Volume 54, Number 3 Summer 2021

From Our Members

Edited by Dominique Thomas, Independent Scholar

Exposing Climate Change “Solutions”: Preventing Exploitation of Indigenous Peoples Through Op Ed Publication

Written by Christopher Corbett, Independent Researcher


As community psychologists, we are called upon, and trained, to intervene at the highest levels of systems to address the greatest problems communities face. Given the harsh realities of climate change and complexities it presents, how can we, as community psychologists, begin to address this existential threat to the U.S. and planet?  

What Actions Can We Take?

Two avenues that come to mind include, first, through action at the ballot box, and secondly, through community education, information and dissemination, Core Competency # 16 [The Community Psychologist, 45(4), Fall, 2012].  Powerful ways to build public awareness include by written word through books, Op Eds and Letters to the Editor.  Also, greatest opportunities often lie closest to the communities within which we live-- where we may see problems, and based upon our values and training, develop solutions ideally through second-order change.

Purchase of “Green Energy”?

With this background, and located in Albany N.Y., I became aware of intense controversy over the proposed purchase of ostensibly “green energy” from Hydro-Quebec by New York State in its unbridled zeal to shift to renewable energy. Unfortunately, the lands flooded to create the dams generating the “green energy” to be sold by Hydro-Quebec, were confiscated from seven indigenous tribes, in violation of their treaties and Canadian Constitution, as exposed by pending litigation. Also, to obtain such “green energy,” a new 330 mile transmission line would need to be built from New York City to Quebec, through the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, creating much environmental damage.

What About “Environmental Justice”?

As noted, action at the voting booth has profound implications. Elections have consequences. With the election of President Biden, the country embarked upon a new approach to climate change and energy policy as detailed in President Biden’s Energy Plan, available at: A major premise of this Plan, upon which the President was elected, centers on “Environmental Justice” which addresses the exploitation of communities, with specific commitment to protecting tribal or indigenous interests.  

What Action to Take?

The purchase of ostensibly “green energy” by any U.S. State, generated from confiscated tribal lands, violates both the letter and spirit of Biden’s Energy Plan. It was, and is, my conviction that incremental purchases from Hydro-Quebec, and building of the required transmission line, are clearly contrary to “the public interest.” My first step was to notify elected officials located in the regions of the proposed line construction to request Zoom meetings and secondly, to publicize my conclusions through Op Eds to multiple sources. 

Is Stopping Hydro-Quebec Feasible?

Assessing feasibility is necessary and my view is there is both clear legal precedent and moral obligation for cancellation of the Hydro-Quebec line.  That is, President Biden has clear legal authority to cancel Hydro-Quebec, as demonstrated by the precedent of his widely publicized Executive Order canceling the Keystone Pipeline. The moral burden to cancel follows directly from his written commitment to “Environmental Justice”. The cases have similarities except with Hydro-Quebec, the exploitation of indigenous peoples is from their energy generation from tribal lands, rather than Keystone’s pipeline construction through tribal lands.

While New York Times publication was my goal, it declined my submission.  I submitted a revised version to The Daily Gazette, Albany NY, where it was published as a “Guest Column.” After publication, I re-contacted elected officials providing the published Op Ed, requesting they support cancellation of Hydro-Quebec--which could readily be done by President Biden though Executive Order, given the Keystone precedent. Such action enables President Biden to satisfy his “Environmental Justice” commitment-- and protection of indigenous peoples, fulfilling the premise, and promise, of Biden’s National Energy Plan. My requests remain pending with elected officials.


In the bigger picture, New York State is doing what other Northeast states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, are doing.  That is, they are displacing the harmful societal consequences of energy from fossil fuels and nuclear energy, shutting down such sources-- and replacing it with “greenwashed” energy from Hydro-Quebec, harvested on the backs of the indigenous peoples of Quebec.  It’s not merely “not in my backyard”-- the environmental consequences are being shifted by, and from, the United States over international borders, into another country. This is not “Environmental Justice” and clearly violates Biden’s Energy Plan.

This is morally and ethically heinous-- and neither Republican nor Democratic hands are clean. However, it need not continue and President Biden has the power, and now obligation, to stop it by Executive Order and fulfill his promises of “Environmental Justice.” The key question is: Will President Biden’s Energy Plan, and commitment to “Environmental Justice” be lived up to in both letter and spirit?  Or alternatively, will it merely provide window dressing, enabling our country’s energy imperialism, further exploiting the indigenous tribes of Quebec-- to burnish the “green credentials” of U.S. elected officials? 

