SEL in Action Awards

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NoVo Foundation is committed to supporting the spread of social and emotional learning (SEL) practices in schools and districts nationwide. We know practitioners have some of the most inspiring, effective and innovative ideas in the field. NoVo Foundation, in partnership with Education First and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, aims to seed projects that foster social and emotional competencies in students in grades PK-12. Whether you have an idea for a new initiative or want to expand or continue an existing project, we want to hear from you.

For the 2021–22 school year, we invited applications for the SEL in Action Awards from two applicant pools:

  1. School-based educators (including teachers, counselors, administrators and other school staff) seeking to implement SEL initiatives in classrooms or schools in the 2021–2022 school year, and
  2. District-level applicants seeking to implement SEL initiatives district-wide and/or across multiple schools within one district (including a charter network).

Grant awards for educator-led projects were a maximum of $7,500 each. District-level grant awards were a maximum of $25,000 each. We also awarded a select number of two-year grants.

Click here to view your 2021 application, check your application status or download your application from the application portal.

What Was New in 2021

Key changes to the SEL in Action Awards program from previous rounds of the grant program are summarized below:

  • All Grantees Receive Ongoing Educator Supports for the Duration of their Grant: In addition to funding, the grantee cohort will receive opportunities to learn, share their work and connect with a group of national SEL practitioners, experts and advocates at a convening and ongoing supports during the 2021–22 school year.
  • Educator-led Award Maximum Grant: Educator-led awards formerly had a maximum award of $7,000. The new educator-led awards have a maximum award of $7,500.

Applications were accepted February 8 through April 9. 

We sought applications which build and foster much greater compassion, to honor the assets and lived experiences of students, to build skills in people and groups to embrace and understand differences, and to work through challenges to promote healing from all forms of trauma and harm. We can—and must—create space for educators and students to imagine, build and lead us toward a better future built on racial and gender equity, social justice and restorative practices.

Though all proposals were welcome, we also sought proposals that specifically support one or more of the following student populations:

  • Students from Indigenous communities
  • Newcomers, including refugee students or recent immigrants
  • English learners
  • LGBTQIA+ students
  • Girls and young women of color
  • Students disproportionately affected by suspensions or the juvenile justice system
  • Students with learning disabilities
  • Students impacted by housing inequities or homelessness

We also gave priority to projects that:

  • Are student-led, done with (not to) students, and/or community-based
  • Are focused primarily on student outcomes (as opposed to only adult outcomes)
  • Are original and innovative, and build off of existing evidence-based practices or the science of learning
  • Bring an orientation and analysis of racial and/or social justice
  • Are able to be implemented during the 2021–22 school year
  • Have the potential to carry on beyond the grant period 
  • Demonstrate principal, school/district leader and peer educator support
  • Consider trauma-informed practices, implicit bias and culturally-affirming approaches to teaching
  • Are creating alternative and restorative practices of accountability
  • Foster deeper connections to nature or the natural world

A complete list of eligibility requirements and selection criteria are available on the RFP and FAQ documents below.

We held three informational webinars about this grant opportunity and application process:

  • February 22, 4:00-5:00 pm ET
  • March 9, 5:00-6:00 pm ET
  • April 1, 5:00-6:00pm ET

Please send any additional questions about the RFP or application process to

SEL in Action 2021 RFP.
SEL in Action Awards 2021 FAQs.

Awardee Testimonials:
Previous awardees have told us how important this grant has been to their work. Hear their stories through these two-minute testimonials:

  • S. Renee Mitchell, Portland Public Schools: “I cannot separate SEL from trauma-informed practices from equity, because I work with youth of color.” Watch her full testimonial here.
  • Mickey Diamond and Gregory Simon, Hudson County Schools of Technology: “It’s been there all along, but having a language for it and having a program has been really helpful for me.” Watch their full testimonial here.
  • Krystal Morris, Broward County Public Schools: “When you feel cared about, you act like you’re cared about.” Watch her full testimonial here.

2021 Summary: In our sixth year, we received nearly 400 applications from 47 US States and the District of Columbia. Through a competitive process, 33% of applicants were selected: 64 educators and 61 districts.

2020 Summary: In our fifth year, we received nearly 800 applications from all 50 US States and the District of Columbia. Through a competitive process, 19% of applicants were selected: 105 educators and 41 districts. Read more about award-winning projects here. You can also view these project descriptions using an interactive search at this site:

2019 Summary: In our fourth year, we received over 1,300 applications from all 50 US States, the District of Columbia and one US territory. Through a competitive process, 11% of applicants were selected, 101 teachers and 40 districts. Read more about the award-winning projects here. You can also view these project descriptions using an interactive search at this site:

2018 Summary: In our third year, we received over 1,000 applications from more than 45 states. Through a competitive process, 12% of applicants were selected, 90 teachers and 34 districts. Read more about the teacher award-winning projects here. Read more about the district award-winning projects here. You can also view these project descriptions using an interactive search at this site:

2017 Summary: In our second year, we received over 800 applications from more than 40 states. 2017 was the first year we awarded district-level grants. Through a competitive process, 12% of applicants were selected, 67 teachers and 30 districts, with the complete list of selected awardees available here. We created a book to celebrate the achievements of these grantees, which can be found here:

2016 Summary: In our first year, we received a total of 430 teacher applications from 164 districts in 34 states. In August 2016, Education First announced 25 innovation awards to individual teachers and teams of teachers in 14 states. Find the list of 2016 recipients and descriptions of their projects here.

For more information about our support of SEL, see our SEL Teacher Practice website and publications Social and Emotional Learning: Looking Back, Aiming Forward and Social and Emotional Learning: Why Students Need It. What Districts are Doing About It.