2018-07-26-tfr-news-skills

Joe Bordieri, a 2006 graduate of Foxboro High School, leads a group exercise during a recent class at the recreation department hall on Mill Street to help young people develop social skills and self-esteem while establishing friendships.

Social skills are key to success in life. So are friendships and self-esteem.

That’s why husband-and-wife educators Joe and Nadia Bordieri launched the Skills Empowered program, which employs specialized workshops, mentoring and coaching to help young people improve these critical life skills.

This summer, the Bordieris are teaching two, 8-week classes for students ages 7-17 and the town recreation building on Mill Street, with students meeting once a week for an hour.

Joe Bordieri, a licensed social worker, graduated from Foxboro High School in 2006 and now works full-time as an adjustment counselor in New Bedford schools. He founded Skills Empowered with his wife, Nadia, a school adjustment counselor for the Bi-County Collaborative.

They met 11 years ago through a program for first-generation college students at Northeastern University. After completing undergraduate study, the two married and both pursued master’s degrees in social work at Boston College.

Bordieri said they started Skills Empowered to fill a need for more quality time for kids to interact and engage with peers while receiving constructive feedback on how to handle different social situations in pivotal moments.

“Since both my wife and I run the program, and we are both school adjustment counselors, we work a lot with social-emotional learning in the schools,” he said. “However, we need to expand it outside the schools and use it more of after-school enrichment as well and none of that existed in the area.”

“Relationships are an integral part of life,” Nadia Bordieri added. “In today’s world, it is easy for youth to get consumed by electronics. We help youth work on the skills necessary to connect on a different level.”

Justin Schiavone, who joined Skills Empowered last fall, is an in-home therapist for South Bay Community Services. He loves helping children and families better interact, both with each other and also with peers and classmates — as well as feeling more confident in their lives.

“There are not many options for social skills groups,” Schiavone observed. “It has been a privilege to watch the kids as they participate in groups, learning how to get along with each other and make friends in a safe and friendly atmosphere.”

Lillianna Langworthy, 12, will be entering sixth-grade at the Ahern Middle School next fall. She was enrolled in Skills Empowered by her grandmother, Diane Gulzinski of Foxboro, who said the program has been favorably received.

“Forty-five minutes before we come to the class my granddaughter is asking, ‘Is it time to go yet’?” Gulzinski said. “She loves it.”

“I really like it because we get to have so much fun and I meet new people,” Langworthy added.

Also enrolled in the summer classes are Sofia, James, and Alex Villalobos, ages, 8, 13 and 17, respectively.

Their mother, Wendy Vargas of Norton, signed her three children up for Skills Empowered for the first time after she heard about it on Facebook.

“I decided to bring them because I thought it would be good for them to socialize,” Vargas said. “It was different than all the other camps and groups that I had seen for the summer. They have an opportunity to have a good conversation with kids their age about different topics and they do activities together relating those topics.”

“If you are an awkward person, they guide you to be more social,” said James Villalobos.

Alex Villalobos agreed, adding the new skills will be helpful in starting a basic conversation and overcoming other awkward situations when he returns to school this fall.

“This program teaches you the basic of socializing,” he said. “It is also nice to meet other people and to see how we all evolve throughout the weeks.”

Beyond helping youths bridge awkward social situations, Joe Bordieri said he is especially gratified by seeing students building relationships.

“The most rewarding thing we experience is seeing our students build friendships within the program and then start to hang outside of the program,” he said.

“Some students come in and start off really shy and reserved. But when they get comfortable and we help foster their self-esteem, students start to open up more and share their ideas and thoughts.”

That happens most effectively in small social groups, Bordieri added with fun and engaging activities that promote social interaction between peers while simultaneously providing coaching on ways to overcome conflicting situations.

Ultimately, the Bordieris aspire to create a strong knit community where everyone is working together to foster the social-emotional skills that will enable our kids to be successful.