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Kristina Castañeda
Board Member
Art Educator, Dubuque CSD

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” 


– Fred Rogers


As a middle school teacher, health coach, and mother of two, Mindful Minutes for Schools aligns with my need to advocate for equity, brain health, and celebration of the whole child. 


An alarming 1 in 4 children has experienced trauma by age 4, and this number increases to over 2/3 of kids by age 16. 40% of children nationwide live within the instability of poverty. More than 1 in 3 children reports being emotionally bullied by peers, and school violence is on the rise, the roots of which are feelings of isolation, alienation, and exclusion. Suicide rates are escalating, and 70% of youth with diagnosable anxiety and depression are not getting treatment.


Mental health is the issue of our times, and so, in our schools. Children will grow into adults. There are dire long-term consequences for all of us if the next generation grows up without having received the brain health nourishment and mind-body support they need. So we need real, implementable, equitable solutions. Now.  


In researched-based, psychological, neurobiological, and somatic-oriented institutions around the world, mindfulness practices are increasingly being used and prescribed as therapeutic methods to clinically heal patients from trauma. 


Imagine: Schools in which children experience an increase in self-awareness for self-control, where they cultivate more empathy, where bullying decreases, and self-confidence is boosted. Imagine children liberated by self-management of their depression, ADHD, hyperactivity, stress, and anxiety. Imagine student attentiveness and engagement increasing, suspension rates going down, and academic performance jumping by 70%. And then, the bonus - teacher morale and retention rises as a consequence, and parents learn from their children, thus transforming their home climate, creating more harmony. This is actually happening, in schools where mindfulness has been incorporated, as study after study shows. Why not for our community, too? 


‘Monkey see, monkey do.’ Up through age 12, 80% of a child’s learning is through their eyes, and up through age 7, everything a child sees and hears and feels gets stored in their subconscious, which then becomes the programming foundation from which they operate in adulthood. The truth is, many children are not growing up seeing adults optimally model healthy coping skills in the face of duress. It’s ok…we didn’t grow up learning them, either.  And we live in a culture that makes it really, really easy to learn negative self-talk and feelings of unworthiness and negative coping defaults. We have 70,000 thoughts per day. 95% are same as day before. And 80% of those are negative. With good intentions, we try to affirm to our kids – ‘You can’t control other people, but you can control how you respond.’ True, but, not without mindfulness!


Self-awareness, emotional intelligence, self-regulation, trauma-informed care…call it what you will – all these are branches of the same tree we call Mindfulness.  We expect our children to understand the consequences of their actions, yet without mindfulness, they can’t, because…peace begins with the self.  


It is one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life to be part of this mindfulness movement (right here in our community!), because as stewards of the children, our greatest work is to teach them how to care for themselves, so they can be well enough to actualize their fullest potential, and care for others, too. 


What I know to be true is that Mindful Minutes for Schools is a catalyst for transformation, igniting repair and healing for our children, educators, and community at large, all in the name of equity, so that ALL kids - whatever their faith, socioeconomic status, native language – whatever they’ve been exposed to at home and in the world - have access to lifelong, life-saving tools. 


I believe in this work with my whole being.”

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