Brooklyn College Academy Sole New York State Finalist for $100k Dream Big Teacher Challenge

by Catherine Bornhorst

Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn College Academy (BCA), an early college high school, is the sole New York State finalist in the Farmers Insurance $100,000 Dream Big Teacher Challenge for their development of an innovative Mindfulness Center that will support more than 600 students’ social emotional well-being. The center is one of only two such spaces in a New York City public school to help students beat stress and build the resilience they need to remain mentally healthy and strong.

The Farmers Insurance Dream Big Teacher Challenge is a national competition that funds teachers with big dreams, and BCA is one of only 15 finalists nationwide. The public is invited to vote daily for the winning award recipient at from September 29 through October 30, 2017.

The Mindfulness Center is the brainchild of humanities teacher Linda Noble, PhD, who champions students’ mental health. “Now, more than ever, we need mindful engagement,” says Noble.

“Our students need time to focus on their mental health. There’s an epidemic of depression and anxiety among the nation’s high school students, and many are witness to or victims of violence. These stressors have a powerful impact on students; emotional core,” explains Noble

Studies have shown that mindfulness in schools can build young people’s coping skills, reduce stress, increase happiness in students, and even fight teacher burnout. Practicing mindfulness has also been linked to increased brain activity in the regions associated with positive emotions. BCA’s Mindfulness Center builds on this impact in innovative ways. The Center will add to BCA’s carefully coordinated guidance program, and expand the school’s nurturing environment.

BCA is a highly successful “early-college” high school, serving primarily low-income students who are typically both underserved by their communities and underrepresented in college. Many experience stress, depression, and myriad socio-economic/emotional challenges that can overwhelm their ability to balance a rigorous curriculum (including college coursework) and competitive college admissions. Even with these stressors, 99% of the students graduate (compared with 69% citywide), and 93% go to college.

With a $10,000 Fund for Public Health—New York City Mental Health by Design in Schools Award, BCA renovated a storage room to make room for the Mindfulness Center, which will support students, staff, parents, and eventually, the broader community, with practices that include meditation, reflection, self-soothing, and deep breathing.

David Perrin, director of MNDFL Ed, and BCA’s programming partner for the Mindfulness Center says: “The Mindfulness Center at Brooklyn College Academy demonstrates the school’s commitment to its students. Health and well-being are integral to a well-rounded education. Academic success is only possible when a student develops positive self worth, the ability to listen and empathize with others, and the skills to manage stress and overwhelm.

“We believe mindfulness and compassion practices should be the anchor of any good curriculum, not an additive. The Mindfulness Center at BCA fosters academic success through health and well being. It is a model for many schools to follow and learn from, “explains Perrin.

BCA would use a $100,000 Big Dream award to support mindfulness professional development for all of its teachers, who would in turn use these practices in the classroom and for themselves. Students would also be trained to become mindfulness practitioners, leading meditation and other sessions for their peers in the dedicated space.

Finally, award money would fund a research component to demonstrate how a dedicated space for mindfulness, involving student practitioners and promoting a mindfulness culture across a school, can have far-reaching effects in nurturing a healthy school environment

The Mindfulness Center aligns directly with an initiative spearheaded by the New York City Mayor’s Fund mental health initiative and reinforces New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray’s call for better school-based services to help students on this front.

Additional sites for information about the center:

Vote to Help Brooklyn College Academy Win $100,000!

Brooklyn College Academy debuts new space dedicated to mindfulness

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Michele Israel

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