This month, we're featuring a guest post by Dr. Stephanie Akoumany, the founder and CEO of Bloom. Bloom curates leadership, mindfulness, wellness, diversity, equity, inclusion, and conflict resolution conferences, programs, and online courses for schools, universities, nonprofits, and businesses.
Dr. Akoumany earned her Ph.D. in American Studies at University of Maryland, College Park in May 2018. She is a proud former Baltimore City Public Schools student and a graduate of the Bryn Mawr School.
She organized and hosted the 2019 Bloom Wellness Summit for girls and educators held here at JHSPH in partnership with the Center for Adolescent Health. We asked Dr. Akoumany to reflect on why wellness is an important component of a young person's development.
By Dr. Stephanie Akoumany
How Educators and Parents Can Help Girls Thrive
When you were in middle school who and what did you need to thrive?
Over the last 9 years, I have spoken with hundreds of students, and they consistently say they wish they had more meaningful relationships with the teens and adults in their lives. They want advice about navigating cyberbullying, peer pressure, dating, academics, implicit bias, microaggressions, and experiences with racial tokenism.
As educators how can we best help them? It’s imperative to provide meaningful and consistent opportunities for young people to share who they are and who they want to be and what resources they need to thrive. We also have to ask ourselves these same questions and understand what wellness means to us.
Research shows that when students consistently learn and practice mindfulness, social-emotional learning, and self-care, these strategies can help them feel more balanced and empowered when confronting everyday challenges.
Schools should aim to address the seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, intellectual, academic/occupational, physical, social, and spiritual. Princeton UMatter Wellness has several resources for adults and young people to learn more about wellness and create goals for achieving wellbeing.
My Take on Wellness
We feel most “well” when we believe we have the freedom to express ourselves, create our own realities, design our lives, make healthy decisions, embrace growth mindsets, take on empowering habits, cultivate honest relationships, and lead productive lifestyles that help us achieve our goals.
Optimal wellness is also being able to tap into our passions, rediscover who we are, follow our hearts, make mistakes, learn lessons, follow our instincts, and take calculated risks that fulfill our spirits. It starts with a belief that we are worthy.
Once faculty and administrators set their intentions to cultivate school cultures that support health and wellness, they just have to plant seeds of change (for programming, curriculum design, and student experience), and watch their communities bloom.
What Girls Say They Need
For my dissertation, I led a longitudinal[TM2] research study to learn about 55 black middle school girls' resilience strategies and perceptions of their life experiences and interpersonal relationships at a Baltimore City public school from 2010 to 2013. I found that when girls are given the time to engage in mindfulness meditation, storytelling, play, dance, art, self-expression, and community building they can build on the social-emotional learning, self-care, and resilience strategies they already have. The Bloom Wellness Summit helped girls to do just that.
2019 Bloom Wellness Summit
We brought 30 girls and 7 educators together from Baltimore City public, charter, & independent schools to engage in powerful discussions and activities about the effects of stress and how self-care, visual and performance art, yoga, music, storytelling, mindfulness meditation, and healthy living practices can help girls and educators live their best lives.
- Our guests learned how to deepen their mind-body connection through AfroFusion dance, meditation, and yoga.
- They engaged in powerful joint discussions about each other’s experiences, hopes, and dreams for creating inclusive school communities that support student and educator wellness goals.
- The girls and their educators learned how a tech industry CEO strives to create work life balance, prioritize wellness, and create products that contribute to women’s health.
- Our guests also played, created, shared, and listened to music from ukuleles. Participants shared their own stories, found their own rhythm, and used their voices as they learned frequently used chords on ukuleles.
Thank you to the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, Bryn Mawr School, Franklin Square Elementary/Middle School, and Friends School of Baltimore for sharing your stories, brainstorming solutions, and creating blueprints for girls’ wellness programs at your schools.
I would like to thank Dr. Terri Powell and Dr. Tamar Mendelson, and the entire Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health team for seeing Bloom’s vision and partnering with us to make the Bloom Wellness Summit a reality! You all are amazing!
Thanks to our workshop leaders Aliyah Moneá - Founder of Organic Movement Atelier, Ms. Jamila Sams, M.Ed. , Founder and CEO of Go to Ms. Sams, Dr. Tanesha Leathers-Braxton, Arion Long Founder and CEO of Femly, and musician Kathryn Para for leading such fun and engaging sessions!
Thanks to our amazing partners Honeygrow Charles Village, Pure Raw Juice Federal Hill, and Tropical Smoothie Cafe Halethorpe for helping us provide the girls and their teachers with healthy wraps, HoneyBars, and juice!
Thanks to Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland School of Nursing Professor Rhonda Smith Wright and Lynn Desamours for setting the tone for a wonderful day and helping us stay organized!
If you want to attend, speak at, or sponsor the 2020 Bloom Wellness Summit please visit https://justbloom.io/wellness-summit.
Bloom offers Bloom & Flow wellness programs and online courses for schools, non profits, and businesses. Bloom & Flow sessions will help participants have fun, express themselves, improve social emotional-learning skills, build community, set goals, and learn how to enter flow states so that they can tap into their creativity and productivity in and out of school.