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Mindfulness Room at Washington Middle School: Community Connection in Action

beth-circle-headBeth Heller

Last week our blog touched on a new trend towards affordable, urban living that places Green Bay in the catbird seat for attracting and retaining strong community members.  And while housing prices and available jobs are a big selling point, the intangibles, like community connectedness, deserve props, too. In terms of size, the group of communities that make up the Greater Green Bay Area is big enough to count as urban (we rank 176 out of 497 US urban areas, in terms of size)  yet small enough that it’s possible to know your neighbors, bump into your local political representatives at the bagel store and – perhaps most exciting of all – contribute to the fabric of  life in measurable ways. One of the reasons for this small-town feeling is Green Bay’s tradition of volunteerism and giving back, which has led to the existence of many interconnected groups that share the goal of making Greater Green Bay its best possible self.  

And, connectedness creates momentum.  Take, for instance, the new initiative from one of this year’s Leadership Green Bay work groups:  to create a Mindfulness Room at Washington Middle School in Green Bay.   Leadership Green Bay, a program sponsored by the Greater Green Bay Chamber,  brings together leaders from within the business community to address social challenges faced by the community and encourages these leaders to conduct research at a grass-roots level in order to identify opportunities for impact.  

gb leadership

“We heard about Washington Middle School in the news and the challenges that they have been facing there, “explains Brittni Lessuisse, a Private Banker at Nicolet Bank and Leadership Green Bay team member.  “Our group knew we wanted to have a project that would make a lasting impact on kids throughout our community.”

After visiting Washington and speaking to Student Support staff in Green Bay Area Public Schools, the team learned about teh growing use of mindfulness practices in the classroom within the district.  Washington Middle School, the staff shared, already had a designated room for restorative practices like mindfulness but the room was not being used to its fullest potential.

“Our team immediately started researching what other schools were doing, particularly the feeder elementary schools for Washington where mindfulness practices were taking hold and delivering positive outcomes.” Lessuisse continued.  “These meetings revealed the importance, not just of physical space for peace and quiet, but a proper training program for staff and students.”

The group started fundraising a few months ago and has already secured local business contributions for this project, including a $1500 donation from the Shopko Foundation and in-kind donations of furniture to make the room cozy and inviting.  Through the community grapevine, the team also learned that other organizations, like Live54218 and the Boys and Girls Club, were piloting in mindfulness programs. In Particular, Live54218 was working at Washington Middle to build capacity for teachers to use mindfulness for self-care as well as in the classroom.  This capacity-building program, linked with the physical space, classroom tools and focused energy from the leadership team, offered something truly special – a plan for community improvement built for sustainability.

This is just the kind of synchronicity that becomes possible in a connected community like Greater Green Bay.  And from the perspective at Live54218, these “synchronicities” reveal an even greater opportunity.  From our experience working in community activation around themes like bike paths and farm to school programs, when the same idea pops up in multiple places and from multiple sources it indicates something very exciting, a tipping point, or a discrete moment in time when an idea or program moves from being perceived as untraditional to being worthy of championing.  

Kelly Johnson, who is the Marketing Director for the Law firm Law Firm of Conway, Olejniczak & Jerry, S.C. also on the Leadership team, expresses the point perfectly.

“We were all in agreement that education can be a vehicle out of poverty.  When we connected with Washington and learned about the mindfulness already at work in the district, we were excited to not only take the task on, but to build on it.  The project continues to snowball with resources and support from all over the community”

Kudos to Team 3 for identifying a tipping point in school well-being!  Stay tuned for more on the Washington Middle School Mindfulness as this program comes to fruition.   

For more information about this Leadership Green Bay program, contact Kelly Johnson (kellyj@lcojlaw.com) or Brittni Lessuisse (blessuise@nicoletbank.com).  

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