Through its partnership with The West Foundation, The School of Choice/l’Ecole de Choix has
been able to ensure that their program provides a learning environment that addresses the unique
needs of students within Haiti’s current environment, and also fosters their psycho-social
development alongside their academic growth.
Located in Haiti’s Central Plateau, Choix is a unique school that combines high quality leadership
education with economic and community development. Choix recognizes that quality education
forms the bedrock of social stability and economic opportunity, especially when girls have equal
access to it. Quality education is the key to alleviating poverty so Choix strives to equip Haitian
youth with skills they need as future leaders, as well as the vital resources necessary to maintain
their health and development.
(From contributing writer Laura Hartman, Executive Director, School of Choice/l’Ecole de Choix)
Students recognize Choix as a place of safety and stability, and as a haven from the terrible
challenges plaguing Haiti today. In fact, when those challenges do cross our threshold, we pivot
effectively to meet the needs of our community and maintain our programming. For instance,
when the president mandated school closures due to COVID, Choix pivoted to ensure that we
continued not only to distribute nutritious food products, but also hygiene supplies, and
provided essential educational materials concerning pandemic prevention.
However, our students, living in conditions of extreme poverty face barriers to learning due to
social and emotional stressors and trauma. In the past 18 months, these stressors have only
become more overwhelming for our students with pressures that go well beyond COVID. Before
we re-opened this past fall, the president was assassinated and a major earthquake occurred,
there have been massive fuel shortages, and now gangs threaten every region of the country at a
level of violence we have never seen before in our ten years of operations.
With the support of The West Foundation, we developed a social and emotional learning program
in partnership with a licensed mental health professional who has an expertise in trauma. The
SEL program ensures that Choix provides a learning environment that addresses our students’
unique needs while honoring their personal identities within our campus environment. The
lasting impact of an SEL program like Choix’s is well documented. SEL programs in developing
countries have been shown to dramatically reduce dropouts and to decrease the learning anxiety
that is triggered by stress and trauma. Further, students who receive SEL instruction score an
average of 11 points higher on academic achievement assessments than students who did not
participate in SEL programs.
Our particular SEL program engages all of Choix’s community members, who not only learn to
incorporate these strategies into our campus environment, but also into their home and all of the
environments in which they engage with others. They “own” the process and will be the
stewards of their families’ and communities’ transformations.
Our SEL program is designed to envelop our students in an environment that offers them more
effective coping skills so they will be able to pursue further education, meaningful work, and
deeper relationships, all of which will help them break the cycle of poverty into the future. Faculty
also access a more productive manner of incorporating these strategies into their curricula so that
future students continue to benefit from these resources over time.
Measurement and Metrics
Metrics include not only mere participation but also improved academic performance (as
measured by report cards), promotion rates (to next grade level), and decreased
incidents of conflict.
Other measures indicated in the research literature and anticipated include: increased
likelihood of graduating from college (11% more likely to graduate from college,
resulting in a lifetime monetary benefit of $1,138,054); decreased incidents of negative
social behavior, such as arrests (18.5% fewer arrests, resulting in a lifetime cost saving
of $175,702); and increased social cohesion (9.5% advantage found in family cohesion
for SEL participants).
Through The West Foundation’s generosity, Choix has been able to provide an SEL program that
will have lasting and far-reaching impact, which will touch more than 1,200 people through direct
and indirect impact, and more through its effect on their community.
The program develops a generation of resilient leaders capable of overcoming the cycles of
poverty and implementing changes to develop Haiti into a just and democratic society where
people are empowered to reach their full potential. Further, our employees’ exposure to this
programming ensures a broad impact across our ecosystem that will spread through their
communities since it is the first time they have access to these skillsets in their own professional