New Paltz forum focuses on emotional intelligence

Last Thursday evening, The Maya Gold Foundation hosted an interactive evening for adults and teens entitled “Emotions Matter: Creating More Compassionate Schools and Communities Through Emotional Intelligence.” (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Last Thursday evening, The Maya Gold Foundation hosted an interactive evening for adults and teens entitled “Emotions Matter: Creating More Compassionate Schools and Communities Through Emotional Intelligence.” (photo by Lauren Thomas)

This fall, the Maya Gold Foundation is hosting a series of interactive events for adults and teens, designed to improve communications and open a community dialogue across all age groups. The events are presented free of charge so that the maximum number of people can benefit from the experiences.

The second event in the fall series was held last Thursday on the SUNY New Paltz campus. “Emotions Matter: Creating More Compassionate Schools and Communities Through Emotional Intelligence,” was facilitated by Shauna Tominey and Kathryn Lee of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The evening offered the opportunity for teens and their parents to learn about the role of emotional intelligence in youth culture, education and family life, and develop strategies for dealing with stress. The evening included group discussion and breakout activities. The event was co-sponsored by the college’s humanistic/multicultural education program.

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Lee explained to the audience that emotional intelligence is simply “the skills that we have to respond to our emotions. We all have a wide range of emotions, across races, genders, cultures and individual differences, but emotional intelligence allows us to respond to our emotions with intention and in a way that helps us achieve our goals.”

A number of questions were posed to the group to stimulate thinking about recognizing one’s own emotions and those of others. Suggestions were made on how to actively take charge of how one is feeling. To move out of a place of feeling discouraged or disappointed, for example, one can listen to music, talk to a friend, or put a positive spin on a situation. Rather than letting one’s emotions take over, the ability to step back and understand the causes and consequences of emotions can allow us to move past a difficult situation.

As the evening progressed, Tominey and Lee solicited volunteers to guess the emotions acted out by the rest of the audience, in order to show that it’s not always easy to read someone else’s body language and facial reactions accurately. What one thinks somebody is thinking may not be the case.

Discussion about creating a family charter followed. The facilitators recommended that families sit down together and write down their expectations for each other in terms of how they want their family to get along and strategies for coping when conflict arises.

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence was formed 25 years ago as a research lab, Tominey said. Today, however, they function more as a mission-driven organization, their purpose “to use the power of emotional intelligence to create a healthier and more creative, equitable and compassionate society.”

The next event in the Maya Gold Foundation’s fall series will be held on Thursday, November 17 at 7 p.m. in the Rosendale Theatre. Dr. Mykee Fowlin will use humor, performance art, poetry, storytelling, psychology, theatrical monologues and stories of his personal journeys to create a one-man performance piece, “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me.” Middle school children are encouraged to attend with an adult. Following the performance, Fowlin will lead a Q&A for participants. Admission, as always, will be free. The event is co-sponsored by Wild Earth.

The Maya Gold Foundation’s mission is to “empower youth to access their inner wisdom and realize their dreams.” Foundation board member Noelle Adamo updated the audience at the emotional intelligence event on the accomplishments of the organization thus far. “In less than a year, the Maya Gold Foundation has helped several young people in Nepal with education and essentials, involved teens in the region with two community art projects, instituted a scholarship for two high school students involved in community service efforts and created a grant program called “Thrive” for local organizations working with youth. We’ve developed a strategic plan, we’ve engaged in a series of focus groups in collaboration with SUNY students and teens from the New Paltz Youth Program, and we’ve established our teen advisory board, comprised of 11 local teens.”

Two of the teens also spoke at the event, noting that they’d had their first meeting in September and come up with their own mission: “to give youth a voice.”

Grant applications for the “Thrive” program are reviewed quarterly, with the next review after Dec. 21. More information is available about the Foundation at mayagoldfoundation.org.

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