About the Awake Youth Project

The Awake Youth Project takes the practice of meditation and mindfulness to young people who might not normally have access to them. More specifically, AYP focuses on introducing these tools for effectively engaging difficult emotions and life circumstances to youth through mindfulness in education programs in an effort to alleviate the suffering and harm they frequently experience.

The Mindfulness and Meditation Training program is a community-based collaboration with the Brooklyn College Community Partnership’s Project Peace. Together we work with at-risk high school students from underserved communities throughout Brooklyn. The program teaches students – many of whom are struggling with shame, stress, anger and violence – to follow the thoughts and emotions that lead them away from their essentially equanimous minds. By seeing their thinking clearly and learning meditational tools to tolerate emotional pain, the students gain freedom to make healthier choices in their lives.

As a key component of this training, Awake Youth Project has developed a peer-to-peer transmission model whereby high school students will be trained to lead mindfulness groups for their peers. This year Awake Youth Project instructors lead regular, two-hour, on-site workshops at five high schools in Flatbush, Bushwick, Crown Heights, East New York and New Utrecht. A select group of peer-to-peer trainers study mindfulness techniques more deeply with staff at BZC and eventually co-lead on-site groups so that they will be able to lead discussion groups on their own at their respective high schools. Our goal is to support a culture of mindfulness throughout the student community in which these young people pass on mindful life practices to their peers.

Our workshops in the schools resulted in students encouraging us to create times during which they could meet together weekly to sit in meditation and discuss mindfulness practices. We have designated Tuesday afternoons as student time at Brooklyn Zen Center.

From 4pm to 5:30pm on Tuesdays, Brooklyn Zen Center hosts a regular meditation group for teens. The group is led by teen mindfulness leaders who have been trained in our mindfulness leadership program. The group is teen-led and teen-only so that there is an opportunity to openly discuss mindfulness practices and how they affect the lives of young people.

Among other potential community involvements, Awake Youth Project is currently working with community partners to explore the possibility of including mindfulness and meditation training during high school student detention hours. We are also hoping to raise funding to partner with Streetworks to bring meditation and mindfulness to homeless teens.