We Can Prepare Even in Times of Uncertainty: Social-Emotional Support, Academic Strategies, and Confronting Racial Injustice

  • Child Development
  • The Aspen Difference
Jessie Skipwith

As we ready ourselves for a new school year, one certainty is that there are many questions on the horizon for all of us. There are many ways we can prepare for a new, exciting, and adventurous school year. We can choose our attitude, and intentionally frame our perspective, as we encounter all that life throws our way.  Although the 2020-2021 school year will be unlike any before, we can choose positivity and optimism, we can choose persistence, and we can choose gratitude.  I, for one, am truly grateful for all that awaits the Aspen Academy community this year, and I look forward to the many ways that I know we will show up this year to Make the World Better.

Confronting Racial Injustice

Over the past several weeks we have dedicated very important time as a school community diving head first into the efforts that are required of each of us to confront racial injustice and social inequities that have been witnessed throughout our country and world. Aspen Academy will be responding to this urgent need in a variety of ways and we confidently affirm our commitment to creating and maintaining an environment that supports “Cultural Competence” by promoting respect and understanding of diverse cultures, social groups, and individuals. 

Elevate at Aspen Academy is your partner in achieving this commitment. We will be supporting our families in the pursuit of ongoing self-education, providing regular access to learning resources, engaging in courageous conversations surrounding implicit bias, racial reconciliation and social justice, and re-evaluating our curriculum by assessing the use of anti-racism criteria, and committing to changing current curriculum content to be more representative and anti-racist.  

Our students will need our support in this area for sure, and we know that they will be returning to school this year with heightened needs in the areas of social-emotional health and academic support as well. Aspen Academy unequivocally stands in solidarity with our students and families of color, in our national fight against the racism our country is facing, and in the invitation to our extended community to partner in this time of action.

Academic and Social Emotional Support

This year we welcome two new additions to our Elevate team, Cindy Hewatt and Justin Wimbish. Your Elevate team is here to: implement programming and to support teachers, parents, and students in the areas of emotional health and wellness/counseling, provide strategies and support for all students’ academic success, and promote healthy development, growth, and maturation. Again, we will continue acknowledging and learning more deeply about inequities and differences in the areas of social justice, racial equity, changing disparities, and celebrating individual differences.

As we prepare for a successful school year, consider the variety of ways that this new year might look. There are some specific ways that we can best prepare for our students to experience success this year. Many of these strategies will remain similar to those in years past, and some may take on a different flavor depending on students learning in either a physical or remote learning environment.  

Our hope is that each student and parent/guardian feel truly invited to reach out to any one of us at any time if you recognize a need at home for which we can support.  Remember, communicating early and often is the best way we can leverage the partnership we have built with you as parents to best support our students.  There are a wealth of outside resources for you and your family in the areas of counseling, tutoring, evaluation and more. These resources are readily accessible and serve as wonderful supplements to the comprehensive curriculum that our students participate in while growing in self-awareness, self-esteem and self-efficacy.   

An Invitation to Keep Learning

Learning is infinite. We need to be patient with and kind to ourselves. We have an abundance of information and resources available to you, and we are always seeking ways to support parents. This year’s Parent University series (formally PUMP’d) will offer great learning and insights in the areas of student personal, emotional, and academic support, student and parent self care, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. I found this recent webinar to be most helpful in formulating thoughts and plans for supporting our children in transitioning back to school this fall.

Maintain perspective - Some things are in our control, and some are not. We must ask ourselves a question: “Is this a NEED or a WANT?”. As we focus on attending to those areas in life that we can control(e.g. sleep, nutrition, exercise, daily schedules, a positive attitude), we can help ourselves to mitigate stress and anxiety. Remember, none of us is in this alone and we are here to help.

Model - We are fortunate to have a seat at the table to create the history we want to be remembered for. Let’s be bold, courageous, and take healthy risks together as we model resilience, perseverance, creative problem-solving, and collaboration. We have a tremendous opportunity to model for our young people what we hope for them and their future. Not only CAN we do this; but we WILL!

We are looking forward to an amazing school year together and truly appreciate the partnership you extend to us in the education and development of your children. Please reach out if you have any questions.We look forward to communicating early and often.

Team Elevate:

Jessie Skipwith, Director of Elevate and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, jessie.skipwith@aspenacademy.org, 504-289-9374 cell

Cindy Hewatt, PK-8 School Counselor, cindy.hewatt@aspenacademy.org

Megan McKnight, Lower School Learning Specialist, megan.mcknight@aspenacademy.org

Justin Wimbish, Middle School Learning Interventionist, justin.wimbish@aspenacademy.org


Learn more about Elevate

About the Author


Jessie Skipwith is the Director of Elevate, Licensed School Counselor, and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 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.