On February 2, 2021 NPR reported on the death of Anthony Orr. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Anthony missed all of the rites of passage that should have been the culmination of his senior year of high school. His parents said he seemed fine and happy, but in August of 2020, Anthony tragically took his own life.
Even prior to the pandemic, suicide was the second leading cause of death in adolescents. Isolation, the loss of routine, fear of illness, and financial anxieties have taken their toll on all of us, including educators. We all agree, this crisis has intensified the need for social emotional learning --and for high quality resources to help educators deliver it.
Preeti Shrikhande understands this need from her own first-hand experience with a spate of 5 suicides at her child's high school in 2009. Prior to that, Shrikhande had more than 28 years experience in the technology industry, having worked for several companies and advanced to Vice President, when the tragedies caused her to pivot her career and focus on finding a solution. She became determined to understand the mental and emotional challenges of today's youth and to address them effectively.
Here's what we know. According to the latest CDC report, rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and self-harm are increasing rapidly among adolescents. A 2019 Pew Research survey reported that 70% of teens say anxiety and depression is a major problem among their peers.
In addition, the Handbook of Social Emotional Learning recommends that programs should ideally be developed using mobile applications that can be integrated into all parts of a student's day, and can be delivered in bite-sized, practicable chunks. Independently, Shrikhande realized that today’s teenagers are spending a lot of time on-line, and they’re not learning the life skills they need, like managing emotions, building relationships and making good choices. To meet teens where they are, Shrikhande realized the importance of developing a solution for students that’s online.
Furthermore, we know that teachers and educational leaders are currently overwhelmed and struggling to support their lonely and traumatized students. Teachers need an agile and easy to integrate resource that fits into any learning environment, and doesn't require an extra class period, a huge learning curve for teachers or an enormous price tag. These were Shrikhande's objectives in founding Vivensity and creating the imSparked™️ platform.
imSparked empowers adolescents and teens with essential life skills to help them navigate their emotional and social, as well as academic challenges. With short, experiential, multimedia activities, delivered on a web-app, Google Classroom or Canvas, middle and high school students learn through a process of self-discovery by journaling and setting intentions. The impact is measured with assessments, introspections and real time dashboards. Five, 15 or 30-minute sessions are easily facilitated by any teacher in any class, advisory or after school club.
After 3 short months of usage, 47% of students are “more aware of their thoughts and feelings”, 33% are “better at managing time and energy”, and 35% are “able to make better decisions.” Students offered feedback like, “I learned to put myself in another person’s shoes if they are upset with me,” and, "I learned that listening more than talking helps me connect better with my friends.''
The Vivensity team works closely and continuously with a team of student interns, psychologists, psychiatrists and life coaches to build content. Educator dashboards provide a real-time pulse of overall school climate with an anonymous aggregate view of the students’ activities. No other social-emotional learning product combines content and analytics in the same innovative way.
Short individual activities guide students to rewire brainwaves and generate energy by integrating body, mind, emotions, and connections. Experiential activities help students engage in meaningful ways with their peers, family, and community. Vivensity also offers a parallel curriculum for teachers and parents with shared activities, thus creating a synergistic co-learning environment where the school ecosystem learns and grows together.
Of the students who’ve used the product, 70-90% say they want imSparked at their school. Here’s your chance to empower your students: Vivensity is currently offering a free trial and would love to ensure that your students have the tools they need today, to cope with their social, emotional and academic challenges.