Helping youth heal and achieve through mindfulness: a grantee spotlight of Mindful Life Project

By the Mindful Life Project

Over the last seven years, Mindful Life Project (MLP) has taught mindfulness to over 40,000 underserved youth at more than 30 schools through our direct service programming. Below are just a few stories of transformation, which highlight the impact mindfulness-based social-emotional learning can have on the course of a child’s life through self-awareness, confidence, self-regulation and resilience. We are inspired by these stories and feel hopeful that our direct service programs will be able to touch the lives of thousands of students in the future as we scale our work beyond the Bay Area!

Taeshun, 19 years old

I realized being out here in Indiana that people here need Mindful Life Project and I want to spread it out here.

Taeshun, who was a fifth grader at Nystrom Elementary when MLP first began delivering services in 2012, was having a really challenging time due to significant trauma. He was getting in fights, leaving class and feeling a lot of pent-up anger. He was often suspended and within the first month of MLP being on campus, he already had four suspensions. He was immediately put in our Rise-Up program and quickly engaged in mindfulness, expressive arts, yoga and mindful hip-hop and connected with our staff. Over the next few months, Taeshun really became one of our mindful leaders and his positive behaviors and motivation increased greatly. Over the next two years, he participated in our programs and grew in so many ways.

Unfortunately, in 2014 there was a shooting that occurred near his home which took the life of one of his good friends. Shortly after this tragedy, he dropped out of school and no one knew where he was. In the spring of 2018, Taeshun’s social worker JG Larochette received a phone call from an area code in Indiana, and when he called back, Taeshun was on the other line. Taeshun shared that he got into trouble in 2014 and was put in juvenile hall. There he shared with JG that he really wanted to improve the mindfulness practices he learned through Mindful Life Project. He shared that his practice led him to realizing he needed to leave Richmond because he and his mom needed a new start. A pastor at the juvenile hall shared that he had a connection to a church and community in Indiana that could help him get a clean slate. Taeshun and his mom moved there shortly thereafter. Taeshun went on to tell JG that MLP’s programs and staff were a huge reason that he was doing so much better. When he graduates college, he wants to make MLP a reality in Indiana.

Idania, 12 years old

Rise-Up has helped me learn a lot, like how to get along with others and show respect to earn respect back.

Idania is a seventh grade student living in San Pablo, California. She has experienced trauma which led to behavioral challenges at her school, where she’d often show up angry and defiant. Two years ago, she began receiving both MLP programs Rise-Up and Mindful Community. Over the course of the first year, she learned how to use mindfulness and really engaged with the practice and the brain science. She began to practice mindfulness not just in the programs at school, but also at home with her family, and she began to thrive both social-emotionally and academically. Her growth culminated in a powerful mindful hip-hop performance where she was the star, and with a presentation in front of the San Pablo City Council about how mindfulness had deeply impacted her life. Last year she continued to deepen her mindfulness practice and out of thousands of students was chosen to narrate an animated video created by MLP to show others how to practice a mindful sit. She continues to be a great mindful leader both at her middle school and in her community!

Malik, 14 years old

Malik is a ninth grader who lives in Richmond, California, with his resilient mother. In 2012 his older brother was murdered, and it turned their lives upside down. As a result of this trauma, Malik started to get into a lot of trouble at school and was referred to Mindful Life Project’s Rise-Up small group intervention program. After a few months, he began his own mindfulness practices to counteract the pain and suffering he was experiencing, which helped him become successful both academically and socially. He continued this healing process with us, and after several years he received perfect test scores for both language arts and math. Malik has continued to receive support from MLP for the last seven years and was recently awarded a full scholarship to the prestigious De La Salle High School in Walnut Creek. His mother and the school attribute much of his success and healing to the work of Mindful Life Project!