Open Minds grows as young people expand their social circle

“It is easier to raise strong children than to fix broken adults”, motivated by the words of Frederick Douglass, a local teacher and yoga instructor has expanded his children’s programs

A new youth retreat encourages children to “open their minds and connect to their hearts” this summer.

Offered by Open Minds (OM) Youth, the Just Be YOU Retreat is aimed at young people aged 13+ and includes daily breathing and yoga exercises, meditations, arts and crafts, learning opportunities, self-expression, nature walks, a vegetarian lunch and snacks throughout the day, a pottery lesson and a mini weekend photo shoot.

“It’s a really tough age, there’s not much for kids to do at this stage of life,” she said. “A lot of these kids have been online and not making friends throughout the school year.”

The first-ever all-inclusive week-long retreat took place July 4-8 at Studio Seventy Four, a studio and event space in downtown Collingwood. D’Aloisio said the timing of the retirement for the first week of summer was intentional.

“It allows them to make those friendships early in the summer so they have someone to connect with,” she said. “And it’s in a safe setting.”

D’Aloisio also collaborated with The Wild Stand to provide healthy, vegetarian lunches for children each day, and the retreat included a day at Hello Pottery where they could make their own bowls and mugs.

D’Aloisio spent the last year developing the program for this retreat and finding out what kinds of activities would be most beneficial for young people of this age, and she said she was so relieved to have finally been able to give her life.

“Most of these girls just want to be heard, they just want to be seen and have a safe environment to share what they’ve taken away,” she said.

D’Aloisio founded Open Minds in the fall of 2020 with the intention of integrating mindfulness, meditation and movement into the lives of children from an early age, and teaching them that there is more to learn beyond the classroom.

A certified yoga teacher and instructor in Ontario, D’Aloisio temporarily lost her job when COVID hit, but she was determined to focus on young people and teach them the lessons she feels are most important.

“Most kids have been so disconnected lately, so I want to help them reconnect with their bodies and with nature,” she said.

Growing up, D’Aloisio struggled with school. She failed both the EQAO tests in elementary school and the literacy test in grade 10, and was considered a student with a disability throughout college, receiving extra accommodations for all of her exams. .

“I never fit into the school system, and I would never want that to happen to another child, to let that negative self-talk continue into adolescence and into adulthood,” D’Aloisio said. .

His motivation is to make sure today’s kids never feel that way.

“It’s much easier to raise strong children than to fix broken adults,” D’Aloisio said, referencing a quote from author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Its inaugural offering was a five-week after-school program that took place in the fall of 2020 for children aged four to six. She always loved working with younger children and thought it would be a good start, but ultimately she wanted to be able to get her message across to children of all ages.

“I think it was really beneficial to get these kids moving and open their minds to this stuff, but some of the activities, lessons and content were too advanced for the younger ones,” she said. “For that older age gap, they are able to get and receive more from the programs that I run.”

His dream is to eventually organize the retreat twice a summer, for two different age groups.

She is currently in the process of creating another retreat which she will lead the week before the start of the school year, as well as after-school programs for children aged nine to twelve on Mondays and for those aged 13 and over on Thursdays in September. and October.

“Young people… They just need it,” D’Aloisio said. “Whatever story they tell themselves, I want to help them rewrite it. If we can help them regain their confidence and self-esteem, they will be unstoppable. »

About Shirley A. Tamayo

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