Early on, Dr. Laura became involved with two projects that set out to digitize Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curricula. She believed—and continues to believe—that we need to teach relationship skills in order to successfully address bullying in schools and workplaces.
In 2019 she partnered with the New York Open Center to develop an innovative, adaptive-learning SEL curriculum: the “At Risk Youth” Digital initiative
The At-Risk-Youth digital initiative coupled SEL insights (as articulated through a variety of perspectives and practices) with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence software. The program looked to foster the development of skill sets that would enable young people to make different, more fulfilling, life choices.
The partnership with the New York Open Center was aimed at a particularly vulnerable population: first time offenders eligible for restorative justice mediation.
In 2017-18 she worked on the Florida-based “Social Black- Belt”
The Social Black Belt (SBB) is an academic, evidence based youth program designed by psychologist and author Dr. Christopher Cortman. The initiative seeks to nurture positive pro-social behaviors by engaging teachers and students in creative dialogue that leads them to identify, understand, and regulate emotions. Its successful (measurable) institutional objectives and outcomes include
1. Reduction in detention and referrals
2. Reduction in school dropout rates
3. Reduction in bullying.
In 2017, Laura received public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as private donations, to curate a series of exhibits featuring the artwork of individuals with disabilities or special needs. Its aim was to more fully integrate these men, women, and young people into the fabric of Staten Island's community.
“Exhibiting artwork showcases the creative, “able” side of people who are otherwise labeled and marginalized in our society--the side that needs no ‘accommodation’ or ‘exception’ in order to be on a par with—if not rival—the work of other artists.”
Art exhibits in 'unexpected places' challenge stereotypes of "difference" and "otherness" by putting talent and creativity on display. A focus on artwork levels the playing field, and lessens the perceived difference between "us" and "them."
A key requirement of Laura’s class on Social Aggression, SARA was a 12-week anti-bullying initiative developed for elementary schools, and integrated into public and private schools on Staten Island (a borough of NYC) for almost a decade. It boasted an organic, hands-on curriculum that was implemented on a weekly basis by college students, who kept journals that they shared and discussed at class meetings.
SARA benefited over a dozen elementary schools each fall and spring semester.
At the end of each semester, SARA culminated in a presentation by the elementary school class. These included:
Author’s breakfasts, during which students read the books they wrote as the culmination of the intervention. Parents and administrators were invited to breakfast as student authors presented their “books,” reading their stories and sharing their illustrations.
Gallery shows, which were often hung for PTA meetings, or for more formal “openings” such as “Imagine…:” at the Spotlight Gallery in 2010.