By Mallory Hubl
Students at risk for failure deal with chronic stress
Nearly half of the students who attend inner-city schools don’t graduate. About a million youths are dropping out of school every year across the U.S. Although this is a problem affecting all of society, with a cost of $260 billion in lifetime loss of income from dropouts in just one year, it is disproportionately affecting youth of color. One study, reviewed here, exposed that Black students were disproportionately expelled at rates five times or higher than their representation in the student population in 77 school districts in Southern states.
Many of the children and youth who are at greatest risk of school failure come to school not ready to learn. Ranked one of the ten most stressed out cities, New Orleans hosts students who are deeply affected by stress and trauma. Those at risk for failure, like so many of their peers, are under chronic stress and are dealing with the effects of trauma. We rush to teach them, forgetting that we need to heal them first.
As Bidyut Bose, Founder and Executive Director of Niroga Institute, says, “The tentacles of stress and trauma run right through – domestic abuse, substances abuse, poverty, racism. And once a kid drops out, homelessness, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, crime, violence are just waiting to pounce. Not to mention the boatload of chronic disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes… You start to see this powerful trajectory between school failure and adult outcomes.”
Although there is no single solution, there are ways we can directly impact outcomes for these youth.
How to deal with chronic stress
According to the latest neuroscience research, our ability to hold attention and regulate our emotions is disrupted by chronic stress; neuroscience also shows that mindfulness practices can mitigate these very effects.[1-4] Researchers have already established that self-control is a predictor of academic achievement, and that low self-control is responsible for a broad range of personal and interpersonal problems.,
A Dynamic Mindfulness protocol developed by Niroga Institute involving mindful movement, breathing techniques, and meditation practiced by hundreds of youth in inner-city schools was studied by independent researchers. The protocol was shown to have lowered stress, increased emotional regulation, enhanced school engagement, and changed attitude toward violence.
“Every year, I used to suspend 10-12 kids, and each time it broke my heart, because I knew it fed the school-to-prison pipeline. With Niroga Dynamic Mindfulness in our school since Fall 2013, we have achieved zero suspensions two years in a row. And I am flying a mile high!” Scott Worthing, Principal, King-Chavez Schools, San Diego, CA.
Niroga conducts a Peer Leadership program in two San Francisco Bay Area alternative high schools. Although the National and bay area graduation rate of students from alternative high schools is 50%, Niroga’s peer leaders had 100% and 98% graduation rates.
On the heels of the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Niroga Institute is recognizing that the problems of stress and trauma persist. Niroga is bringing its ground-breaking professional development program to New Orleans on November 16th and 17th. During an open training at Tulane University, Niroga will be leading teachers and mental health professionals through a comprehensive Dynamic Mindfulness Training. This training will expand their toolbox of self-care and trauma healing strategies, as well as develop tools for enhanced stress resilience, attention control, prosocial behavior, and emotional regulation.
“If we could bring optimal trauma-informed programs such as these to enough children enough times, I believe we could reach a powerful tipping point,” Bidyut Bose. With the November training at Tulane, and more, Niroga Institute is doing just that.
Niroga provides direct service to students in inner-city schools, but the organization is also reaching for maximum impact and cost effectiveness by training the adults who are around these children (e.g., school teachers, counselors, and parents) in these dynamic mindfulness practices. The dual-advantage is that these practices help adults with with their own stress management, self-care, and healing from secondary trauma, and also enables them to create communities of practice in their schools and homes.
“I am truly thankful you are helping our schools to be resilient environments for our children to learn and flourish.” Delaine Eastin, former CA Superintendent of Public Instruction
Dynamic Mindfulness Training
November 16 10am-5pm & November 17 9am-4pm
Location: Tulane University, New Orleans
Cost: $275 until November 6
To Register: http://bit.ly/dmtneworleans
 Liston, et al. “Psychological stress reversibly disrupts prefrontal processing and attentional control,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 106, 912-917. 2009.
 Davidson, et al. “Contemplative Practices and Mental Training: Prospects for American Education.” Child Development Perspectives. Vol. 6, No. 2, 2012. Pages 146-153 DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00240.x
 Greenberg, Mark T., and Alex R. Harris. “Nurturing Mindfulness in Children and Youth: Current State of Research.” Child Development Perspectives. Vol. 6, No. 2, 2012. Pages 161-166. DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00215.x
 Roeser, et al. “Mindfulness Training and Teachers’ Professional Development: An Emerging Area of Research and Practice.” Child Development Perspectives. Vol. 6, No. 2, 2012. Pages 167-173. DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00238.x
 Tangney, et al. “High Self-Control Predicts Good Adjustment, Less Pathology, Better Grades, and Interpersonal Success.” J Pers. 72(2):271-324. Apr 2004.
 Seligman, Martin E. P., and Angela L. Duckworth. “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents.” Psychological Science. Vol. 16, No. 12. Pages 939-944.