Children today face more stressors in school and in their personal lives now than ever before. Students experience an increased pressure to excel in academics and maintain a strong reputation on social media, all while navigating adolescence. Educators have responded by rising to new tasks and responsibilities extending well beyond the typical classroom walls.
The American Psychological Association reports children between the ages of 8 and 17 have many stressors and physical symptoms, much of which goes unnoticed by parents. As stress compounds, it becomes chronic and may contribute to psychological problems and physical conditions.
Allison Ventura, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, sought to address this growing issue through implementation of mindfulness-based interventions in schools. Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, dean of the College of Medicine – Jacksonville and CEO of UF Health Jacksonville, selected Ventura’s project for submission to the 2018-2019 grant program by the college and the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund.
After receiving the necessary funding, Ventura partnered with Holiday Hill Elementary School, located in Jacksonville, to institute a mindfulness curriculum that supports students and staff alike. Holiday Hill was chosen because of the small and diverse population of students it serves through its Gifted and Academically Talented Magnet Program and the PRIDE Academy for students with emotional and behavioral challenges.
Ventura analyzed available curriculum with proven, evidence-based results and chose to use the program MindUP. Based firmly in neuroscience, MindUP gives children the knowledge and tools they need to manage stress, regulate emotions and face today’s challenges with compassion, optimism and resilience.