Jack and Jill of America & Inner Strength Build Community

Inner Strength Staff Play Mindfulness Games and Create a Brave Space with Teens

Neanta Parnell – April 14, 2023 


What is blue, excited, and ready to share empowerment tools? 3 Inner Strength staff (in their ISE shirts) ready to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon with teens. And a great way to do that was to collaborate with the Bucks County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America to share mindfulness concepts and techniques with their teen leaders. On April 8th, hosted at the Fairless Hills YMCA, instructors Amelia Mraz and Neanta Parnell facilitated a mindfulness seminar under the guidance of director of communications and grant administration, Alyson Showell LaPorta.


So what is Jack and Jill, and how did it start? Marion Stubbs, a hardworking mother and Philadelphia resident, founded the organization in 1938 with a group of her closest friends in the hopes of establishing a “social club that provided social, cultural, and educational opportunities for youth between the ages of 2 and 19.” Her goal was to create a space that would connect her children with other local Black families. 1938 was a time when opportunities were severely limited for Black people, leaving the community to rely on one another for survival. From Marion’s conviction to make her dreams a reality, the organization has established 230 chapters in the United States and Germany and has “become one of the country’s most prestigious service organizations” created by and for Black families. The organization currently focuses on cultural and educational expansion, building sisterly relationships between mothers, and advocating for positive change in their community, just to name a few. These focal points manifest as teen program activities that teach cultural awareness, educational development, health (education and advocacy), civics (legislative advocacy and service), and social/recreational areas”. 


So how did we connect? Jack and Jill representative Lynn Seth reached out via Instagram to begin a conversation with Inner Strength staff. Impressed by Inner Strength’s mission, breadth of influence, research, and applied mindfulness via social emotional learning and systems thinking, Seth believed Jack and Jill would immensely benefit. 


So what did we do? Mraz and Parnell shared an engaging presentation designed as a mindfulness trivia game where teens divided themselves into teams to compete for prizes. Teens explored questions such as: What is self awareness and why is it important in reducing stress? 


The mindfulness concepts presented piqued curiosity in teens, which resulted in stimulating conversations and a safe space for students to share where they see mindfulness in the organization and their daily lives. Teens discussed teen brain development, what stressors are, the effect of stress in the Black  community, and how community building, self awareness, and helping culture are aspects of mindfulness. Teens also participated in breathwork exercises, where they were vocal about how the practice made them feel calm and more alert. 


 The teens walked away with a better understanding of what mindfulness is and how to use their mindfulness toolbox to reduce stress and communicate effectively. Youth were provided with goody bags and handouts that listed parent talking points about mindfulness key terms, de-stressing tips and techniques, mental health resources, and a QR code to the Inner Strength Vibe app. The event was one to remember and a moment of pride for Inner Strength staff to have collaborated with such a prestigious organization with a heartwarming mission to nurture youth in the Black community. 


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