Research Day

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Background: The Kalamazoo Eastside neighborhood has been subject to a great deal of economic and functional instability, particularly impacting the youth. Local demographic studies indicate that 90% of children are eligible for free or reduced lunch due to low income, 58% of households are single-female households, and 29% of parents do not have a high school diploma. Eastside Youth Strong (EYS) is a local organization focused on improving the lives of these children. This study will be investigating the EYS afterschool program’s mindfulness initiative. Purpose: Social and emotional learning were chosen to be studied because these skills are critical for children’s success in academic environments and personal lives. We hypothesize that implementing mindfulness practices at EYS will improve social and emotional learning outcomes because feasible outcomes were reported at other afterschool programs with similar interventions.1,2,3 Materials and Methods: This retrospective study explores the benefits of mindfulness techniques conducted on EYS children as measured through the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA). The DESSA is a standardized measurement of competencies and social-emotional needs of each participating child compared to similarly aged children nationally. EYS staff were trained by a mindfulness expert on how to administer 10-minute mindful immersion, breathing exercises, body scanning, and meditation sessions Monday-Wednesday during the afterschool program. The DESSA is administered at the beginning (September), middle (March), and end (May) of the school year. We will analyze the data with the help of the WMed Biostatistics team. Results: In the first DESSA administration, 20 children were evaluated, and their ratings of the social-emotional composite were 0 Strength (0%), 7 Typical (35%), and 13 Need (65%). Conclusion: The results and data for this project are still in progress, but the upcoming DESSA results from March and May of the 2016-2017 school year will be analyzed and compared to the initial data. Furthermore, students’ progress over the year can be compared to students from past years. From the initial data and anecdotal observations of the EYC staff, there has been improvement in students’ overall attention span and patience in the afterschool program after the implementation of mindfulness; however, statistical improvement will be determined when all DESSA surveys have been completed.



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