Eastern Regional High School expands Dylan’s Wings of Change Wingman program within curriculum

Program reinforces importance of Social and Emotional Learning through Youth Leadership in the classroom

Eastern Regional High School is expanding its participation in a social and emotional support initiative called the Wingman program, a youth leadership project that inspires empathy, courage, connection and inclusion.

The Wingman program is developed by Dylan’s Wings of Change, a foundation created by Ian Hockley. Hockley’s 6-year-old son, Dylan, was among the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012.

Hockley will be in Voorhees, New Jersey on Thursday, September 2 to help train Eastern staff on Dylan’s Wings of Change Wingman program from 12:35 – 2:35 p.m.

Eastern started with the online version of Wingman (called the Wingman Educator program) last year and are expanded to their full in-person program this year. Also, Eastern is pairing the wingman program with its student alliance peer mentoring program for freshman.

“As a regional high school with more than 2,000 students, grades 9 to 12, we have noticed how much the pandemic affected teenagers in a way that it wasn’t affecting other age groups,” said Dr. Kristin Borda, Director of Academic Performance and Student Programs at Eastern. “The Wingman Program addresses feelings of social isolation and anxiety that many students have been feeling. The connection between younger students and their older counterparts is a powerful one. Mostly, it serves as a reminder that no student needs to face the school year alone. There is always someone there for them – no matter what.”

The Wingman Youth Leadership program began in 2015 with three schools enrolled. Today, it reaches more than 50 schools and more than 200 other organizations, such as dance studios and sports clubs. The program is ideal for school environments focused on social and emotional learning, leadership, and community building.

Eastern Regional High School Health & Physical Education teachers were originally trained as part of their summer professional development. Through the Wingman Training, 15 Eastern staff were able to join the growing movement of hundreds of educators working together to make students feel more safe and understood.

These staff members were then able to train cohorts of youth leaders to become facilitators who will participate in peer-to-peer learning and activity sessions. The Wingman Program will be run through the Student Alliance, comprised of students in grades 10-12, with the goal of encouraging the growth of all freshmen through the efforts of upperclassmen as role models and faculty advisors.