Social Emotional Development

CEI partners with schools and districts across Colorado to strengthen the ability of educators and schools to provide a culture and climate that meets students’ social, emotional, and academic needs.

We support school districts to build strong social emotional ecosystems in four core areas:







  • Creating learning environments that are physically and emotionally safe, filled with trust, relationship rich, and focused on building social and emotional skills.
  • Building multi-tiered supports and stronger connections with community resources so that students and staff with behavioral health needs can receive services.
  • Engaging youth to take an active role in climate and culture change within their schools and strengthening partnerships with teachers and staff to realize this change.
  • Actively engaging families and community members in the design and implementation of an inclusive school culture.


We partner with 25 districts across social emotional development efforts including Youth Connections, Thriving Schools, and Stronger Connections.

Youth Connections

Youth Connections provides educators and schools with technical assistance, resources, and support to improve mental health, well-being, and resiliency for young people in communities across Colorado.

The intentional integration of social emotional development and career-connected learning creates opportunities that promote hope and build a positive vision of a student’s future self, with the potential for significant impact on student engagement and mental health.

Primary areas of impact include:

  • Increased student belonging.
  • Strengthened school supports for mental health.
  • Improved conditions for student agency and action.
  • Increased authentic family engagement.

Youth Connections was formed in 2019 by CEI and Caring for Colorado Foundation (CFC). In 2022, the Denver Foundation, through the Colorado Health Access Fund, joined the partnership to create access to Youth Connections in rural communities and expanded this work to 13 participating school districts.

Learn more about Youth Connections here.

Thriving Schools – Resilience in School Environments (RISE)

Thriving Schools RISE is a Kaiser Permanente initiative that supports five Colorado school districts, including participating elementary, middle, and high schools within each partner district. This initiative expanded to 10 Colorado school districts between 2023-2026.

The Thriving Schools Initiative is a national effort dedicated to improving the health of students, staff, and teachers in K-12 schools, with a focus on improving social-emotional wellness and behavioral health across four outcomes:

  • Job satisfaction among teachers and school staff.
  • Connectedness, engagement, and relationships within the school community.
  • Skills related to social-emotional learning.
  • Mental health supports.

Building a Social Emotional Ecosystem: High School Case Studies

In spring 2022, CEI created a series of videos focused on school communities to highlight the power of building the processes and structures that create ecosystems where people thrive. These “ecosystem case studies” are snapshots — not intended to showcase perfection — but to show what people feel and experience when they are part of a cohesive and integrated ecosystem.

These videos share positive impacts for learners, including increases in students who feel welcome at school and have trusted adults they can go to for support, resulting in decreased referrals, suspensions, and failing rates; and increased attendance and passing rates.