“Hoops, Homework, and Heartfelt Community”
by Alicen Roberts
What do mindfulness training, basketball, yoga, and flamenco dance have in common? In this case: a concern for the education and well-being of the kids in our community. On Sunday, May 7th, caring artists, activists, and athletes will gather in support of an exciting new collaboration to enhance the well being of children and youth in Framingham. The collaboration is between two Framingham grassroots organizations: Open Spirit: A Place of Hope, Health & Harmony and Hoops and Homework.
Hoops and Homework is offered as a free afterschool program that supports children and youth in the lowest income area in Framingham. Each day, the staff and volunteers strive to provide safe and fun academic and enrichment services to youth residing around the Beaver and Waverly Street areas in Framingham. “Our goal is to help students improve their academic skills, especially reading, writing and math. We hope to inspire these at-risk students to believe in themselves and perhaps go on to higher education,” says Herb Chasan, the project’s president and founder.
Open Spirit: A Place of Hope, Health & Harmony is a center for healing, wellness and community connection, located on the campus of Edwards Church in Saxonville. One of Open Spirit’s most successful outreach projects is its Nourishing Teachers/Strengthening Classrooms Project, which was established in 2012 to provide mindfulness training to teachers to help support our children. In the first five years, the project has focused on Framingham Public School classrooms. “The success of our bringing mindfulness practices through yoga and meditation—and, as of late, flamenco dance— to teachers and students has led to a strong partnership with the Health and Wellness Director’s efforts to develop a coordinated mindfulness education program within the Framingham Public Schools,” explains Rosanne Kates, the NT/SC Project Founder and Director and the Coordinator of Community Connections at Open Spirit.
Last summer, the two organizations began a collaboration, funded through private donations, to provide mindfulness training through yoga and flamenco dance classes at Hoops and Homework sites. Dolly Mathis, the site supervisor at Hoops & Homework on Pusan Road, reflects on the impact the yoga classes have had: “We have a lot of kids with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), who are very hyper active. A lot of the children don’t know how to calm themselves down once they start getting hyper. Yoga was a great way for the kids to learn how to deal with their inner emotions. We also worked on a lot of breathing exercises while doing yoga as well. I still have a student that when upset, he remembers how we breathed in yoga and uses that as a way to calm himself down.”
In order to continue and expand this program, Open Spirit’s Nourishing Teachers/Strengthening Classrooms project invites the whole community to a fundraiser on Sunday May 7th. The event will feature flamenco music and dance, led by artists Eve Lorca, Antonio Tiriti and Anna Maria Villa. Miss Jeannie’s Catering and Nzuko will provide light refreshments.
“Together,” Rosanne Kates concludes, “we can do much to support our Framingham community.”
This May 7th fundraiser will take place from 3-5pm at Open Spirit, on the campus of Edwards Church, 39 Edwards Street in Framingham. For more information, preregistration, or directions see www.openspiritcenter.org or call 508-877-8162.