Given President Biden’s Energy Plan, he has the opportunity, and obligation, to stop construction of the Hydro-Quebec line by Executive Order, as he did with Keystone. New purchases from Hydro-Quebec are clearly not in “the public interest”--they can and must be stopped to comply with President Biden’s Energy Plan, if his promises of a national energy policy grounded in “Environmental Justice” are to be fulfilled.

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact the author at

Christopher Corbett, MA Community Psychology, is an independent researcher with a focus on ethics and governance, and is author of Advancing Nonprofit Stewardship through Self-Regulation: Translating Principles into Practice

Following is the Op Ed published, reprinted with Permission, from The Daily Gazette.


Social-Emotional Learning Behind a Screen

Written by Theodore Lee IV, Allison C. Goodman, Stacy L. Frazier, Team NAFASI, Florida International University

SEL Support

Building social and emotional competencies is essential to youth development, and limited understanding and practice can be maladaptive, leading to challenges such as depression, interpersonal conflict, and miscommunication. This knowledge has led to an increased emphasis on common and essential skills such as communication, problem-solving, and emotion literacy, central to social-emotional learning (SEL; Boustani et al., 2014). In schools and after-school programs (ASP), providers often learn how to incorporate SEL skills into their work with youth through group trainings and on-site coaching.As an undergraduate research assistant for Nurturing All Families Through Advances in Services Innovation Research (NAFASI; which means opportunity in Kiswahili) at Florida International University (FIU), I received support and supervision from my graduate student mentor, Allison Goodman, and NAFASI director, Dr. Stacy Frazier. As a team, our ultimate goal is to facilitate healthy trajectories for underserved communities by partnering with community-based organizations and providing workforce support. These past two years, I have contributed to a long-standing and ongoing project to develop, manage, and organize activities targeting the SEL skills mentioned previously (online at

The purpose of this project is to provide ASP providers with an organized variety of activities – we call these Skills Drills – they can use to facilitate the development of SEL skills among adolescents. However, with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shifting landscape of education broadly and ASPs specifically, providers were no longer able to facilitate these Skills Drills with their students in person, since they were initially designed for use during sports and recreation. Therefore, in response to COVID-19, we began to adapt our Skills Drills for virtual programming so that interested providers could continue facilitating SEL with their students. 

Why Social-Emotional Learning Skills Drills?

Previous studies have demonstrated that increased SEL skills are associated with a range of positive outcomes for adolescents. For instance, in one study, researchers reviewed four meta-analyses from the United States and Europe, and they found that students enrolled in an SEL program showed significantly more positive outcomes such as improved academic achievement compared to their counterparts who were not enrolled in an SEL program (Mahoney et al., 2018). NAFASI focuses on improving outcomes for youth in neighborhoods where systemic inequities create barriers to care, specifically through workforce support of frontline youth service ASP providers.One of the ways we support frontline ASP providers is by maintaining this library of Skills Drills on our website as an online resource. Skills Drills are organized into “buckets” that include community building, communication, problem-solving, and emotion literacy – skills corresponding to interpersonal conflict management (Boustani et al., 2014). Providers are encouraged to engage their youth in debriefs or “huddles'' following the drills to reflect on both positive and negative examples (e.g., examples of calm and respectful communication; examples of angry and reactive communication) and consider how skills generalize to interpersonal interactions in other settings (e.g., with teachers at school; peers in the neighborhood). In this way, we hope to indirectly impact every youth enrolled in a program that looks to our website for recommended activities and SEL drills.

After-school Care Programs

School is a traditional setting where students can learn essential skills and explore new topics of interest. While the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way classes are taught traditionally, many students continue learning and exploring through virtual instruction. However, this transition may include limited opportunities for SEL, which already was diminishing in classrooms, as demand for improved standardized test scores and academic performance grew (Frazier et al., 2019). This is where ASPs play a unique and critical role; these programs, where youth may spend 5-15 hours a week, offer substantial opportunities for SEL and mental health promotion outside of the traditional classroom space. As virtual instruction has become routine, at least temporarily, across education systems, it remains essential to aid after-school providers and programs as they continue to educate students from behind digital screens. 

