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Effectiveness With Diverse Groups of Youth

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Effectiveness With Diverse Groups of Youth

Editor's note: Clemson University has offered experiential education to South Carolina youth since 1934. Clemson's Youth Learning Institute (YLI) has played a vital role in the university's rich heritage in youth development, and currently serves more than 130,000 people through some 190 programs annually. YLI partners with numerous organizations to deliver its programs and has a licensing agreement to utilize HeartMath training, tools and technology. Marking the 10 years in YLI and HeartMath’s relationship, HeartMath Institute Director of Research Dr. Rollin McCraty recently discussed the partnership and future plans.

HeartMath has partnered with many institutions in the last 20 years to conduct research, deliver training programs and provide its products and community outreach services. One of its longest-running associations has been with the Youth Learning Institute (YLI) at Clemson University. YLI serves a broad spectrum of young people and adults in South Carolina, drawing on Clemson’s extensive resources, including staff, research and the knowledge of its faculty, to support program development.

“YLI is charged with accomplishing Clemson’s land-grant mission of outreach and service to South Carolina youth and families,” YLI Executive Director Jorge Calzadilla said. “That’s an important charge and we are privileged to have relationships with partners like the Institute HeartMath Institute, who not only believe in our mission, but offers tools and techniques that help our program participants improve their lives.”

YLI has identified numerous applications for employing HeartMath tools and technology. They have had a powerful impact on the organizations, professionals and especially the young people, who have used them.

Calzadilla said several members of YLI’s leadership team have been trained to instruct two key groups about HeartMath’s methods in workshops and training programs.

One group, he said, consists of providers of services to youth and families around South Carolina such as the state’s social services agencies, juvenile justice system, education department and other nonprofit entities.

“The other way we use HeartMath is with diverse populations of young people,” Calzadilla said. “We already have an existing cadre of programs that we operate, not just for at-risk kids, but typical kids and gifted-and-talented students. So we’ve successfully applied (HeartMath) tools and techniques in different forms and we’ve watch the difference it makes when youth practice these important skills.”

McCraty said it has been wonderful to see HeartMath’s partnership with YLI expand with new initiatives to introduce HeartMath to broad audiences of youth and adults.

“YLI programs demonstrate HeartMath’s effectiveness with diverse groups of youth,” he said, “whether they struggle with learning issues and behavior or are excelling academically. It has been rewarding to watch the success of these programs.”

HeartMath methods are being utilized at a new public charter middle school operated under a contract with YLI, Chief of Staff Stephen Lance said.

“We started our charter school last year with 48 students in sixth and seventh grade,” Lance explained, “and the HeartMath tools and techniques were a part of the curriculum from the beginning. … We’ve doubled the number of students, but the results from the first year are very promising.” The charter school was among a small number statewide to receive a perfect 100 on its report card.

“I don’t think there is any greater gift that we can provide youth,” McCraty said “than helping them not only understand their emotional nature, but also empowering them to be more intelligently self-directed and aligned with their heart intuition, which unfolds who they truly are.”

Calzadilla noted that there a number of new programs YLI was either exploring or in the process of developing that may incorporate Heartmath tools and techniques, among them a private, therapuetic behavior treatment and training program for boys.

Speaking about YLI’s expanded use of HeartMath applications, Lance said YLI incorporated the  Resilience Advantage® program into professional development training sessions for the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. The resounding response from agency leadership was that HeartMath helped correctional officers, social workers and teachers succeed in new ways in their work with juvenile offenders.

“The greatest benefit that we (YLI) hear all the time is when you have the young people that are learning the tools and techniques and you have buy-in from the staff that are working with the program, it changes the whole philosophy of how they administer the program,” Lance said.

Because of HeartMath training and tools, he said, “The culture changed between staff and the juveniles they serve as well as among staff at all levels within the agency. Department heads that really didn’t communicate well with each other began work together to come up with better practices for their programs with the young people.”

Lance said the former head of the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice, Judge Bill Byars, certainly took note of the benefits of using HeartMath with youth in the correctional setting. Byars was appointed in 2009 to take over the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

“Judge Byars actually brought the success of utilizing HeartMath training programs at DJJ with him to the SC Department of Corrections,” Lance said. “It was clear that he understood, first hand, the power of the program to generate real cultural change and organizational esprit de corps.”

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