By Lexi Carder
“Peace begins with me.”
A phrase heard often by adults, students, faculty and staff that have underwent the Mindful West Virginia training program. Although, it is not just a phrase: it is a mantra meditation practice that you can use to de-escalate your emotions in a stressful situation and hit the imaginary reset button in your mind.
Mindful West Virginia began with the help of Try This West Virginia to create a state-wide network to bridge various projects across the state that provide the practice of yoga. In short, it is a training program that teaches educators and many other public officials how to help children deal with stress and trauma. Children are not the only ones the program targets. Prisons and drug rehabilitation programs are using the yoga and mindfulness project to help adults as well.
The program is headed by Amy Snodgrass, Community Resources member, and Pamela Santer, WVU Parkersburg Health and Wellness Coordinator.
During this program, teachers are given Classroom Emotional Response Training (CERT) in order to help their students improve focus, impulse control, self-awareness and decrease anxiety. Mindful West Virginia also provides kidding around yoga classes for elementary students as well as yoga classes at the middle and high school levels. The goal of the program is to teach individuals of all ages how to manage stressors mindfully in order to succeed in a hectic world.
Pamela Santer is integrating the program into the WVU Parkersburg campus. She will train faculty teaching in two entry-level courses, College 101 and English 101. The staff and student workers who serve in the Riverhawk Tutoring Center will also be taught mindfulness techniques to help them with their own stress and to begin creating a culture of mindfulness in the tutoring center.
A Zen Den will be created to be utilized as a relaxation space for student who are preparing for testing, dealing with personal issues or in need of some relaxation practice. Several items will be provided for the space in kind, including a relaxation chair and an iPad to load with applications and music for students to use in the space.
“WVU Parkersburg students face a number of obstacles as they work toward their degrees and a better life for themselves and their families. These obstacles create stressors that impact their ability to be successful in the classroom, remain in college and complete their degrees. The students of WVU Parkersburg are the economic drivers of our community,” Santer said. “Their success relates directly to our region’s ability to meet the workforce needs of a growing economy. Helping one of them is helping each of us.”
Research by the American Association of Community Colleges shows that students typically do not drop out for reasons of ability but instead due to challenges outside the classroom. According Pamela Santer and her team, WVU Parkersburg students are people who are in need of extended services that will support their success. Too many of these students are challenged with food security, homelessness, transportation access, drug abuse, domestic violence or the direct need of supporting a family while improving their education. Helping them cope is an investment to help create a productive, skilled and well-educated member of society, ready to become the next generation of community leaders. WVU Parkersburg is in the 93rd percentile for students qualifying for federal financial assistance with their education, which indicates just how necessary it is and that having a student support system is meaningful and relevant to their success.
In the future they plan to offer a mindfulness credit course, train faculty and assist with other mindfulness techniques in WVU Parkersburg’s community education classes. WVU Parkersburg is the primary workforce trainer in the region, providing on-demand training to the region’s employers. Mindful West Virginia will train an additional certified trainer who can teach mindfulness and yoga techniques in workplaces across the region.
Over 150 teachers have been trained in Wood County and more than 500 across the state have been using meditation mantras and other mindfulness techniques to help their students. Students are now utilizing these skills to de-escalate their emotions in situations they have no control over. The WVU Parkersburg community can look forward to Mindful West Virginia launching on campus in the upcoming months.