“We ask kids to ‘pay attention’ all day, but we don’t ever teach them how.”
- Vanessa Weiner, Executive Director
Local students are practicing mindfulness and yoga at school, and as a result, gaining social and emotional tools to support academic growth and physical development. Thanks to Vanessa Weiner and her team at ResilientKids, these kids are gaining life-long skills like focus, self-esteem, self-confidence, balance and community.
In 2009, Weiner was seeking yoga practice for her own daughter in an effort to teach her tools to focus better and settle into class. As a fitness instructor with a meditation practice that began as an adolescent, as well as a yoga practice, Vanessa knew the benefits of this type of mindfulness training and was sure it would help her daughter.
At the time, she wasn’t able to locate anyone in the area offering this work to kids, so she set out to help her daughter on her own. Feedback from her daughter’s teacher confirmed that Vanessa was on the right track. The tools have indeed helped her daughter settle into class and focus, as well as produce the amazing work the teacher knew she was capable of.
Vanessa soon learned that many other families were looking for similar support, so she began teaching these tools to hundreds of kids independently, garnering a tremendous response from the students, parents and schools. In 2011, recognizing that there was a clear need for more instructors doing this outreach, Weiner began to develop the offering as a non-profit organization. She knew that many schools need the tools, but may not have the budget to support the program. Today, the curriculum is designed for students in grades K-12, and Resilient Kids is able to deliver the instruction at a reduced cost or no cost to many schools through grant-funding and private donations.
“Besides the physical flexibility, balance and strength, my daughter learned how to channel her emotions constructively, how to put those emotions into words or drawings and how to find a solid center. The skills garnered in this class, taught to the children in an absolutely age appropriate style, I believe will carry with her throughout life.” - Layne, mother of 3rd grader
Without a doubt, kids are craving coping tools. A typical day for many children involves academic and social pressures, news feeds, concerns about the economy, the war, and discovering their own identity. Teaching kids to manage stress now will only benefit them in the future.
In addition to focus, clarity, and stress-reduction, these tools do so much more. Nationally, these practices have shown increases in emotional regulation, social skills, the ability to orient attention, executive function, self-esteem, sense of calm, relaxation and self-acceptance, and quality of sleep. An impressive decrease was also realized - in test anxiety, hyperactivity and impulsivity, negative emotions, anxiety, depression, and aggression. A dramatic reduction in the destructive force of bullying has also been seen by the industry, given the principles of kindness and empathy that is part of mindfulness and yogic philosophies.
“At first I felt scared and nervous about the yoga, but now it makes me feel so brave, even after class because I know I can get through this and so much more.” -Alexandra, 7th grade student
Vanessa Weiner founded Resilient Kids in 2011 with a dedicated board, and now employs 6 instructors. Currently, the Highlander Charter School, School One, Gordon School, Carl Lauro Elementary, Sophia Academy, and The MET School are involved. When asked about expansion, Vanessa says, “Just 4 months after incorporating, we received our first grant. Work has begun in the schools for this new academic year, and there is already talk of expansion to additional classrooms, which leads us to begin seeking additional instructors to cover the classes that are being requested in all corners of the state, as well as across state lines.”
Funding for this important program is primarily donation and grant-based, although there are a few schools who do allocate funds for this type of work. Donations and grants build a scholarship fund that is used to partner with schools who may not have a budget for this sort of program, but value its impact. Those interested in making a contribution to ResilientKids may do so via the PayPal link on their home page. In addition, ResilientKids is hosting a fundraiser on October 11, 2012 to continue to build the fund.
For more information, visit ResilientKids on the web: