Tagged: “Community Engagement”

Wellness Yoga for Petree Elementary School Students

 The UU Fellowship of Winston Salem, NC, is raising $4,000 to enable Petree Elementary School to continue and expand its highly-effective yoga program.

Our Fellowship has a longstanding relationship with this Title I majority-minority school in our community. In 2015, with the help of a grant from the Mayor ‘s office and instruction from a non-profit called “Breathing Access,” the school implemented a yoga program for third-grade students to help them cope with the stress of crucial end-of-grade testing.

Yoga teaches a life-long practice of stress reduction and physical health. Yoga instruction improves behavior and focus, reduces anxiety and aggressive behavior, and supports children dealing with trauma. At Petree Elementary yoga has been used as an alternative to detention and other punishments with great success.

Although the program showed positive results and great potential, funding for this year is insufficient to continue and expand the program.

Our Goal:

Funds we raise will reinstate the vital third-grade program and expand the program to fourth and fifth-grade students for a weekly elective class. This money will also give staff training in how to assist children exhibiting behavioral issues and to assist children dealing with trauma.

BUILDING LIFELONG SKILLS FOR PHYSICAL STRENGTH AND MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING


Yoga empowered the students at Petree to feel in control of their bodies, and it gave them tools to calm their minds. As the children work together, they see each other as partners and develop compassion and empathy for each other. This program is extremely important for all students, especially those who have experienced trauma. Yoga helps them build resilience and teaches them a skill which can benefit them throughout their lives.

Christine Bloomfeld, yoga instructor at Petree


Dr. Essie McKoy, the principal of Petree Elementary who initiated the yoga program, observed an improvement in the behavior of the third-grade students participating in yoga. According to Dr. McKoy, those benefits included:

  • Fewer disciplinary issues and fewer out-of-school suspensions;
  • Less reactive behavior and an increased ability to reflect and devise alternative responses to conflict and stress inside the school, in the home, and in the community;
  • Creation of relationships with other students outside of their normal interactions due to the different team techniques incorporated during yoga;
  • Cohesion and trust within the small group exercising together;
  • Increased creativity and increased enjoyment in being involved;
  • Increased self-confidence.

In addition, some parents reported that their children lost unwanted weight during the program.

Dr. McKoy’s aim was to address the needs of the whole child. As the program unfolded, Dr. McKoy noticed that the children’s vocabularies increased as they were exposed to new postures and techniques. Yoga practice increased the students’ mental capacities and gave them a new sense of belonging to something special. More importantly, the children became excited about the program and specifically asked for the “yoga lady.”

This program, along with Dr. McKoy’s emphasis on the “whole child” improved academic scores. Petree began with a -3.32 EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System) growth index, and in a short amount of time, achieved a +2.24 EVAAS growth index, exceeding expected growth. As a result Petree became a “Piedmont Signature School.”


BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN 

Dr. Marlynn Wei wrote in the Harvard Medical School Health Blog:

Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve both physical and mental health in school-age children (ages 6 to 12). Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children. Yoga and mindfulness offer psychological benefits for children as well. A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children.

Emerging research studies also suggest that yoga can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can also boost school performance in children with ADHD. A growing number of schools now integrate yoga and mindfulness into physical education programs or classroom curriculums, and many yoga studios offer classes for school-age children. Yoga can be playful and interactive for parents and children at home, as well.

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor, “More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children,” posted January 29, 2016. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-just-a-game-yoga-for-school-age-children-201601299055

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“Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve both physical and mental health in school-age children ages 6 to 12.” ~ Harvard Medical School Health Blog

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Most children in under-served schools in our county do not have the opportunity for the enrichment that this yoga program provides. Nevertheless, these students are the most in need of practices to help them with in-school and out-of-school stress and trauma. Yoga enables them to self-calm and to be less reactive in stressful situations.

 Your generous contribution will ensure that this program is renewed. Please help us create a focus that is positive and restorative.

Help create bail...

Should someone be in jail simply because they cannot pay bail–even if the amount is as low as $100? For most of us, the answer is a no-brainer. And yet it is happening at the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, New Hampshire, and while many New Hampshire citizens have been working to change the law on bail, it’s a stubborn problem, and the jail continues to resemble a 19th century debtors’ prison. Fortunately, there’s a way to help people even under the current system. We are a coalition of Unitarian Universalists in partnership with the Manchester NAACP who hope with your help to bring change.

The people being held have been charged but not convicted of anything. Their jail time costs the general public $100 per day or more in taxes. On a typical day, more  than 60 people are held in Manchester because they can’t pay bail of $1,000 or less (New Hampshire Public Radio). On a recent visit to the jail a reporter for The New Hampshire Union Leader found a 66-year-old being held on $200 bail who is on his eighth day in custody who is charged with throwing someone’s clothes into a laundromat dumpster while intoxicated. Another woman was being held after missing court dates for a longstanding dispute stemming from a bad check she wrote to keep her heat on back in 2012.

A number of court and correction officials, including David Dionne, superintendent of Valley Street Jail, have spoken out against the use of bail in many low-level cases. Dionne told the Union Leader that people who are held on bail can have their Social Security retirement of disability benefits cut off, and some may lose Medicaid and have difficulty getting it reactivated once they’re released. “People with low bail like that–$100, $250–they shouldn’t be here,” he said. New Hampshire Public Radio quotes Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau:  “we get into trouble when we set low cash amounts because we think somebody might be able to post it, and really the people we’re seeing are poor and can’t.”  According again to NHPR, “many will spend more than a month behind bars awaiting court dates.”

Pretrial detention disproportionately affects people of color. NHPR reported in 2016 that while only 8 percent of Hillsborough County’s population is black or Hispanic, these groups make up 16 percent of county arrests and 27 percent of those who are locked up while awaiting trial.

Ideally, the whole institution of bail should be challenged, but this isn’t going to happen immediately, and meanwhile people are suffering. Our plan is to create a fund that would pay the bail of those recommended by a public defender, generally for those owing $500 or less. The good news is that eventually the court will return most of this money, so that your generous contribution will be multiplied again and again as accused people make their court dates and the money gets returned to the bail fund.  Such funds have proved successful elsewhere.

Right now–as in so many other ways–the deck is stacked against those at the bottom, who may lose jobs and have their lives torn apart while they languish in jail needlessly.

It’s time to change this!