Archive for December, 2010

YES! Fundraising Party

We celebrated the holiday season with a fundraising party for the YES! (Youth Empowerment Seminar) for Schools program. The YES! program is very successful and there is a growing demand for it. Two years ago we were teaching 1,600 students in the United States. Last year we taught close to 6,000 students. This year we are projecting 18,000 students. We are raising funds to support the rapid growth. Thank you everyone for your support!

Bill Herman honoring Dr. Santos .

It was an honor to start our fundraising evening with an inspiring talk by Dr. Mario Santos, the principal of East Side High School, Newark, New Jersey where we have been teaching the YES! Program since 2008. Dr. Santos grew up in Newark and graduated from East Side High School. He later became a teacher at the school and, for six years now, he is the principal.

Here is an excerpt from Dr Santos’ speech: “When I left East Side High School as a student, there were certain things that needed to happen that were missing when I was a student. We had the academics but we did not have the affective domain. We had a lot of wonderful teachers but we were never taught to deal with our emotions, to deal with our anger, to deal with our habits.

When I was a teacher at East Side this was also missing from the curriculum. Students did not know how to deal with their emotions. What we found was a lot of students depressed, angry and in some cases we had students committing suicide.

When I came back as the principal of East Side High School and I knew what was missing and I knew I now had the opportunity and the power to do something about it and bring to the curriculum and to the school, the affective piece that was missing from the school. When Art of Living, Aparna, showed up at my door, and there are no accidents in life and as she was explaining to me what they wanted to do in the school it was an “Aha!” moment. I said to myself, “Aha! Here’s what I have been looking for, for what these students need at East Side High School.”

This is my sixth year as a principal, and when I started there, when we walked the hallways we felt that tension of anger. We also heard it in the way the students spoke. Six years later, people say “You know Dr. Santos, there is something about this school. There is something different here.” The teachers who have been there are saying “Now there is a calmness, there is a sense of wanting to be at East Side High School.”  Substitute teachers on many occasions come back to my office and say “Please, please Dr. Santos, can I substitute here again? Can you put me on your priority list? I love this school.” And the students, I’ve never seen this, I was walking and a student opened the door for me (laughter). I said “Oh my God!”.

The Youth Empowerment Seminar is in action and it gets great results and we love it and I can’t spread the word enough. I want to and I certainly envision that the word of the YES! Program not only stays at East Side High School but goes all through Newark and to all of New Jersey.

Because in New Jersey and I assume it’s just like the rest of the country, we are in a crisis. We are in a serious crisis of students not understanding the art of love, of respecting themselves, being able to understand that they have the power to decide to be great human beings. And what I see and what we experience is, we see too many students deciding failure instead of success because of all the variables that they have to live with in the community and in the home.

There is a serious need, there is a call for the Youth Empowerment Seminar and programs just like this in every school in the United States, if not in every school in the world. With that I say “Thank you!” I am humble and my complete gratitude, for you, for the Art of Living for being in my life and in my school and certainly I hope for the best that the program will continue to grow.”

Annelies Richmond
speaking at the fundraiser

Annelies Richmond, YES! and YES!+ program director spoke about the importance of the program. She said, “The premise of the Youth Empowerment Seminar and all the programs that are offered through Art of Living and IAHV is a sense of connectedness and belongingness and this is what most teenagers lack nowadays.”  Annelies is based in New York City and regularly teaches in the schools there. She said, “The graduation rate right now in the greater New York area is 50%. So it is so important what we are doing, bringing a sense of belonging and instilling human values into our children.”

Bill Herman, YES! program director talked about how the program brings out the human values in every student and allows them to fulfill their potential. He said, “If we can clear away the stress from our minds then naturally all these qualities come up: like patience, understanding, responsibility. We never take a few minutes to just relax and completely let go. When we teach these techniques then the young people find there is something peaceful inside. It feels so good. It feels like coming home. There is happiness that comes up.”

We watched a video by David Rapoport of the students, teachers and Dr. Santos of East Side High School talking about their experiences. One of the students, Tariq, shared how it helps him relax. He said the breathing really helps and his stamina has definitely increased. Dr. Santos talked about how he has seen Tariq really transform and he gives the credit to the YES! program. Tariq has become an amazing basketball player and is currently ranked sixth in New Jersey. Dr. Santos said that Tariq used to be an angry child. Dr Santos said, “Inside that young man is an amazing human being with a lot of potential.”

