Mindfulness at UPT

“At many schools, the third-grader would have landed in the principal’s office.

But in a hardscrabble neighborhood in West Baltimore, the boy who tussled with a classmate one recent morning instead found his way to a quiet room that smelled of lemongrass, where he could breathe and meditate.

The focus at Robert W. Coleman Elementary is not on punishment but on mindfulness — a mantra of daily life at an unusual urban school that has moved away from detention and suspension to something educators hope is more effective.”  Washington Post, November 2016

At UPT, this article was a conversation starter. Like any program where children are involved classroom management is an important aspect of running a healthy program. Trenton is an urban setting where students face many of the same challenges as those students in Baltimore. After spending some time researching the possibility of using mindfulness techniques, which focus on learning to “respond” rather than “react”, we determined that we should strive to have a Mindfulness pilot program at Camp Truth. The next question was; how to were we going to start this program as it clearly calls for someone with expertise in teaching the practice of mindfulness.

Fortunately, our Volunteer Manager, Georgia Koenig knew who to contact; Lisa Caton, Director of the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion at The College of New Jersey. Lisa put together an outline for the pilot program after we met several times in the spring of 2017, and, in September we launched Mindfulness at UPT which includes the grade school children AND the teens who are part of our StreetLeader Team. 

We have to admit, it was slow going at first. There was some resistance. Slowly but surely, though, we have been able to establish a daily Mindfulness practice for the grade school students and a weekly practice and teaching module for our StreetLeaders. Now, when our Mindfulness Leaders, Ray and Shaniece who are students at TCNJ, ask our students to “come into their mindful bodies”, the children and teens easily become still, ready to listen to guidance from the Ray and Shaniece. Streetleader Director Elyse Smith said; “I am surprised, but many of the teens are really interested in this practice. The more we learn, the more they see that it benefits them.”

In November we were awarded a $3000 grant from Janssen Pharmaceutical to underwrite the cost of the program for the year. This grant underwrites the cost of the program which included a recent half day seminar for the teens.

We are committed to growing Mindfulness at UPT. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information and stress, Mindfulness allows us to come to our breath and embrace the eternal now, and to respond from a place of compassion, for ourselves and others.