Challenges during Transition 

Many of our recommended activities were designed for live programming. Thus, adapting them for distance learning presented several challenges. Zoom video conferencing software and other similar platforms have become essential pandemic tools. However, these require families to have reliable internet service and a digital device to access meetings (Blank, Boustani, Chou, Frazier, & Helseth, 2020). Additionally, designing or modifying activities to build SEL skills – when youth cannot interact directly and in-person with one another – was especially challenging. Moreover, some activities required equipment or additional resources that kids would not ordinarily have at home. As a team, we may not have expected an event such as this one, but it has encouraged us to think creatively about our work amidst a shifting landscape. Hopefully, these new and adapted Skills Drills will be helpful to youth service providers now and for any future virtual needs.    

Methodology and Adapted COVID-19 Activities

Skills Drills. We selected 10 Skills Drills to adapt for virtual use. Initially, we looked for activities that required limited materials and ones that could be found in most homes, such as paper and pencils. For instance, Scribble (e.g. Hansen, 2017; Liza, 2017; Team Building, 2019) requires students to guide their partner in drawing a picture that their partner cannot see, using only verbal instructions. Scribble is designed to facilitate a discussion about clear and effective communication. Each Skills Drill is described in a one-page resource sheet divided into three sections: (1) “What to Say”: brief and simple introduction about the importance of the practiced skill; (2) “What to Do”: materials, rules, and set up, and (3) “What to Ask”: huddle questions to guide reflection and discussion after the activity. Altogether, we have adapted thus far 10 Skills Drills for distance learning. Although some families may not currently be able to join virtual programming, efforts remain underway in many cities to connect families with internet providers offering free and lower cost internet service during the pandemic (Blank, Boustani, Chou, Frazier, & Helseth, 2020). ASP providers could get creative about dissemination if they are inspired to do so, for instance, by sending paper versions through the mail so that families can engage in the activities together with their children at home. This could also be a way to facilitate family bonding during this unprecedented time. Additionally, we learned unique ways to utilize the features of virtual platforms such as Zoom to facilitate SEL learning, such as by using the video layout adjustment feature (moving participants to specific places on the screen). This allows for a group to create a puzzle, with each individual setting their profile picture or virtual background as a puzzle piece, with the goal of fostering teamwork and communication. Regardless of when the pandemic ends, we will continue to add adaptable activities to our ever-expanding resource library. 


Relaxation. In addition to our library of Skills Drills, we highlighted tools for relaxation given the elevated stress associated with stay-at-home routines for both staff and youth. Also designed as brief, single-page resource guides, we provide several scripts for guided meditation. For example, one script focuses on high school graduation and encourages youth to think reaffirming thoughts and visualize receiving their diploma through detailed imagery. We are currently exploring ways to include an audio recording alongside each script. The final resource we added is called Seeking PEACE and CALM during COVID-19, highlighting the role and function of emotions, the dynamic interplay between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and a few simple strategies – via easy-to-remember acronyms – for deep breathing, body scan, and remaining present-moment aware with a Mindful Minute (Example 1: CALM = Close your eyes, Attend to your breath, Let go of your thoughts, Muscles Relax; Example 2: YES = Your peaceful place, Ease your muscles, Slow your breath). A more expanded version of these resources was developed for workforce support efforts around emotional literacy, and we abbreviated and modified them to be available and digestible during current circumstances. We hope these activities will allow families and programs to find feelings of connectedness and reduce stress amid this public health crisis.  



SEL skills are essential to healthy trajectories, enabling youth to perform well across settings and engage in healthy relationships. We know that these skills correlate positively with academic success and lead to better life outcomes and greater life satisfaction, in part by expanding and strengthening one's social networks(Taylor et al., 2017). We also know that teachers have mounting demands and competing priorities leave limited classroom time for explicitly nurturing SEL skills. However, social-emotional goals are central to most ASPs which represent a critical space for growth and learning, especially for students and families. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, educators rushed to find solutions that rely on transitions to online platforms for virtual instruction. Correspondingly, to maintain our support for ASP providers who are similarly working hard to continue engaging youth, we will continue building and modifying our library of resources, including SEL skills drills and relaxation tools, for an online learning format. We hope our work promotes health and hope for after-school programs, providers, and the youth and communities they serve. 

Have any ideas for our transition to virtual learning or SEL activities? We would love to hear from you at


Blank, C., Boustani, M., Chou, T., Frazier, S., & Helseth, S. (2020, May). Covid-19: Digital Divide.

