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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

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