PassageWorks: The Impact of a Social-Emotional and Spiritual Learning Program among Adolescents

Randi Hirschberg, Antioch University - New England

Dr. Randi Hirschberg, LinkedIN


Adolescence is a crucial developmental period in one's life. Unfortunately, our nation's youth are afflicted by high rates of risky behavior and psychiatric disorders that impact their ability for a successful future. Research indicates that school-based preventative social-emotional learning (SEL) programs can play a large role in improving the lives of adolescents. Despite this, few documented SEL program evaluations have examined their applicability to the fast growing Latino population. Latinos have been identified as more vulnerable to the problems among our youth than any other group. Identifying SEL programs that hold potential for decreasing these vulnerabilities is critical. Additionally, SEL research has not investigated programs that integrate a spiritual component. A growing body of adolescent research supports the potential of spirituality to enhance psychological wellness and mental health. The purpose of this dissertation was both to describe the underlying framework of PassageWorks, a school-based, social-emotional, and spiritual learning program, and examine the impact of the curriculum on a pre-dominantly Latino adolescent population. This study evaluated the influence of PassageWorks on participants' resilience, interpersonal relationships, quality of life, and spiritual wellness. A total of 26 students from two different PassageWorks classrooms participated. A single non-experimental pre-post case design was employed. Results indicated that participants' sense of mastery and spiritual wellness significantly increased following participation in the PassageWorks program. No significant findings were determined in the interpersonal relationships or quality of life domains. Research implications, limitations,and suggestions for future research are discussed.