Episode #274: Maria Barrera

Dana GoodierOut of the Trenches Podcast

Maria Barrera is a Stanford-educated engineer and founder & CEO of Clayful. She is committed to addressing the youth mental health crisis. Born in Colombia and understanding the pressures of adversity, she leverages her experience from her pioneering role on Nearpod’s founding team to create impactful solutions in education. Through her tireless research and collaboration with a diverse team of experts, Maria developed Clayful, offering accessible, preventative mental health resources to families of all socio-economic statuses. Her dedication to training a diverse mental health workforce and establishing partnerships with schools has already impacted thousands of students across the country.

Trenches story: last week, (as of time of recording), with resetting things, preparing for a new school year.

Tell me about getting started with Clayful: went to school to become an engineer. Worked at GE, Boeing. Had a tutoring gig. Helped kids with math, science. Built relationships with students. Held space for big emotions. Realized she wanted to be in education and not aviation. Transition was summer 2021. She saw impact the pandemic had on kids’ mental health. Lack of social interactions. Rise in depression, self-harm. Affected how she’d serve students.

You started coaching when you were 15. How did you discover your gift? a lot of her friends in MS/HS had a hard time. Came to the U.S. when she was 10. Felt a lot of pressure to make her mom’s sacrifice worth it. She saw it w/ her friends. “Trojan horsing” thru classes. She tutored other kids or their siblings. Spent time talking thru what was going on in their lives. She took lots of psych classes @ Stanford.

Tell me a bit about being a founder member at Nearpod (2012)? they built out their content store, devises were making their way into the CR. She aimed to revolutionize what learning could look like. Virtual field trips. Built product teachers wanted to use.

Future of St. mental wellness (the next 5+ yrs): she sees mental health system as firefighting. Social workers are putting out fires day in & out. We need to have a “manual” to prevent fires. There’s a bigger emphasis on prevention. Districts/counselors are more interested in this work.

Data on what students are really going thru: Data shows academic pressure, peer conflict. Quintessentially MS/HS experience. Isolation. Family dynamics. Substance use increased, divorce rates. they do a depression/anxiety screener. It’s still the root cause.

BIPOC st’s mental health- how do we better address it, mental health in small communities? What does it mean to talk to your counselor when it’s a small town? What are dynamics that support smaller districts? Archetype differences. Everyone knows each other. It takes level of vulnerability. Kids really want a judgment-free space. There are cultural stigmas with kids from diff. countries, ethnicities.

Tech + humans- what to do about this problem? she is confident in the need to have more social connection. You need to hold the space to make ppl feel special/hear. AI can’t do that. How do we create layers of empathy. Hire coaches who “get it”, who went thru similar growing up. On safety side there are challenges around AI. Esp. for a student who is struggling with self-harm.

Companies have decided to keep the AI model closed.

Why should schools use Clayful? It’s on their phone or school-issued devise. Schools would purchase Playful for students. Can be an advisory or ELA lesson, all self-passed. St’s can connect with a trained coach 8am-10pm thru an app. They take data & aggregate info for schools. Sometimes the schools are surprised by the data. They have to go thru Clayful’s training. 3-4th grade + with an emphasis on MS, HS. A lot of reading/writing attached to lessons. Can even be used in World language classes. Playful can pilot it with schools. They don’t want it to be just sped, etc. Advises to use with general ed.

Out of everything: It’s important to make space for people because everyone has hard days Click To Tweet

Where can ppl find you? she created link for podcast audience: www.clayful.co/trenches  @clayfulhealth on IG, FB, Twitter

has free tools for educators.

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/clayfulhealth 

IG: www.instagram.com/clayfulhealth/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/clayfulhealth 

Website: https://www.clayfulhealth.com/  

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/PBG7aoB-lBo



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