WIlkinson Middle School
Co-Sponsored by the St. Clair Butterfly Foundation
The Yoga by Design Foundation teamed up with the St. Clair Butterfly Foundation to bring the peace and healing powers of yoga to at-risk students at Wilkinson Middle School. Here are words from Chip St. Clair about the program's success:
So many great things are happening in such a short amount of time, and the buy-in from the middle school on the benefits of yoga and mindfulness at this point is remarkable.
We started a dialogue with the school social worker, who is all about mindfulness as a way to heal trauma. By going this route as opposed to through a regular class such as gym, we are able to specifically target populations of kids who are struggling with a number of issues. We then began putting together kids who would benefit the most into three groups -- everything from suicide risks, to behavioral problems, to self-esteem issues, to problems with depression and anxiety.
Because we are addressing these students' overall mental health and success through the social worker, we are actually able to have the classes during the school day! The results are truly unbelievable! We've given every student an entrance survey which we're happy to share, and will of course follow up with an exit survey at the end of the semester...
So far we've made some tremendous connections. We've heard heartbreaking stories like 12-year-old Mitchell's, whose dysfunctional home life came to a head just after Thanksgiving when found his mother dead in the house, having overdosed. With no father in his life, he came to Michigan from Virginia to live with his uncle in Madison Heights, and after the very first yoga/mindfulness session said he wished he could time travel to next Friday because he enjoyed it so much.
And then there's Keith, a shy sixth-grader who has severe depression and self-esteem issues, but says Yoga is the only thing he looks forward to at school and can't wait for it to begin each week. In fact, just today he said that he taught his younger brother the Lokah Samastah chant, and that they practice it as a nightly ritual.
Then there's Brandon, who divulged after just 2 classes that his mother is in prison, and life is very hard at home. He came to us just after a suspension for violence in the classroom, and now says that Yoga is the only thing he's found that calms his mind. Incidentally, he was the first to memorize the Lokah Samastah chant : )
This week is a particularly trying time for them as it is mid-terms... since the testing schedules didn't allow for our regular class times, we met with the administrators to negotiate a special 'optional open yoga' class during the last half of lunch for our yoga students. Just about every single student showed up!
Needless to say, the principal and the social worker are blown away. In fact, the social worker invited the school psychologist to sit in on a class to see the magic firsthand -- the focus, the appreciation, the results. Many of the kids have asked if they could have the class everyday instead of just once per week!
Because of your compassion for these kids and support of the programs, the school has allocated an unused choir room as our Butterfly Foundation space. We've been authorized to work with the art teacher to create murals on all the walls of the room, and will have a special wall for sponsors, highlighting Yoga By Design as the catalyst that helped make it all happen.
We've even begun a conversation about making yoga an elective class as an alternative to gym!
This program has quickly become a cornerstone of our foundation, and we welcome your thoughts and feedback to make this work. You have an open invitation to sit-in our classes anytime to witness the magic firsthand!