By Laurean D. Robinson, MA
April 23, 2018
During this spring season, elementary and secondary school students across the country are in the throes of state testing after prepping for these standardized exams during the fall. These children, along with their teachers and administration, put in so much time and effort into sculpting the most efficient test-prep program so students can retain the lessons and strategies needed to be confidently successful.
But oftentimes, that confidence does not come easily. Our students may crumble under the pressure to attain school success in their districts and regions. But what if these children had some special mediation and yoga classes built into the after-school program where breathing exercises were taught and stretching was encouraged?
This is the basis of a Miami Lakes-based non-profit organization called EMBRACE Girl Power where CEO Ms. Velma Lawrence trains a small staff of high school students to teach mediation, yoga and enrichment classes to selected elementary school girls from grades 1-3 within the Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
At this year’s World Book Day, the Arcola Lake Elementary chapter of EMBRACE Girl Power received three special guests – Actress, Author and Proud Mom, Ms. Janet Louise Hubert, Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board Member of District 2 Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall.
In the early afternoon, Ms. Janet Louise Hubert, known as the original “Aunt Viv” of the 90’s sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air, brought her new children’s book J.G. and the B.C. Kids, Book One of her new series, A SNEAKER FEATURE, for the little ladies of EMBRACE.
The book, which will be officially released this week via Barnes & Noble and Amazon online stores, chronicles the magical journey of the titular character, J.G. who is a spunky lady archeologist of color. She along with Vinnie J.G. and her motley band of dinosaurs work together to use the math needed to disarm the powerful pull of the Mack 3 sneaker. This particular sneaker represents the obsessive consumerism force pulling children to expensive sneakers and away from more sustaining values. The dynamic team work together to stop the Evil Rupert and his band of dinosaur bullies from destroying the minds of children everywhere.
After some informal introductions which included asking every little girl’s name in a group of 26 ranging from Grades 1-3, the dynamic actress, former Alvin Ailey dancer and children’s book author participated in a live book reading.
Ms. Hubert harnessed her expansive vocal range to act out the voices of each character, giving her young audience a magical experience. After the reading, she with Dr. Bendross-Mingingall facilitated a book club discussion equivalent where the children asked questions about the book.
EMBRACE CEO Ms. Lawrence prefaced the discussion with the little girls by emphasizing the importance of the girls to be honest and open with their questions because Ms. Hubert is seeking their direct feedback for her new book series. As an adult onlooker, I found the exchange very enlightening because this was probably the first time these girls have had this opportunity to truly “speak truth to power” which happens to be the writer in person.
As questions slowly diminished, Ms. Janet L. Hubert took individual pictures with every book-holding fan which also included Arcola Lake Elementary teachers and administration.
At four o’clock, the space transformed into a children’s mediation studio with the Massachusetts-based startup company Inner Explorer, an audio-guided mindfulness application for K-12 educators and students.
The program offers a series of daily 5-10-minute audio that guides the listener into mindfulness practices, teaching students practical techniques to manage stress, anxiety, anger and more in order to prepare for them for learning.
The program is available as Individual Basic, Individual Premium, School with 50 Licenses for educators and Community with 350 Licenses for parents, caregivers and other stakeholders, prices ranging from $50 to $1000 annually.
Currently, Inner Explorer is serving more than 44 states, 1602 schools, more than 20,000 classrooms and over 500,000 K-12 students.
And one of the MDCPS schools in Florida that is implementing this program is Arcola Lake Elementary where there is an EMBRACE Girl Power After School program. Today’s trainer and South Florida company representative was Mr. Maureik Robison who demonstrated some of the kinetic movements from mindfulness program to the children.
Finally, the session concluded with the appearance of U.S. Representative Tim Ryan of Howland, Ohio D-13th. Representative Ryan is also a trustee for Inner Explorer.
Aside from writing a book entitled A Mindful Nation, Representative Ryan has also established mediation centers for his fellow representatives within the House chambers in Washington, DC. His progressive policy has supported social activism ideals birthed from legendary figures as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and first Black woman presidential nominee Shirley Chisolm.
The girls reflected on their recent mindfulness session with Ryan, sharing how it made them and imagine that they were swimming in the ocean with fish and even sharks. Without missing a beat, Representative Ryan responded: “Well, that’s kind of what it’s like being in Congress these days.” The room of adults erupted in laughter. Definitely a very “mindful” response.
The small talk session was followed by with a photo opportunity with the local school board members, school educators and administrators, Inner Explorer co-founder Dr. Laura S. Bakosh and even Representative Ryan’s Secret Service detail.
Seeing the powerful combination of energetic literacy and mindfulness meditation implemented among these small test tubes only reinforces how we as adults have a responsibility to nurture the next generation so these girls can ascend to their greatness.