YHS, others learn how to deal with stresses

Times Observer photos by Savannah Upton Teachers, administrators and staff throughout the Warren County School District met at Youngsville High School recently for the Learning2Breathe program.

“I don’t believe any student just acts out, I believe there’s always a reason,” said Kylie Harris, Warren County Career Center health and medical instructor.

Learning2Breathe — a research-based mindfulness program for adolescents to deal with stress — is being introduced by Youngsville High School and shared with the entire district.

“Mrs. (Amy) Beers really did her research and chose an effective program for her school. As you can see, every person here has shown initiative in just being present,” said Dr. Brenda Nelson, a certified Learning to Breathe instructor based in Chicago.

Nelson visited Youngsville High School recently to train teachers, administrators and staff from schools throughout the district in seeking mindfulness — observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging — in a school environment.

“It’s reinforced the positivity things can have on all ages. Mrs. Beers (Youngsville High School principal) and I are always thinking what can benefit the kids, but this can impact more than just the children,” said Eisenhower High School Principal Ericka Alm.

Nelson demonstrated to attendees how to better deal with emotions through physical and mental activities.

Meditation included “paying attention to your breathing, letting go of thoughts and feelings while having steadiness and balance,” Nelson said.

“Before you said anything, I already felt that connection deep within,” said Lindsey Sanford, Youngsville High School teacher.

Teachers, parents and students have been surveyed, Beers noted, regarding stresses for students in and out of school.

“I asked to try something different,” Beers said. “High school students need something different.”

Learning to BREATHE (L2B) is a mindfulness-based curriculum created for classroom or group settings. Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of one’s present-moment experience with compassion and openness as a basis for wise action. The curriculum is intended to strengthen attention and emotion regulation, cultivate wholesome emotions like gratitude and compassion, expand the repertoire of stress management skills, and help participants integrate mindfulness into daily life. Each lesson includes age-appropriate discussion, activities, and opportunities to practice mindfulness in a group setting. L2B has been researched in many settings and used with adolescents and adults. L2B has been recognized in the 2015 CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) Guide as meeting research criteria for effective SEL programs.

Youngsville High School, in this case, may incorporate L2B during its Advisory period, which has been used in the past for school clubs.

“As a student who participated in this training, I highly support including this in our curriculum,” said Youngsville junior Savannah Upton. “There are many students struggling behind closed doors, and I think this program will give them the opportunity to be heard.”

The 2020-21 school year has certainly been different, to say the least, and included COVID quarantines for groups of students and, for about a month at the beginning of the year, the entire student body.

“It starts out with building skills, then becomes deeper and applies these skills,” said Rebecca Yeager, Youngsville High School teacher.

Every teacher and staff member has volunteered themselves for the program; Holly Burt, Youngsville High School teacher, said she participated this week to get a better understanding of how the students would feel in the program.

The Learning2Breathe program has many goals accustomed to all ages involved. The main goal of the program is to provide universal, developmentally appropriate mindfulness instructions to bring light to mental health and wellness. The program is filled with simple, yet important skills to bring mindfulness into everyday life. As you enter the Learning2Breathe program, you will acquire techniques to manage stress, strengthen attention and enhance emotion management skills entirely.

“Bringing awareness to something can change it entirely,” said Nelson.

Beers added that the program was chosen with the “all student group” in mind.

“This program is very purposefully individualized so that students will be able to draw their own personal experiences into the lessons,” she said. “In academics, students will be able to apply what they have learned prior to assessments, activities, and projects inside and outside of the classroom. Our student-athletes can take a moment to increase their own personal awareness prior to competition. This training also carries over into personal struggles as well in that students are encouraged to recognize thoughts and feelings for what they are, acknowledge, and move forward.”


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