"The first mindful sit: 2012, Room 18 at Coronado Elementary"
I went back to my classroom and said, "Boys and girls, it's so good to see you. A new year, a new me." I had them get in a mindful position and said, "We're going to work on listening to sound and focusing on breath for two minutes."
These thirty third graders looked at me like, "What? This is what you left for? Just so we could focus on sounds and breathing?" I rang the bell and they got really still and silent, and we focused on sound for a minute. Then we focused on breath for a minute, and I rang the bell again.
The kids didn't open their eyes, like I asked them to. They were so still, and the energy in the room started getting lighter. By the fourth minute, I thought they were messing with me. The fifth minute went by, and at the sixth minute, some eyes started gently opening.
By the seventh minute, no one was talking; I said, "I want to hear your voice. What did that feel like?" They said, "I felt the safest I've ever felt," "I felt peace that I've never felt before," "I felt so connected." The most beautiful things. That's when we started it — Mindful Life Project.
With support of his 3rd Graders in Room 18 at Coronado Elementary School, as well as former students and families, JG Larochette was able to bring the vision of MLP to its founding moment. In addition to the students being very engaged in the collaboration of deciding on name for MLP, they also approved the logo that was inspired by the journey. Yael Lurie-Larochette, JG's mom, a world renowned artist, created the logo of the dove flying from the hand. This image symbolizes how the students and JG spent 5 months using mindfulness and other transformative skills to create both inner and outer peace and wellness. This allowed them to "rise up" to build a powerful nonprofit organization from the ground up. MLP continues this legacy of being rooted in community, connection, student centered, and always innovating based on our students' voice and agency!
Early growth turned into sustained impact
Founder and Director JG Larochette created Mindful Life Project on May 1, 2012 after working with South Richmond, CA youth and their families for a decade as a coach, community advocate, leader and teacher. As a highly regarded and successful elementary school teacher, JG cared deeply for his students, and like many teachers, absorbed their trauma as he struggled to provide a healthy learning environment.
In the Fall of 2011, he encountered a challenging time where depression and anxiety overtook his life. JG attempted to push through the sleepless nights and deep suffering, but was not able to be fully present for his students. In December, he realized that he needed to prioritize his health, and after months of trying what all the doctors recommended, he learned about mindfulness. For one month, he dedicated himself to the practice, discovering its ability to rewire the brain into optimal mental health.
He returned to school and introduced mindfulness to his class, noticing an immediate change in the self-awareness, self-regulation and behavior of his students. This group of students, who had significant trauma, would often spend an hour or more each day dealing with conflicts, lack of attention, and emotional dysregulation. Within six weeks, this same group and JG created a much healthier learning environment where those problems became infrequent.
From January to May of 2012, JG and his class piloted and created Mindful Life Project, with daily mindfulness and weekly yoga, expressive arts and performing arts. The students and JG decided that Mindful Life Project needed to reach a much larger population, leading to community transformation and the founding of the organization.
Mindful Life Project works diligently to support the mental and emotional wellness of students, teachers, staff, leaders, and families through mindfulness programming. The goal is to create a foundation of well-being at the individual level that leads to a connected school culture and climate where everyone feel safe, welcomed, valued, and believed in.
We focus on supporting TK-8th grade schools to transform the educational ecosystem, so our partner schools prioritize the whole child and the adults who work with students every day. We strive to collaborate with schools, create significant space for students and educators, and cultivate mindfulness and compassion daily.
As our youth and educators grow these practices early and often, their inner critic and layers of conditioning never get fed, and they're able to connect with their authentic and powerful, resilient selves and are empowered to thrive both in school and in their community.
Our Theory of Change
Mindful Life Project believes that for a true well-rounded education, the whole child must be taken into account. However, systemic inequities have long-led to mental and emotional distress for educators and students alike, leading to cyclical stress and generational trauma. Schools are traditionally thought of places where academia is emphasized, not the social-emotional development and mental wellness of the whole child. Mindful Life Project wants to change that.
How we do it:
- Provide direct service programming to Title I schools in specific communities where intergenerational trauma and inequitable educational opportunities exist by using multi-layer approaches to healing and empowerment for integrated systemic impact.
- Provide a TK-8th grade pipeline of mindfulness based social-emotional learning (SEL) and mental wellness programming for prevention, intervention, sustainability, and deepest impact.
- Establish deep partnerships with school communities and school district partners, including students, teachers, families, school and district leaders.
- Students and educators build individual and community wellness with a common understanding and language around practices for mental and emotional wellness, leading to heightened levels of attention, self-awareness, self-management, empathy, resiliency, healthy decision making, interpersonal relationship skills and much more.
- In collaboration, schools and school districts systemically change to become a place of whole human development, healing, and mental and emotional growth for all.
- Families, students, school staff, and MLP develop a strong sense of community, emphasizing whole-community wellness, connection, and equity through mental wellbeing and emotional health where students feel a strong sense of belonging.