The Mindful Life Project: Empowering Youth Through Mindfulness Education

An inspiring mission to cultivate mindful living among underprivileged youth.

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Photo courtesy The Mindful Life Project

The transformational Mindful Life Project is having a profound impact on the lives of young people throughout California. This unique project is providing children the tools they need to succeed intellectually, emotionally, and socially by incorporating mindfulness and social emotional learning into school curricula.

Teaching mindfulness

The Mindful Life Project was founded by J.G. Larochette in 2011. The project seeks to provide mindfulness techniques in underprivileged areas where kids are often exposed to trauma, violence and poverty, by equipping students and educators with the knowledge and resources to incorporate mindfulness into their lives. MLP provides schools full time Mindfulness Coaches at underserved schools that lead services both in small groups to students with the highest behavioral health needs and serving every classroom once a week. The project has expanded dramatically under Larochette's leadership, broadening its impact and improving the lives of thousands of young people, currently serving some 50,000 students in nearly 100 schools mostly in California.

“The programming empowers young people and provides them with the educational opportunities they deserve. I felt that I had to do something different in schools, to help young people feel safe, both mentally and emotionally as well as supporting the mental health of educators,” Larochette told Goodnet.

Larochette's personal experience with mindfulness motivated him to teach these healing techniques to others, particularly to kids who needed them the most. “As an educator, I found that I was losing energy, I was burnt out. Often, the first thing that the school system cut was the budget for the arts, leaving young people with deep anxiety, depression and no strategies to navigate their way out. Through my own suffering I came across mindfulness, it saved my life, and was deeply transformative. I brought these techniques to my third graders after I learned it myself and I found that they found it to be as transformative as I had,” he explained.

At the heart of the Mindful Life Project is the conviction that mindfulness can give children the tools they need to deal with obstacles in life and can help improve their general wellbeing. The curriculum incorporates mindfulness practices, yoga, art, music to help students become more self-aware, emotionally stable, self compassionate and empathetic. By nurturing their inner resources, children learn to manage stress, improve focus, and cultivate compassion.

Photo courtesy The Mindful Life Project

Creating communities Based on Wellness

The Mindful Life Project goes beyond the individual level, focusing on promoting the development of a positive classroom and school community. The curriculum promotes a sense of connection, empathy, and respect among children and educators through cooperative activities and exercises. The project improves the overall learning experience by fostering a secure and welcoming environment, helping students to succeed both academically and personally.

Larochette told Goodnet about a young boy named Tayshun. He first met Tayshun, a fifth grader  grappling with intergenerational trauma, who found himself in a negative cycle in school and in the community, getting suspended frequently. After being exposed to mindfulness techniques in MLP’s first year of services, Tayshun began to show transformative improvements in his behavioral health.

“He learned to create space, how to respond vs. react. He learned to ask himself, where do I feel anger most? He identified that it was in his fists, when he was very angry his fists tightened. By incorporating mindfulness skills he developed body awareness, and when he felt angry he would say to himself - check your fists, pause,“ Larochette stated, adding “He is now 21 years old and he believes that without mindfulness he could have gone down the wrong path. Tayshun wants to start the Mindful Life Project in Indiana where he lives.”

Photo courtesy The Mindful Life Project

Vision for the future

“The project began locally from my 3rd graders in South Richmond and I created it, starting with one program in 3 schools in the community in 2012 to now serving close to 100. We believe that there is a need to provide practices for wellbeing from an early age across the country. Schools need staff to provide relationship based, in person mental and emotional health programs. Our goal is to continue to grow and scale across California and the US,” Larochette said.

The Mindful Life Project provides a transformative, often life changing experience in a world where stress, anxiety, and other distractions frequently obstruct learning and wellbeing. The project equips young people with the skills necessary to develop emotional intelligence, resilience, and mindfulness, enabling them to live happier and more fulfilled lives.

Photo courtesy The Mindful Life Project

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