In September this year, Teach For Australia launched the Alumni Community Fund (ACF) to provide financial grants to the TFA community for initiatives driven by our Alumni, Associates and Teach to Lead Fellows. The funds were raised by the Alumni Gala Committee with proceeds from the 2016 Alumni Gala. Teach For Australia provided assistance by supporting the Alumni Grants Committee with the distribution of the funds. Grant recipients were announced in November 2017.
Yvette Kennedy teaches at Taminmin College in the Northern Territory, about half an hour from Darwin. “According to internal data, approximately fifteen percent of Taminmin College students suffer from anxiety or related mental health conditions,” Yvette says. “As a result, disruptive behaviours and other serious incidents are an ongoing challenge at the school.”
To help improve the mental well-being of the school students, Yvette will implement an on-site Yoga & Mindfulness Program with funds from the Alumni Community Fund. “Whilst Taminmin does offer in-school counselling, there is only one part-time school counsellor and more than a thousand students,” she explains. The school is “doing the best possible with the time and funding available,” but the Yoga & Mindfulness Program will help support current initiatives.
“The Wellbeing Leader, Carmel Le Lay, has been incredibly supportive towards me running yoga at the school and believes that movement is what our students need,” Yvette says. “Along with yoga, the school has also introduced judo as an elective for Year 7 students after a successful trial of a judo program with male students having trouble with aggression and self-control.”
The new yoga program will help students develop a better understanding of themselves and their emotions, and reduce the caseload for the in-school counsellor. “It also teaches mindfulness strategies that allow them to fully engage and participate in learning activities.”
As something that’s helped in Yvette’s own mental well-being, she wants to offer that same space to her students. “It’s helped me a lot to manage my own anxiety during difficult times, which I think is part of the reason I feel so motivated to share yoga with the students at Taminmin – I know just how beneficial it can be.”
Last year, The Australian reported on private schools building expansive wellness centres – but having a space to practice meditation does not need to be a costly endeavour to be effective.
“Being in a rural area, the school and students do not have access to well-being providers or yoga programs that other, more advantaged urban schools may have access to,” Yvette explains. Yet, with minimal investment, “this is a very inexpensive way to make a lot of difference to a great number of students.”
In the future, Yvette hopes to also offer a “Box ‘n’ Breathe” program at the school. “It’s a combination of boxing and yoga and more yoga /mindfulness classes to more students,” she explains.
“I practice yoga regularly and have done since I was about 17,” Yvette says. “Life is so hectic and busy and I think it’s so valuable to make time in your day/week to really slow down, breathe and relax – away from your phone, away from your to-do list, away from all of life’s other distractions. These days we’re all so independent and isolated – often lonely – which causes all sorts of problems, so it’s nice to be part of a community. Yoga can be that source of community for people too.”
Pictured above, Teach For Australia Associates at Taminmin College. Back from left: Andrew Weekes, Monique Langley-Freeman, Yvette Kennedy, Zach O’Connor. Front from left: Patrick Fleming, Jono Chow.