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Integrating Mindfulness into Upward Bound

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Title

Integrating Mindfulness into Upward Bound

This project investigates the hypothesis that mindfulness training can enhance the success of the Upward Bound Program at the University of Virginia. Upward Bound is a federally funded initiative begun in 1968 that aims to provide guidance and support for high school students from low-income households where neither parent has attended college. The program seeks to increase high school graduation rates and college matriculation rates for youth from such backgrounds. Teachers and counselors - often alumni of the program - work with students two Saturdays per month during the academic year, with a focus on educational maintenance, academic interventions, and life skills development. Further, students participate in a month-long summer residential program, which is focused on developing pre-collegiate academic and personal skills. Recognizing that the stress and anxiety of Upward Bound students’ home situations are among the greatest barriers to their academic success, the researchers are exploring the efficacy of mindfulness training as a stress-reduction tool for students, as well as for teachers and counselors in the program. Evidence suggests that in order for mindfulness to be successfully transmitted to students, program leaders must themselves embody the social and emotional competence inculcated by mindful practice. Therefore, during the 2013-2014 research period, the inquiry is focused on mindfulness training for teachers and counselors. Training proceeds through a series of six sessions, where teachers and counselors learn the basic principles and practices of mindfulness. This training includes basic scientific background, relevant moral and philosophical concepts such as empathy and compassion, and concrete practices of meditation and bodily awareness. Participants are provided with opportunities to work with case studies and to share and reflect upon their own previous experiences and practices. They are working toward the goal of sharing practices of mindfulness with their students, increasing their resilience and self-regulation abilities. This research has the potential to create a more equitable foundation for youth and to provide an example to the University community of how better to meet the needs of underserved populations. If successful, this project has the potential to impact the broader nation-wide program.

Key People:Margaret Harvey, Curriculum Coordinator, Upward Bound; Susanna Williams, Associate Director of Mindfulness and Appreciative Practice Center, School of Medicine, University of Virginia; John Schorling, Harry T. Peters Sr. Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia.