Empowering youth through mindfulness

Updated: Apr 5, 2019

Mindful Hip-Hop Album Cover: Through Mindful Life Project’s performing arts school students create spoken-word and hip-hop tracks centered on mindfulness as a reminder to stay in the moment. The collection of songs created are available for purchase on the “Here In The Now” CD. Album proceeds help support Mindful Life Project programs.

By Jeannie Howard | Photo Credit Tony Tamayo

The stress and trauma individuals experience can be expressed in vastly different ways. For children, the expression of traumas experienced or stress they may feel often manifests into bad behavior and choices. These symptoms in youth, especially the most disadvantaged, are typically met with reactionary disciplinary tactics, which all too often worsen the behavior, according to JG Larochette, founder and director of Mindful Life Project. Instead, by taking a whole-child approach, Larochette and his team are teaching students and educators coping tools through the practice of mindfulness. “We really believe that mindfulness is about empowering our youth to have skills to make wise responses to life’s challenges,” he said.

Taking a scientific, secular approach, Mindful Life Project defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose to the present moment without judgment,” and that “through focused and specific awareness, mindfulness builds skills to navigate all experiences by strategically living in the here and now.”

Each week Mindful Life Project’s fifteen diverse instructors work with students at 22 Title 1 schools in and around the Richmond area that have partnered with the organization. The two core programs students, from preschool to high school, participate in are Mindful Community, which is brought to all partner schools, and Rise Up, which works with eight of the partner schools. “Our whole-class Mindful Community program goes into the classrooms, with the classroom teachers, each week for 20 to 25 minutes to teach and practice the major skills of mindfulness,” described Larochette.

The Rise Up program works deeper with small groups of about eight students per grade level each week outside of the classroom. “It