Foundation grants support student wellness


Pandemic challenges brought an increase in attention to the importance of youth wellness and social-emotional learning, and the LincolnWay Community Foundation has made two grants to programs that address these critical concerns. 

Lifelong Wellness Skills for Students at St. Joseph School

A grant from the Community Foundation helped bring Challenge to Change, a program addressing social-emotional learning through yoga and mindfulness for students in preschool through fifth grade, back to St. Joseph School for a second year. Last year, federal money helped bring the program to St. Joseph’s teachers as professional development.

“By learning and participating in yoga, we as educators can also bring those techniques into our classroom – so it is not just a half hour session once a month, but we can promote different parts of it daily. Through quiet moments, brain breaks and books, it is easily adapted no matter the grade level,” says St. Joseph’s teacher Emily Mack.

In its second year, the program brough yoga and mindfulness instructor Bobbi Kelley into the classroom. She teaches students breathing techniques, mindfulness and methods for practicing self-control through songs, stretches, mindfulness activities and mantras. Each lesson is designed to align with state requirements for social-emotional learning instruction.

Students are particularly excited about the “yoga nap,” a guided mindfulness activity in which students of all ages are encouraged to relax, release energy and let emotions go. “As a former educator, I have seen the continued need for children to have opportunities to develop social-emotional tools for their overall well-being,” says Kelley. “My personal experience with the students and teachers is so rewarding. I see their joy in the movement yoga provides and hear stories of how they use the skills in school and at home. The smiles, the hugs and the willingness of all the students and teachers to participate every time I show up is all the testimonial I need to know the program is working and the students are benefitting.”

Mindful Teen Workshop Series 

Research shows that daily mindful practice as stress management can have a significant positive impact on a person’s overall well-being – including mental health, physical health, relationships, and performance in school, work, sports, and the arts. When students are able to regulate their emotions, they can focus better in the classroom, leading to improved academic achievement. That’s why the Community Foundation provided grant funding for a mindfulness workshop for area teens in seventh through 12th grade. 

Clinton County Extension and Outreach partnered with the DeWitt Community Library to host a mindfulness workshop, based on the book “The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time,” by Dr. Dzung Vo, a specialist in adolescent medicine and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia. 

“Through six sessions, youth learned about mindfulness and its connection to stress

management and overall well-being. Each session included meditation exercises, reading reflections and yoga. Different types of mindfulness covered included journaling, visualizations, meditations and spending time outdoors,” says Amanda Rau, K-12 Outreach Educator for Clinton County Extension. “Mental health is a tough but necessary topic to discuss.”

Participants shared growth in handling emotions better than before the program, as well as becoming more comfortable sharing their feelings. 

One participant said, "I took your challenge to think of compliments about someone to see how it impacted my mood and it really worked! I felt uplifted for the rest of the day."

The workshop also presented community and national resources for those experiencing depression, anxiety and/or thoughts of suicide.

“In the future, we may run this program again with an established group who feel comfortable sharing with each other. The book is a major component of the program and we’re looking into partnering with schools to host the program,” says Rau. 

The Community Foundation offers many opportunities to improve quality of life by addressing an array of local issues. To learn more about how you can establish a fund or make a gift that impacts your community, contact Amanda Willimack at 563-212-2812 or email