SUMMARY: Violent crime and unemployment rates are nearly twice the national average in Baltimore. Educators say factors like these add significant stress to children, causing emotional and behavioral problems, so several public schools are working to reduce that stress with mindfulness and meditation. Hari Sreenivasan reports.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): Baltimore, Maryland, has high unemployment and a violent crime rate of nearly twice the national average. Educators say that factors like these add significant stress to children and cause emotional and behavioral problems.
Several area public schools are working to reduce that stress with programs that teach mindfulness and meditation.
Our Hari Sreenivasan has the story.
It for our weekly series Making the Grade.
CHRIS BOWMAN, Student, Patterson High School: And exhale, pushing out all the things that make you stressed out.
HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour): This isn't your local yoga studio. It's the Mindful Moments Room at Patterson High School in East Baltimore. It's a place students go when they act up, get stressed out, or just need a break.
CHRIS BOWMAN: Stay in your happiness.
LATONYA LEE, Student, Patterson High School: My day is so stressful. As soon as I walk in the door — I don't even have to do exercises. There's just a big smile on my face because I'm in here. If they didn't have mindful moments in Patterson, I wouldn't be here at all.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Why?
LATONYA LEE: Because it's too stressful. And for — to not have a place to relieve stress is like putting you in a oven.
HARI SREENIVASAN: These students are participant ambassadors for mindfulness meditation programs run by the nonprofit Holistic Life Foundation at Patterson High.
It's a school that has struggled with higher rates of dropouts, absenteeism, and has more students on free or reduced lunches than the national average.
Nineteen-year-old Chris Bowman not only practices mindfulness meditation at school, but he starts his day with it, and yoga, which he's used to deal with his demons. At a previous school, he says he used to fight with kids who picked on him for being black.
Then his father died when he was 13.
CHRIS BOWMAN: Growing up without a father and stuff like that, I struggled with a lot of depression, a lot of grief, and a lot of just really bad — really bad zones of like suicidal thoughts.
But I had to find a way to get out of that. A mindful moment is when you — you just take a deep breath in a moment of conflict and just — maybe you just look at that and just like, I can do this in a different way. I don't have to fight this person. I don't have to look violence as the answer.