How did SIGA emerge?
SI Global Academy was born of a desire to provide a well-rounded, holistic education that high schoolers really need to prepare them for today’s rapidly changing world. After years of working in (and founding) intervention programs for adolescents and young adults who struggled in traditional settings due to increasing anxiety, depression, learning differences, and pressure, we thought, “There has to be a better way to prevent this unnecessary suffering.”
The students we were working with had “all the right parts” but those parts were not integrating to work together to propel our students to confidence, agency, and success. Students were bright, competent and certainly capable, and we experienced first-hand the difference that an intentional residential culture, a holistic educational approach, supportive mentoring relationships, and rich experiential opportunities made in their lives. Desiring to bring these opportunities and experiences to the “mainstream” to prevent more students from traveling down an unnecessarily painful path, we created SIGA to provide an opportunity to reach more students and families over the course of their high school experience.
Psychologist Dr. Danny Recio, PhD, and educator and psychologist Dr. Heather Tracy, EdD, began integrating their dissertation work and experiential work with youth to articulate the Supportive Immersion model of education and growth. After analyzing societal trends that informed shifting “skill sets” needed for successful adulthood in the “Information Age” as well as various theories on the matter, Dr. Recio and Dr. Tracy formulated the PROPS skills as the ultimate goal to nurture a “self-generating function” for life-long learning and integrative growth. Instead of a deficit-based model, the PROPS outlined the strengths-based skills that move us away from “fixing” deficits to recognizing and validating the ongoing and integrative complexity of what it means to be human on a life-long journey of productive citizenship, growth and development. The goal is to build awareness of this process so that as youth enter into “adulthood,” they show increasing awareness of and ownership of their own growth processes and how to continue to move forward (siga!) without as much structure and support.
The Supportive Immersion model outlines an approach to support youth in their growth process by facilitating:
Supportive Immersion and the PROPS do not exist in a vacuum. We have stood on the shoulders of giants and explored many theories and content areas from an interdisciplinary perspective to synthesize main concepts in a way that applies to and integrated view of what education and psychology can provide for adolescents and emerging young adults.
Why is SIGA needed?
It can be scary to read about the risks that youth encounter today in their relationships, identity development, mental health and pressure to be perfect and “successful” in today’s highly competitive - and sometimes unforgiving - world. Social media and technology connect humans in useful, efficient ways never before imagined, and yet social media and technology also expose us in ways we cannot often escape. Frankly, it’s not fair; and yet, our youth are perfectly competent to take on the challenge.
The difference is that while society and its tools and innovations have evolved rapidly in the 21st century, our educational systems have not. In an attempt to collect “data” to help students clarify their successes and areas of need, standardized testing and curricula have instead filtered out the holistic opportunities that contribute to the fundamental needs of youth to grow into healthy and responsible friends, partners, citizens, employees, entrepreneurs, artists and innovators. In an educational system that highly valued standardized data, where were the unique human beings inside that data who wanted to be seen, heard, understood, and nurtured to become their best selves? When value and “success” was reduced to numbers and scores, was there room for complexity, innovation, creativity and nurturing of individual talents? Given the rising concern with mental health issues in even the most “traditional” students, we certainly felt compelled to do something.
Our vision for SIGA students
From our own research and that of many giants who stood before us,