Educators are modern day heroes! Every day, educators are faced with new, more complex and difficult challenges. As I travel across the country, speaking to students, educators, administrators, parents and communities, I hear the frustrations and worries that what we’re doing ‘isn’t working.’ Issues that we experienced when we went to school are continuing and even getting worse.

What are the Challenges for Students?

Bullying has increased by 21% since we started tracking it in 2003 (The Compassionate Achiever, Chris Kukk). This is traditional bullying, we don’t have a handle on the cyber bullying that is seemingly out of control and running rampant.

Mental health issues are on the rise. Nearly half our kids will have had a diagnosable mental illness by the time they’re 18 (Child Mind Institute, “Kids Speak Up Report”). The majority of this is anxiety. The average onset age for anxiety in the US is 6 years old and 70% won’t receive professional help so they suffer alone. The long-term outcomes of anxiety are exactly what we’re seeing in our schools that translate into our society including suicide, depression, mental illness, substance abuse, violence and incarceration.

Trauma is also increasing in schools. More than 20 years ago the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study showed 1 in 5 kids were coming to school traumatized. Today that number is closer to 50%! Keep in mind trauma can be yelling at home to the extreme. We understand through brain research that a child experiencing trauma has difficulty being present and learning.

School safety has had increasing concern. Our traditional focus is on external safety measures including active shooter protocol, arming/not arming school resource offices, door locks, etc., but, while important, do not address the cause of why a student would want to harm themselves or others. Schools must provide proactive solutions that address the cause by teaching kids how to connect, be resilient and manage their emotions.

Solution: Next Generation Social and Emotional Learning

Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL as its commonly referred to, has been proven through scientific research to reduce and prevent this suffering ( SEL teaches kids how to have healthy and meaningful relationships, emotional management and resilience to the issues we know they will face.

The Choose Love Enrichment Program is the next generation of social and emotional learning. It includes positive psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and character education. This program actually teaches children how to Choose Love. The program was created for teachers by teachers so lessons are easy to teach and easy to learn. Lessons take very little time and are lots of fun!Jesse’s chalkboard message of “Nurturing Healing Love” that he wrote shortly before he died helped me realize that if the former student who perpetrated the crime could have been able to give, and receive, ‘nurturing healing love’ then the tragedy would never have happened. It’s as simple as that.

SEL Improves the Climate and Culture of the Classroom and School.

Scarlett Lewis with students.

Children that have access to SEL get better grades and test scores, higher attendance and graduation rates, have less stress and anxiety, and less behavioral issues. SEL is a statistically proven way to reduce bullying. Studies that have followed kids into adulthood have found less mental illness, less substance abuse and incarceration. Even less divorce rates!

We are born wired to connect. We have mirror neurons in our brains that help us connect for the survival of our species. However we are not born with the skills and tools we need to have healthy, deep and meaningful relationships. We are not born with the ability to manage difficult emotions. We can learn how to not only become resilient to the challenges and roadblocks that we all face, but even grow and excel through them!

Some believe these essential life skills should be taught at home, and that is true! However not all parents have this knowledge and if you didn’t learn it at home and/or in school you can’t give what you don’t have! When I began to research SEL, I realized that, even as a college graduate, I didn’t have a lot of these skills and tools! I learned them as an adult through the process of creating the Choose Love Enrichment Program and Choose Love At Home! I’ve grown in so many ways, including my ability to communicate, my emotional management and resilience!


  • Scarlett Lewis

    Chief Movement Officer

    Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement

    Scarlett Lewis founded the nonprofit Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement after her son was murdered during the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy in December 2012. Shortly after his death, Scarlett decided to be part of the solution to the issues that we're seeing in our society -- and that also caused the tragedy -- and turned it into an opportunity to build a culture of love, resilience, and forgiveness into our communities at a time when it is needed the most. Scarlett created Choose Love and became an advocate for social and emotional learning (SEL) and character development that teaches children how to manage their emotions, feel connected, and have healthy, meaningful relationships. Choose Love is a no cost, comprehensive, lifespan, next generation SEL character development program that teaches children and adults how to thoughtfully respond with love in any situation by using the Choose Love Formula (Courage + Gratitude + Forgiveness + Compassion-in-Action), and teaches children how to handle adversity, have courageous conversations, and to respond with love. Choose Love has been downloaded in all 50 states and 100 countries, reaching over 1.9 million children.  Choose Love extends beyond the classroom through additional no cost programs, including Choose Love at Home, Choose Love for Communities, and Champions Choose Love for young athletes. In direct response to COVID-19, Choose Love created numerous free resources to help children and adults deal with the stress and anxiety of this uncertain time.  Also, to help support educators and students as they navigate the start of the 2020-2021 school year, Choose Love created a free social-emotional wellness program, “Choosing Love in Our Brave New World.” This re-entry unit was designed to help transition students back to a new normal of education whether it’s in class or distance learning with particular awareness of the current events and environment, and fosters the development of a growth mindset and perseverance. Lessons incorporate trauma-sensitive, healing-centered language and practices which are based on the latest neuroscience and post-traumatic growth research. Scarlett has traveled extensively throughout the United States to share her inspiring and empowering story and her far-reaching programs. Currently, she is conducting numerous virtual presentations to spread her mission. Scarlett has spoken at multiple national conferences including National Forum on Character; SXSW EDU; ASCD Empower; Music City SEL conference in Nashville; and presented at the TedX Fayetteville. Scarlett and the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement has been featured in the New York Times; BBC; Fox News; CBS News; Today Show; The Guardian; and many regional papers and has been featured in high-profile magazines, including Fortune; Strive; and the Huffington Post. She has a podcast speaking about the character traits that comprise the Choose Love Formula and how the formula can be used in any circumstance to promote self-empowerment; resilience, connection; and optimism. Scarlett is also a frequent contributor to other podcasts. Visit