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Breaking the Stigma: Fostering Meditation program teaches students to look inward

Fostering Meditation program teaches students to look inward
Fostering Meditation program teaches students to look inward 02:33

NEW YORK -- The pandemic exacerbated many mental health challenges for all of us, but especially for children already struggling with societal setbacks.

As part of our Breaking the Stigma series focusing on youth and mental health, CBS2 highlights the Fostering Meditation program, which teaches kids the tools to overcome.

As a rambunctious bunch of kids bounded into a quiet corner of Public School 108 in East Harlem, their excitement was easy to see.

"I get to have fun and express myself, kind of like recess but there's no arguments," said fourth grader Nylah'Rose Correa-Bilal.

They learn how to center themselves inside and out, through Fostering Meditation. Founded by Demetrius Napolitano three years ago, the program now provides training to nearly 400 students at the school.

"When you're off, he'll give you a little tap, like calm down, re-center yourself, so I like how he's aware of the whole room," said seventh grader Jayaheir Rhodes.

Rhodes noticed his own transformation taking shape, after he met the men who would become his mentor.

"Before, when I was younger, I had anger issues, and I would get mad easily," Rhodes admitted. "When I started coming to his classes, he taught me how to control my anger and be patient."

Fostering Meditation founder and CEO Demetrius Napolitano sees a lot of himself in this dedicated student.

"While I was here, I was in foster care," Napolitano revealed. "It was a lot of a lot of good moments, but there was also a lot of abuse in the home. So as a kid, I came to school and acted out a lot of that anger."

A foster father eventually introduced Napolitano to yoga and meditation, and he discovered his purpose, returning to his old school to transform the room where he once served detention into a magical space.

Napolitano also works with children served by three of the city's foster care agencies, and advises adults to be mindful of their own triggers and reactions.

"If they see the adults in their school reacting in this way and then at home they're reacting this way, and then in the community they're reacting this way, children are going to mirror that," Napolitano said.

Instead, he is teaching them to be present and build the inner strength to face the stresses of daily life, ending each session with an affirmation made between each student and a mirror.

"I feel like it's going to travel down to generations after this," Rhodes said, "because me, I probably want to teach meditation when I get older, too."

For mental health support 24/7, help is available by calling or texting 988.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

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