The atmosphere of Lima's Juvenile Detention Center undergoes a seismic shift in early September. Gone are the listless days of a summertime cell block. Suddenly, a traditional school schedule begins. The teens who've been locked up at Lima for months go from zero programs and no opportunities for enrichment to full steam ahead overnight. 

This year, however, it's just as difficult for the academic team. Funding for the educational program at Lima comes through DCIU and, for some unexplained reason, the budget for 2016-17 has been stripped to its bare bones. Many teachers were laid off or transferred elsewhere and the ones who've remained are now shouldering double the workload. 

The kids are the ones who suffer the most, though. In my opinion, logic suggests that investing in an opportunity to reach out to a captive audience of troubled youth would serve for the betterment of society as a whole. After all, in the battle against ignorance (defined in the literal sense as a lack of knowledge), doesn't education always win the day?

The vast majority of these kids have either failed out, been failed by, or have altogether dropped out of our country's traditional system of education and are typically reading and writing at an early elementary grade level. Reinforcing the same style of learning which has been proven to be ineffective might not be the most intelligent choice. 

Perhaps a new tactic could be introduced? My method for teaching is simple, if revolutionary, and is based upon results I've witnessed due to its implementation over the last two years in various juvenile detention centers in the greater Philadelphia area. 

Once a week, the teens incarcerated at Lima begin their day with a trauma-sensitive yoga class before breaking for lunch. We then reassemble in a classroom for an open discussion about the philosophy of yoga and how we can deepen our practice by implementing these ancient principles into our lives.

At its core, this weekly workshop introduces the concept of critical thinking. Instead of telling them what to think, I provide a safe space for them to practice how to think for themselves while respectfully sharing their innermost thoughts, feelings, and opinions with one another. I explain that, just like when they are on their yoga mats, they have the freedom to choose their level of participation without expectations or fear of judgement.

Though it's difficult to stamp a definitive label upon this unconventional process, to me, it feels like a cross between a philosophical debate team and group therapy. I come prepared with readings (from books such as Buddhist Boot CampLetters To My Younger Self, and various other yoga/mindfulness resources) and ask questions which provoke some of the deepest and most insightful discussions I've ever had the privilege to witness.

Once the creative juices are flowing, I offer writing prompts and encourage them to express themselves on paper, either through the written word or any other form of art they feel inspired to create. Invariably, the kids come to their own conclusions and, hopefully, alight upon their own personal realizations.

While Transformation Yoga Project has been able to provide temporary funding for the weekly Teen Think Tank I've been facilitating at Lima Juvenile Detention Center, more funds will be necessary to continue cultivating this incredible program. Even the smallest donation can make a huge difference! Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution today.

 

TRANSFORMATION YOGA PROJECT IS GRATEFUL FOR THE SUPPORT OF TULA SOFTWARE WHICH SPONSORS A PORTION OF OUR WORK AT THE LIMA JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER, AND FOR THE SUPPORT OF ALL OF OUR DONORS WHO MAKE THIS YOGA SERVICE POSSIBLE. 

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