“Let me wear the day
Well so when it reaches you
You will enjoy it.”
- Sonia Sanchez
As a teen Loyalty was a founding member and co-creator of AYP, and has practiced mindfulness since 2011. A native Brooklynite, Loyalty studied Sociology & Caribbean Studies at Brooklyn College and is the first Awake Youth Project mindfulness and meditation instructor to have graduated from the program. During her three plus years with Awake Youth Project, she also worked as a Meditation Instructor and Research Intern at NYU’s Global Spiritual Life Center. Loyalty continues her mindfulness practice and sits long meditation retreats. She was the Youth Programming Director for the Brooklyn Zen Center and sat on the Board of Directors for a three-year term. As a part of the Community Roots program, she joined the effort to cultivate an organic, urban garden in Brooklyn. Loyalty is a rapper and songwriter with a deep commitment to education and health and wellness in her community.
Armani-Marie Mendez is a second year student at Brooklyn College studying Food and Nutritional Science. She began studying mindfulness when she was in high school, as a peer leader trainee for the Awake Youth Project. She has attended four retreats thus far, has received teaching certifications from the Lineage Project and the Urban Yoga Foundation, and continues to share her practice whenever possible. Armani believes wholeheartedly in empowering future generations through health equity and has worked with organizations such as the Peer Health Exchange to inspire students to create a dialogue with their communities about their sexual and mental health.
Davi Cohen is a Dharma collaborator, farmer, athlete, multi-disciplinary movement and theater artist, educator, and coach. She began meditating in the early 2000s and found her way to Buddhism in the late 2000s with guidance primarily in the Western Theravada lineage. A native New Yorker, she is dedicated to supporting people of all ages in their embodied experience of each moment and connection with the ecosystem of this city. In addition to practicing with Awake Youth Project, Davi mentors the teen retreat at Insight Meditation Society. Davi co-founded the New York Abortion Access Fund, helped create the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, and regularly facilitates community-driven experiments in movement, strength training, artistic practice, collaboration research, and collective liberation. She is the coordinator of volunteer programs and a crew member at Queens County Farm Museum and has worked on educational, production, and homestead farms throughout New York City and upstate. Davi is part of the Love Circle Sangha core collective and serves on the Advisory Board of the Women's Strength Coalition. Davi feels honored to join the AYP community in cultivating awareness, compassion, empowered action, and joy.
David has been fortunate to volunteer with Awake Youth and to serve as a mentor on youth retreats for the Insight Meditation Society and Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme). In his daily life, he works as a media producer and educator for museums and nonprofits, as well as a meditation instructor for companies in New York. David finally got serious about meditation in 2010 and has since studied with multiple lineages, completing a teacher training program with The Interdependence Project in 2016. When he used to work teaching computers around New York teens said he looked like Eminem, but now he just looks like someone's uncle.
El Layla (they/them) loves nothing more than working with young people. A believer in the healing power of relationships, El's professional experience includes: providing communications consulting to international NGOs; bicycling thousands of miles with teenagers; and counseling individuals and groups. They currently reside in Bed-Stuy, where they delight in wrenching on bikes, sprouting legumes, and dismantling the white-supremacist ableist patriarchy one interaction at a time. El is a 2019 Master of Social Work Candidate at the Silberman School of Social Work.
Ghylian founded the Urban Yoga Foundation with a vision to make programs that specifically target the needs of underserved students, providing them with the language, yoga poses, breathing and mindfulness techniques that enable personal growth, character development, and creative self-expression. Yoga was first introduced to Ghylian as a stressed out single mother seeking a way to find balance in her life and grow closer to her daughter. Ghylian decided to start her Ashtanga yoga practice in 1995 at Yoga Shambala in New York. In 2000 she received her children’s certification from Next Generation Yoga for Kids, which then led to her ISHTA yoga certification (Integrated Science of Hatha Tantra and Ayurveda) with teacher Alan Finger at New York City’s BeYoga. Among her many teachers are Mark Whitwell of Heart of Yoga and Manju Jois, eldest son of Sri Pattahbi Jois. Before teaching yoga in schools Ghylian created her first arts program, The Yoga Gallery, which fused arts, yoga, movement, and spoken word into an experiential and therapeutic event for both performer and audience.
Jennifer feels grateful to be involved as a mentor with the Awake Youth Project. She is also engaged with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme), serving as a mentor and Health Coordinator for Northeast retreats. For over 15 years, Jennifer has been working as an advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights and adolescent health and wellbeing. She has worked for Advocates for Youth, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., and Columbia University, from which she also holds a Masters in Public Health. She is currently serving as consultant for the Future of Sex Education initiative and recently started a new career in real estate in New York City. When not working, Jennifer is seeking respite from the city on a yoga mat or meditation cushion, finding happiness on a dance floor, or is in search of delicious dumplings around the city.
Kristin is a yoga, Zen, food, and dog enthusiast. She works as a psychotherapist in New York City and currently holds the role of co-tenzo (head of the kitchen) at Brooklyn Zen Center. She takes her kitchen practice home to New Jersey where she plays with inventing various forms of the perfect chocolate chip cookie with her beloved animal squad. Kristin looks forward to sharing and cooking with AYP each season.
When Maya began practicing Zen ten years ago she was instructed to “just sit” by her teacher Byakuren Judith Ragir, who subsequently was instructed to “just sit” by her teacher, Katagiri Roshi. “Just sitting” led her to Brooklyn Zen Center where she now shares the role of co-Tenzo (head of the kitchen). Maya is inspired to share the power of food and the transformative healing nature kitchen practice has to offer.