I was contacted by Cheryl Crawford and Amy Haysman, co-founders of Grounded Yoga, which has a robust yoga program for school-aged children in Atlanta and across the country. They were quite interested in what I was doing and together with Cheryl, her husband, Amy and Chelsea O'Halloran, we created Grounded for Good and began teaching two classes per week at the Covenant House, beginning in May 2012.
How do people get into your program?
The classes are completely open to all youth and staff at the Covenant House. They are taught in a way that makes them accessible to both the first-timer and to participants who have been involved for weeks.
When you started, what did you expect participants to get out of Grounded for Good?
We believed that through the yoga, breathing and mindfulness practice that the young people we work with would be better able to see the good within themselves, self-regulate, and develop empathy, optimism and joy. We also give the young people tools designed to calm, focus and heal.
We believe that the young people who participate in our program are more likely to find ways to be productive in their undertakings and less likely to engage in destructive behaviors.
What have you learned about those expectations?
It is absolutely clear that our goals are being achieved, one young person at a time. I can see it on a daily basis. Like when a young man says, "When I feel stressed I go to my room and use the breathing techniques you taught us until I calm down and know I am ready to go on."
One young woman recently said, "I have been calm all week. I have never been calm before in my life." This is success.
How many people have come through the program?
Some youths have come regularly for the entire five months we have been offering the classes. Some come only one time. We usually have between 10 to 20 youths who come to the classes and as many as 100 or more have come to one class or more.
Have some people balked after starting Grounded for Good?
Sure, some youths never come back. That doesn't bother me. I know we are touching many young people and empowering people who have never experienced calm or focus in their lives.
Where would you like to see your program go?
There is a program like ours in Oakland, Calif., that offers classes in juvenile court, juvenile detention and to at-risk youths in schools. They offer 100 classes per week in 40 locations. If we can approach such a level of activity I would be very pleased.