Resilience is More than a Buzz Word

  • Child Development
  • Health and Wellness
Jessie Skipwith

An increasingly referenced hard skill that is becoming more highly sought after in education today is that of resilience.  We have heard it stated in many different ways over the years; “Never give up,” “If I get knocked down 7 times, I will get up 8,” “Try and try again until you succeed.”  Resilience is a life skill that speaks to an individual‘s ability to rise above any number of life’s challenges, problems or setbacks that might be faced on a daily basis, especially during the trying years of developing adolescence. Becoming more adept at this skill allows not only people in general, but our young people in particular, to pick themselves back up when they find themselves knocked down.

This week at Aspen Academy, students in seventh and eighth grade were able to participate in a morning leadership presentation led by Alex Yannacone, Community Programs Manager at the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center with the University of Colorado. Students were guided through a series of exercises that helped them to define and identify skills that help to build personal resilience. Students shared openly with one another, and reflectively during independent exercises, about the variables that lead students to feel a sense of overwhelm or stress at this busy time in their lives.

Students today are ardent participants in a wide range of life activities. By virtue of their participation in so many activities, students will experience growth as they confront various challenges head-on. By developing a sense of grit, perseverance, and ultimately “resilience,” it is our hope that our students develop an increased sense of confidence and competency in overcoming such challenges. Students often share that they are active participants in sports programs, music, art and theater, dance and gymnastics, while at the same time learning to navigate the daily challenges that everyday life brings.

Yannacone provided students with strategies that include: learning how to become more socially connected with their peers; supporting other people in their personal lives; finding a healthy balance between many activities and their emotional health; and building skills that allow them to identify activities and people that are interested in and supportive of their personal desires. Students were given strategies that would allow them to be more mindful of their immediate surroundings, to identify those areas in their lives that they are in their control of, versus those areas that are outside of their control, and setting themselves up for success by creating environments and routines that help them to develop positive life habits.

Students shared the positive impact that taking care of themselves has on their ability to find success. Students explored a variety of ways to care for themselves physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. They were able to identify the importance of getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced and healthy variety of foods as a fuel source, and ultimately learning to relax and take care of themselves.

Developing the life skill of resiliency can be honed at a very early age and schools offer a great training ground for such development. Supporting our students at Aspen Academy in building this essential life skill is a priority in helping students rise from a place of self-awareness to a place of empathy for others. When students realize that they are not alone in overcoming any number of life‘s challenges, they feel empowered. 

We have a wonderful opportunity to leverage developing the skill of resilience when we teach and model for our students the ability to make and maintain authentic relationships with peers and adults alike.  We do so when we help students set themselves up for success through developing and maintaining positive habits and routines. And, students feel increasingly empowered when they are able to identify and set small and achievable goals that lead them to their personal long-term life vision.

Check out these additional resources on resilience for further reading:


Click here for more information and resources from ELEVATE Student Services. 

About the Author

Jessie Skipwith is the Student Success Coach at Aspen Academy.

Jessie comes to Aspen Academy with over 20 years of experience in educational leadership and student engagement. He has held head of school positions at elementary, middle and high schools, ran an all-school counseling department, provided private practice counseling services for families and individuals, and has served as the executive director of an education non-profit supporting low-income, English language learners from throughout the greater Denver area. He is a voracious reader of books about how students learn, how families and communities support developing young people, as well as books on progressive, innovative and dynamic new solutions to many of today’s life challenges. Jessie loves that Aspen Academy provides families and students with a small, nurturing and safe environment that encourages students to take healthy risks, to push themselves beyond their comfort zones, and that it inspires insatiable curiosity and wonder in students as they pursue their passions to help make the world a better place to live for all people. Outside of work, he loves to spend time with his wife and two children and enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors while hiking, golfing or skiing.