Shor Denny, Founder and CEO of Community Now

Community Now is a Moreno Valley organization that gives educators the tools to practice self-care and the skills to better communicate with students.

Founded in 2010 by Shor Denny, Community Now was launched with a mission of helping children become more resilient. The organization started by offering programming for elementary school children to teach them social-emotional learning skills while addressing adverse childhood experiences. Participants in the program were less likely to be absent from school and more likely to succeed in their academics.

Building on this success, Denny realized that Community Now could have an even greater impact by crafting programs that assisted educators. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization piloted its Coaching for Cultural Success program geared toward administrators and teachers.

“In theory, if we all have higher emotional intelligence, we have much better communication skills and this would be a much stronger community,” Denny said.

The program was launched on a virtual platform working with Alvord School District, Hemet Unified School District and Perris Elementary School with sponsorship from the Riverside County Office of Education. The onset of COVID-19 and the reaction to George Floyd’s death left many people wanting an understanding of the national and local response, according to Denny, and she also hoped the program could provide some answers.

Coaching for Culture Success (CCS) was developed to address these new challenges educators faced. By supporting educators and teaching them skills in evidence-based trauma-informed care, the program helps them communicate effectively with students and create a more positive school environment, Denny said. Ultimately, Community Now’s goal is to give educators the information and tools they need to support foster and at-risk youth while also engaging in their own self-care.

The program offers three two-hour group trainings, eight one-on-one sessions with a coach and three confidential online surveys that measure participants’ progress. Participants are able to discuss what they learn and talk through their challenges with their coaches freely.

CCS includes a component on minority history in America which meant to give a baseline of understanding of cultural conversations. It also addresses the effects of adverse experiences in both childhood and present, and further discussions of implicit biases. At the end, CCS discusses how participants might change systems and policies that include the diverse population.

The self-care portion of the programming was particularly impactful for teachers who struggled with the sudden lack of separation between work and their homelife during distance learning, Denny said. Despite the numerous challenges, the data from participants showed their well-being and emotional intelligence increasing. Teachers took fewer sick days, were more self-reflective and were more engaged in self-care.

“We had more positive interactions, better environments and more relaxed participants,” Denny said. “The results have overwhelmingly shown to improve education, self-awareness, empathy and social awareness.”

Recently, Community Now received a grant from the IE Black Equity Initiative through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. Funding through contracts with the school districts and cities only cover a portion of the organization’s operating expenses. Community Now depends on grants and donations. Denny wants to continue to grow the programming it offers and reach more of the community with further support.

Community members interested in learning more about the tools the organization shares for well-being can visit their website. Community Now offers a leadership guide and a wellness guide that visitors can download.

Denny hopes that Community Now’s current work is just the beginning of a mental wellness enlightenment movement.

“We have hundreds of educators that now have a more culturally humble attitude to those they serve, and this translates into impacting thousands,” Denny said. “We are changing cultures and we’re seeing the results.”

More information:  https://communitynow.info/ or 951-413-6587

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