ABC – Above and Beyond the Classroom was awarded a $5,000 Competitive Grant to support the mental health of their students. Their project accomplished its objectives by teaching students about emotional identification and regulation skills, as well as equipping them with a handful of coping skills. Students engaged in communication enhancement and empathy-building skills to build healthy and positive relationships. This, in turn, was also used to build confidence and encourage students to find interests, hobbies, and other strengths to build self-understanding. Lastly, students were taught healthy decision-making skills to promote thought-out choices and impulse control.
With this grant, they could purchase Yoga mats for each center for the kids to participate in Yoga classes. They could also provide mental health group sessions from a licensed counselor. Students are now better able to manage their emotions and build resilience so that, in the future, they can avoid risky decisions and friend groups that would put them at risk for mental health issues and, potentially, physical or health-related consequences.
Students have shown increased overall self-esteem and positivity, resulting in fewer behaviors during out-of-school time. ABC staff is now trained in trauma-informed care and can better understand and empathize with students. Students learned about breathing techniques, the importance of slowing down and using mindfulness during stressful situations.
“It was fun to see the students utilizing their coping skills when feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. One student was having a hard time with a specific activity and said, “Oh, I need to stop and think about what Miss Rainey showed me this morning!” It was awesome to see them processing and making connections.” (ABC Teacher). We also noticed a significant decrease in behaviors and an increase in overall positivity after Rainey implemented her sessions with the students.
The students loved yoga with Katie O’Connell! They learned how to slow their bodies down and also learned breathing and meditation techniques. Katie did an excellent job of making the yoga instructional yet fun. Many students responded that they “felt calmer and got their sillies out” after Yoga sessions. These Yoga sessions significantly reduced behaviors and increased overall focus and attention.
Yoga is a practice that supports people of all ages to connect to their mind, body, and spirit. Practicing yoga as a kid can help set the foundations for mindfulness, focus, stress-relieving methods, and healthy living that the child can then incorporate into their daily lives at school and home. After the yoga mats arrived, I noticed the kids could more easily bring awareness to their practice. Not only did the mats provide a cushion to help students feel comfortable trying new poses, but they also allowed the kids to become more intentional about where they were moving their bodies in relation to their mat and the others around them. In a way, the mats created a safe space for kids to try new movements and poses – a little island just for them and their growth as a yogi and a person”.
Katie O’Connell, Instructor
According to ABC staff, “We learned so much at our training session with Sara White of the Mental Health Coalition. Not only do I feel like I have more empathy and understanding for our students, but also myself.” Sara was phenomenal in adapting the material to the specific needs of our after-school students and staff.