After all the inspiring speeches and experience sharing we ended the evening with dinner and some wild dancing. The New Jersey team had fun organizing. We invite your partipication! Congratulations to the team including Alka Kamra, Aparna Chawla, Abitha Narayanan and the many volunteers! Congratulations to the YES! teachers Narciso Cruz, Michael Stipkala, Joey Repice and Hitesh Monga who are doing such a great job teaching! And congratulations to Bill Herman and Annelies Richmond for pioneering this program!
blog post on YES! at Newark


Read Full Post »

Eating for Enlightenment

A culinary experience for complete wellness!
by Somya Ramrakhyani

Cooking class in Denville, New Jersey

“We are what we eat!” From a 7 pound baby at birth to a 130 pound adult, our body is built on our diet. Food is a direct transmitter of energy and affects our physical, mental and emotional state. One of the most enjoyable experiences in life, food can also be a significant contributor to our wellness.

To understand how food affects our mental and physical well-being, we recently hosted Eating for Enlightenment, a two and half hour cooking class based on the principles of Ayurveda.

the food!

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine. “Ayu” means life and “Veda” means knowledge. Knowledge of Life is Ayurveda. Ayurveda has three main focuses: healing, prevention and health care. Ayurveda categorizes food in to three categories: Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Each category of food has a different effect on the body and the mind.

In the cooking class, the participants learned about the basics of Ayurveda and how to apply them to cooking in everyday life. They learned to use grains, vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs for healthy digestion and elimination of toxins. They also experienced the relationship between the food we consume and the effects on the state of mind and body.

The instructor, Divya Kanchibhotla, shared delicious and healthy vegetarian recipes and valuable tips about eating to keep mind and body healthy. In her warm and informal style, she made the class an educational, enjoyable and a very delicious experience

the instructor, Divya Kanchibhotla

A scientist by profession, Divya is a meditation and yoga instructor with the Art of Living Foundation and travels nationally teaching yoga and meditation. Her interest in Ayurveda sparks from her passion for holistic living and exploring the connection between our breath, food habits, body and mind. A self taught student of Ayurveda, she has planned menus for many residential meditation retreats with 20-40 members over the last 4 years.

Here are some experiences from recent classes held in New Jersey!

“Awesome! I loved the informality, the warmth and the tons of great information. I learnt about foods that are healing for dosha imbalances. I never used hing or curry leaves before. I would recommend more classes like this. The khichdi was incredible. I could eat it all day long.”

“I really enjoyed the workshop and the company of the people who were there. The information was very clear and concise and I had a number of questions that were answered. Would definitely recommend and further study of ayurvedic principles.”

“Wonderful! I learnt about the compatibility of the foods we eat, why the time you eat each meal and the order in which you eat it is so important. I learned more about the powerful properties of spices and herbs and the way they can neutralize or alter foods that may typically be aggravating to you dosha. Everyone’s questions were great and I feel I am leaving with information I need to pursue ayurveda further”

“I felt very welcomed and comfortable. It was a good opportunity to relax and reflect upon living my best possible life.”

I believe that this class is a must for anyone looking to take care of their and their family’s health! And learn some delicious cooking. Be a part of this enlightening workshop and surely you will have some food for thought! To host a class in your area, please contact Somya Ramrakhyani @

Here is the small piece about our classes. …


Read Full Post »

YES! students at the East Side High School in Newark, New Jersey

The YES! (Youth Empowerment Seminar) empowers students to reach their full potential by teaching them concrete tools to clear their mind, sharpen their focus, expand their comfort zone and constructively confront challenges. The program is found to be very effective and is rapidly expanding since 2008 when it was first introduced. This school year 4,000 students have already been taught across the US, including in Chicago, San Francisco and New York.

Teachers Michael Stipkala and Narciso Cruz with students

In New Jersey, the YES! program was initially taught to 25 students in East Side High School in Newark in early 2008. The program has grown and in the school year (2009-2010) YES! was offered to the entire school through the physical education department.

Teachers, Michael Stipkala and Joey Reprise with students

The YES! program complements the regular school curriculum of math, science, literature etc. by teaching children the critical skills of managing their emotions, recognizing personal strengths and nurturing a sense of connectedness. The combination of breathing, yoga, meditation techniques and interactive group processes is effective in relieving stress. The program uncovers the basic human values of friendliness, responsibility, enthusiasm, curiosity, creativity and joy that are already there in each and every child.

It is a holistic approach to education. It brings in the social and emotional learning that enhances the regular curriculum. The calmness brought by the techniques helps students concentrate better on their studies. They feel more confident, take more initiative, smile more and get along better with their parents and peers.

Students doing yoga

It promotes inner harmony and they are more in tune with themselves, as well as outer harmony so they are more at ease in relationships. The awareness brought by the program empowers them to go outside their comfort zone and really achieve their innate potential while being the happy children they are meant to be.

Here are some recent photos from the YES! program at East Side High School in Newark, New Jersey. Thank you to David Rapoport for the photos!

YES! students at the East Side High School

The program is expanding rapidly. We invite your participation. Learn more at our fund-raising dinner and holiday party.

Check out
Youth Empowerment Seminar for Schools website

Donate on-line to YES for Schools Program (to direct funds to New Jersey schools, write “New Jersey” in the memo field)


Read Full Post »