Boustani, M. M., Frazier, S. L., Becker, K. D., Bechor, M., Dinizulu, S. M., Hedemann, E. R., … Pasalich, D. S. (2014). Common elements of adolescent prevention programs: Minimizing burden while maximizing reach. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 42(2), 209–219.

Frazier, S.L., Cappella, E. & Atkins, M.S. Linking Mental Health and After School Systems for Children in Urban Poverty: Preventing Problems, Promoting Possibilities. Adm Policy Ment Health 34, 389–399 (2007).

Frazier, S.L., Chou, T., Ouellette, R.R., Helseth, S.A., Kashem, E.R. and Cromer, K.D. (2019), Workforce Support for Urban After‐School Programs: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 63: 430-443. doi:10.1002/ajcp.12328

Hansen, B. (2017, August 4). 12 Awesome Team Building Games Your Team Won't Hate. Wrike.

Hodgkinson, S., Godoy, L., Beers, L. S., & Lewin, A. (2017). Improving Mental Health Access for Low-Income Children and Families in the Primary Care Setting. Pediatrics, 139(1), e20151175.

Liza. (2017, April 7). Blind Draw Team Building Activity.

Mahoney, J. L., Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2018). An update on social and emotional learning outcome research. Phi Delta Kappan, 100(4), 18–23.

Taylor, R. D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2017). Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects. Child development, 88(4), 1156–1171.

Top 37 Team Building Activities Illustrated Instructions. (2019, July 9).

Conversaciones con los Abuelos: A Community-based Collaborative Effort to Reduce Loneliness Among Latino/a/x Older Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by Paige Reohr, JoAnna Sendejo, Pacific University, Seferina Dale, Maria Caballero-Rubio,Centro Cultural of Washington County and Ruth Zúñiga, Pacific University¹, ²

Social Disparities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be widely disruptive to social functioning, however, the toll is not equally felt. Older individuals, already susceptible to isolation, are faced with social disparities stemming from loss of connection and social isolation (Kotwal et al., 2020; Tyrrell & Williams, 2020; Wu, 2020). Conversely, experiences of loneliness and isolation among older adults are detrimental to physical and mental health (Miyawaki, 2015; Perissinoto et al., 2012). Loneliness among older adults during the pandemic is especially threatening, as it results in compounded risk factors for worsening health outcomes (Krendi & Perry, 2020; Van Orden et al., 2020).

Due to the loss of community associated with retirement and social role shifts during older adulthood, community during this developmental period is often sought at local community centers or senior groups. Senior centers or groups offer a place for reliable social support from peers, an estimated half of whom live alone (National Council on Aging, 2013). Subsequently, when the pandemic forced community centers to shut down for safety precautions, older adults, like most people, experienced a loss of routines, community, and regular social interaction. While many individuals have found ways to adapt over the course of the pandemic through socially distanced in-person interaction or embracing the utility of technology, it has not been as easy for older adults. The technology that enables remote connection is not available to all, due to financial, accessibility, or value-based barriers to engagement and lack of familiarity with the technology (Kotwal et al., 2020; Pywell et al., 2020). Simultaneously, persistent warnings about the vulnerability of and posed risks to seniors exposed to COVID-19 may leave many older adults fearful to leave their homes. 

Given the barriers to social connection for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation and loneliness are critical social disparities for community-oriented psychologists to address. In regards to ways in which these barriers can be mitigated, mental health professionals can make efforts to meet the community where they are and promote psychological wellness broadly through community-based initiatives.

Program Description: Conversaciones con los Abuelos

Centro Cultural, a non-profit cultural center serving the Latino/a/x community, Oregon is a well-known and trusted community-based organization. Centro Cultural supports individual growth, community leadership, cultural connection, and social relationships in the community. One of Centro Cultural’s programs, Edad de Oro (Golden Age), serves Latino/a/x elders by providing a space for them to share their wisdom and acquire new skills as they build self-confidence and learn to self-advocate (Centro Cultural, n.d.). Most participants are monolingual Spanish speaking immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries, who worked in farm labor and have aged into caretaker roles within their extended families. Now in their fourth year, Edad de Oro elders have co-created their own learning environment and have found their voice in the greater community.

Like other senior and community-oriented centers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Edad de Oro participants lost access to daily peer connection due to building closure and social distancing precautions. To continue addressing the need for connection among the community, Centro Cultural’s team shifted their focus from in-person programming to contacting older adult participants regularly via telephone.

