Inspired by the practice of mindfulness and its unwavering ability to awaken the mind towards liberation, peace and healing, Awake Youth Project (AYP) was created to offer a resting place, a space of transformation for Brooklyn’s teens. Through our programming youth receive tools that aim to bolster their full potential in becoming more aware and deeply connected to their authentic selves.
Research has shown mindfulness based interventions reduce feelings of distress, anxiety and depression in addition to addressing other public health challenges facing our youth in under acknowledged neighborhoods. Meditation, body awareness practices, safe and empowering discussion, tools to assess emotional states and unhealthy patterning in the mind lead to an improvement of attention, academic performance, self esteem, stress management, and social engagement. (Sitting Meditation interventions among youth, Black, Milam and Sussman, 2009; Feasibility and Preliminary Outcomes of a School Based Mindfulness Intervention for Urban Youth, Mendelson, et al, 2010).
Since 2009, Awake Youth Project (AYP) has partnered with various community and school organizations to serve over 1000 youth.
Beginning in 2009 working with its first partner, Brooklyn College Community Partnership (BCCP), AYP helped to support the well-being of youth who were at risk of being failed by adults and adult-driven systems and institutions, and transitioning to college in the face of great adversity. AYP led a successful four-session workshop around mindfulness and powerful emotions leading to an expansion of workshops to 5 high schools and 2 middle schools. In 2010 AYP offered an integrated in-school residency in 3 of Brooklyn’s most underfunded and underserved high schools, all of which were considered “failed schools” by the New York City Department of Education. Over the course of a school year, AYP served 250 to 300 "at-risk" students with aspirations of transitioning to college.
In 2011, at the request of several participants, AYP developed a peer-to-peer model whereby students interested in leading mindfulness groups began developing these skills. Additionally, in 2011 three of the first teen instructors expressed wanting to share the practice with a larger group of youth. They asked to start a non school-based mindfulness and meditation group open and inclusive to all.
In 2012, AYP began its partnership with Bushwick High School – a school challenged with the highest weapons confiscation rate in the city. AYP and Brooklyn College Community Partnership launched a pilot program that allowed students who were going to be suspended to opt for a 12-week mindfulness training program focused on strong emotional reactivity. The program’s success led to an expansion to Thomas Jefferson High School in East New York and the first press review from the New York Times significantly increased program demand.
In 2013 and 2014, we hosted a drop-in program at our site, Brooklyn Zen Center, while continuing to engage with students in over five partnering schools. Totaling over 1,000+ students served since the founding of AYP. Drop-in sessions, 12-week internships and peer leadership trainings continue today.
AYP peer leader instructors have guided introductory workshops in classrooms, at their places of religious practice, in their homes, at community centers and events – including the Brooklyn Peace Fair – and for other non-profits supporting their peer population.
We serve teens and young adults from throughout Brooklyn and all boroughs between the ages of 13-21. We serve all genders, sexual orientations, religions, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. We serve parents, guardians, families, friends, community leaders, counselors, teachers, You.