan M McTague, CPCC, CPDPE

We're essentially program twins! And I know that we're basically "competing" here, but I just wanted to say that we (at the Center for Emotional Education) are glad you're out there too! I love your program design (as much as I understand of it), and applaud your efforts!! Keep up the important work!

And in the spirit of collaboration and service, I also wanted to share with you some of the tools we've created that could be of use to your program. Here's a link to the tools section of our website: . 

Thanks again for all you're doing for the welfare of the children you serve!

Be well.

Photo of Tracy White

Thanks Nathan!

Photo of Jonathan Cohen

Thanks Nathan!
I know for there is much overlap! And, you may know that for a number of years the name of our Center was the Center for Social and Emotional Education. In our early years, we were very focused on instruction: how we can support parents and educators intentionally supporting children's healthy development and learning. For the last 14 or so years, we have -- more and more-- also focused on a range of complimentary systemic goals (from district level policy reform and leadership development to measurement practices and school-wide norms/rules). In any case, I also applaud your good works! sincerely, Jonathan

Photo of Ivette Guillermo-McGahee

Tracy, it is my sense that the goal of this project is similar to my own.  I can relate to working within marginalized communities with youth who are constantly facing hardship. Teaching Social Emotional skills to children growing up in this environment is crucial to promoting success in and out of school. I love how you stress that the mental health professionals offer direct support to the teachers “with their own wellness and resilience”, as this is definitely one aspect that sets this project apart because most organizations may find it easier to simply provide the schools with the curriculum and let the teachers implement it after they leave. In the long run there are many more children that can benefit from this particular project because of their teachers building a solid foundation by learning from professionals who are willing to go the extra mile and be personable. Thank you for sharing the specific activity with the rocks painted with emotions, this really gives the project life when reading it.