In 8th grade, students are intentionally taught to use their voices and advocate for themselves and others through the Westridge Human Development (HD) program. As part of this programming, students in HD 8 have participated in assertiveness training taught in collaboration with communication professionals from Esteem Communication for more than 15 years.

“A great deal of our focus in HD 8 is helping students become more confident, find their inner voices, and learn how to use them effectively in various settings,” said Human Development Coordinator Sarah Simon. “We start the year by looking at how students can advocate for more fair and honest media representation of various populations. Then we shift gears as we think about how students can be effective advocates for themselves and their peers. Assertiveness training is a direct way we support this learning, as it helps students identify what they are feeling, trust their guts, and use their voices in a firm way.”

“By distinguishing the differences between passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive communication,” explained founder and president of Esteem Communication Lauren Roselle, “students understand that practicing assertive communication is the most effective way to both get their needs met and respect others.”

The HD 8 program dedicates two classes each school year to assertiveness training. Students learn how to set clear verbal and physical boundaries with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Led by Roselle, Esteem has a long history of teaching boundary-setting and verbal skills around consent to Westridge students, and also teaches a self-defense and empowerment unit in Upper School, which culminates in a hands-on session where the sophomores learn to physically defend themselves against padded attackers.

Upper School student defends against padded attacker

Framed by four pillars—self & society, relationships & human reproduction, consent & safety, and health & wellness—the Westridge HD program provides age-appropriate curricula spanning each subject. For example, Consent & Safety begins with discussions of boundaries, kindness, and respect in Lower School, addresses assertiveness, cyber-safety, and social media in Middle School, and includes formal self-defense classes in Upper School. (Learn more about HD here!)

“I’ve always been impressed by the commitment Westridge has shown with regard to empowering their student population through the Human Development curriculum,” said Roselle. “I look forward every year to working with such an eager and enthusiastic group of young people!