Shortly after pandemic-related closures were in effect, graduate psychology students of Pacific University’s Sabiduría: Latinx Psychology Emphasis, a program focused on training clinicians to work with the Latinx community, began supporting the Edad de Oro team’s efforts. Collaboratively, Edad de Oro leadership and Sabiduría developed Conversaciones con los Abuelos (Conversationswith Grandparents), a program with the mission of providing social and emotional support to vulnerable older adults and guiding elders through navigating barriers to getting specific needs. Conversaciones con los Abuelos fosters social and emotional  wellness by connecting graduate psychology students with Edad de Oro older adults for weekly phone conversations. 

Since the beginning of the program in June 2020, through December 2020, 17 graduate student volunteers engaged in approximately 225 calls with the Edad de Oro elders, amounting to approximately 40 hours of provided support. Student volunteers also provided items of correspondence (i.e., letters, holiday cards) and identified and supported needs (i.e., community resources, essential needs such shoes, heaters, etc.) to the elders throughout the entirety of the program’s duration as an additional means of support. Older adults shared their wisdom, stories, and also helped many students improve their cultural competencies and linguistic skills.  Elders further received information and resources on emotional health through delivery of emotional health care kits created by graduate student volunteers, which was funded by a state organization (Trauma Informed Oregon). Emotional health care kits highlighted items that elders can use to practice culturally appropriate self-care and to start conversations about emotional and mental health. Additionally, many of the products were bought from local and/or Latino/a/x-owned businesses.


 The partnership between Centro Cultural and Sabiduría has benefitted broadly. Volunteering to alleviate loneliness among community-dwelling older adults not only offers a way to find meaning, feel rewarded, and often act in accordance with one’s values (Sundström et al., 2020), but it also, addresses health disparities by fostering social and emotional wellness among vulnerable populations. Additionally, during times of disaster, such as the current pandemic, giving back to and supporting others are ways to promote hope, resiliency, and wellbeing (Piliavin & Siegl, 2007). Through this program, both elder participants and graduate student volunteers have reported reciprocal gratitude for the opportunity to connect during a time of isolation and appreciation for the genuine relationships that have formed as a result of this partnership. For graduate student volunteers in Sabiduría, the ability to provide support to the elders has been rewarding, as providing outreach and community service to vulnerable and marginalized communities is a shared value. These opportunities for communication have also given students insight into the unique experiences and wisdom of this vulnerable and yet resilient population, which has positively impacted the students greatly at personal and professional levels. For the seniors, supporting the new generation of psychologists may be another way to aid their wellbeing, as literature points to the protective effects of volunteering for older adults (Guiney & Machado, 2018). 

Implications and Recommendations

Conversaciones con los Abuelos is a collaborative initiative between a graduate psychology training program and a community-based organization focused on supporting social and emotional needs of older adults. Through this collaboration, students have experienced the significance of stepping into our communities with the intent of “sharing psychology”, helping communities reclaim their emotional health, and supporting social-emotional wellness (Evans, 2020). Additionally, this collaboration has the potential to meaningfully mitigate negative outcomes associated with the abundance of risk factors posed to older adults during the pandemic and to support elders from historically marginalized groups who may be isolated from social connection and service utilization and culturally responsive programs (Dumbeck, 2019; Schneider et al., 2014). Partnerships can also serve to foster health equity among a historically marginalized population by “ensuring older adults’ effective access to community‐based services [and] fostering their social participation” within their own communities (Turcotte et al., 2020, pg. 417).

Community-based collaborative efforts that empower communities and support community leaders’ agendas are a valuable tool to address the health disparities present within our communities (Suarez-Balcazar et al., 2020). As such, the times call for psychologists to become involved in community-based interventions and outreach focused on supporting our communities’ vulnerable populations (Kuy et al., 2020). Creative interventions, like Conversaciones con los Abuelos, can be easily implemented as a way to engage trainees with community-based work and to practice culturally responsive work and serve their communities. We recommend psychology professionals and trainees connect with organizations serving their communities to discuss and collaborate on addressing gaps in social, emotional, and mental health care. This is a valuable opportunity for students to see the promotion of psychological wellness as efforts that exist both in and outside of a therapy room and to get creative in developing innovative interventions to promote health and wellness. Further, students involved in the collaborative program development process, working directly with the community of interest, could benefit from exploring the potential to empower historically marginalized or vulnerable communities.

For questions and comments, please contact Paige Reohr via email at, JoAnna Sendejo at or Dr. Ruth Zúñiga at


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