Grow Mindful WNY

Given the training to grow up more mindfully, what if the science & gift of neuroplasticity could benefit the next generation of WNY kids?

Photo of Margaret Root
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

As educators, social workers, and parents, the 5 of us have struggled with troubled students & clients, disengaged parents, bureaucratic organizations, & work and family lives that continually call on us to measure up. Emotional reactivity and the tendency toward judgmentalism have had a corrosive effect on society. With the growing emphasis on student competitiveness, professional accountability, & social media as a tool for divisiveness, schools have become less associated with social nurturance and more inclined to foster preoccupation with image-making and increased anxiety. In schools where youth are already considered to be at risk, the stress on students & teachers alike is often overwhelming. Over the last few years a simultaneity has occurred. With our own personal mindfulness practices having taken root and the shared awareness of our enhanced resilience, an ever-growing body of research has accumulated to support what we have come to know on a deeply felt level. When deliberately practiced, mindfulness is transformative--for adults, children, teens, those severely stressed out and others who are just ready to increase well-being regardless of circumstances. There is no stigma associated with mindfulness; its inherent gift of self-acceptance is an equalizer in a world where equality can seem out of reach. It makes perfect sense to teach about and cultivate mindfulness in schools & child-serving settings throughout our local region.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

4 women, 1 man, white, all over 50, but with rich experience in public education and mental health.


Under development. Domain name:

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

Buffalo (& Western New York)

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Too soon to speak as a group, but preliminary work has occurred in a few local schools here in the Buffalo area. We are also open to other community-based groups and non-profits whose focus is serving youth. Will soon be offering training to mental health clinicians serving children and adolescents.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The corrosive effects of stress on children, teens, and the adults who teach & seek to mentor them are increasing. Across all socioeconomic groups, we see the evidence: mental health problems, over-medication and illicit drug use, peer-to-peer bullying, school drop-out, and all manner of addictions, including a pervasive fixation on social media.

Many people, including educators, continue to believe erroneously that the effects of stress and habituated thinking styles are not changeable.  But just as neuroplasticity is the basis for much of the pathology we witness in ourselves and others, it is also the basis for healing and well-being when we deliberately set out to incrementally "train the brain".   Our first focus is to share the research & then gain the commitment of school faculty, clinicians, & mentors to work with us to bring mindfulness practice to themselves and their students and/or clients.  As individuals learn to quiet their own minds and cultivate new habits of self-soothing and focused attention, emotional resilience is acquired and mental health strengthened. The consequent benefits of healthier relationships and better day-to-day choice-making will ultimately lead to more positive school environments and a decrease in negative behaviors that lead to self-harm and social pathology.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

All SES groups, but initial service offered to urban youth & clinicians serving survivors of trauma.

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

As a team with a strong range of experience, skills, & our shared commitment to this endeavor, we have been investigating, sampling, and in some cases adapting mindfulness curricula already being offered in schools elsewhere in the U.S. We have experience and some training with evidence-based programs such as Mind-Up, Learning-2-Breathe, Inner Resilience, Mindful Schools, & Dynamic Mindfulness from the Niroga Institute. We will be training high school students in a semester-long mindfulness course this coming fall. The contact came about as a result of the administrator's first-hand benefits with her own training in mindfulness and then recognizing how valuable this would be for her school's students.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Our group was newly formed about 6 months ago as an exploratory initiative. One of our members has been delivering a mindfulness program she developed for the students & some of the teachers in the elementary school where she works. Another team member arranged for an out-of-town facilitator to conduct a 2-day training with a group of social workers in another area school district. Each of us has encouraged our colleagues to begin looking at the research & consider mindfulness practice for their own and their student's or clients' well-being. The time is now ripe to more seriously assist in leading mindfulness trainings throughout the entire community of Western New York.

Organization Type

  • hybrid

Annual Budget

  • less than $1k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Eventual stability is expected by way of fee for service training programs. Monies may come from school district Title II funds, agency partnerships, community groups, or grants from community foundations.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Mindfulness is beginning to get attention across other sectors of our community (notably higher education; the University at Buffalo hosted the first "SUNY Mindfulness and Health" conference this past spring), but resources for establishing mindfulness practice within schools & youth-focused agencies are seriously lacking. Grow Mindful WNY will be the first of its kind to offer consultation & training to area service providers who work with this population. As stated elsewhere, our model may involve direct service to youth, but our focus is on "training the trainer" to ensure sustainability.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

An important shift that has begun locally and across the nation is a growing commitment to our natural capacities for resilience, no matter who we are. Rather than honing in on diagnostic categories that often stigmatize, more of us can see that despite any outer appearances, at basis, we are more alike than different. And as we (children, teens & adults) experience frequent opportunities to tune in to our own inherent quietude, over time we see the results: a growing ability to self-regulate, think compassionately, and to focus ourselves with clarity & a broader view on our shared future.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Other

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Kathryn Provencher, a program facilitator for the New York State Office of Mental Health (Early Recognition & Screening initiative)

Evaluation results

7 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 28.6%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 28.6%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 28.6%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 14.3%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 14.3%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 42.9%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 14.3%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 14.3%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 14.3%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 14.3%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 14.3%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 28.6%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 28.6%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 14.3%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 14.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 14.3%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 42.9%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 14.3%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 14.3%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 20%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 80%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 60%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Brittany Lothe

Hi Grow Mindful WNY - I enjoyed learning about your work. I understand that you're just starting out. As you refine your submission, consider including an example of how your work will benefit children. it could be fictional in nature but could definitley bring things to life what happens when someone engages with your solution to improve children's wellbeing. Best of luck!