My name is Melinda Oliver, but I go by Young Yogi Mel. I grew up on the West side of St. Louis city, and I’m the creator of Young Yogi Youth Project in St. Louis City.
Young Yogi Youth Project seeks to teach teens kindness, healthy coping techniques, self-discipline, and respect for themselves and others. Through the practice of yoga, meditation, and mindful activities, we encourage young people to commit themselves to their own self-betterment and to be kind to others while they work towards theirs. I work with 30-45+ students 1-2 times a week at Vashon High School.
Essentially, what I’m doing is combating education inequality in the inner city with yoga and meditation. Education inequality is when kids who come from low-income neighborhoods receive a lower quality of education than kids who live in more affluent neighborhoods. Property taxes and income taxes from residents in every district are used to fund schools Poor neighborhood = Poor schools. This type of funding is disproportionately hurting minority students and inner city students.
Education is the great equalizer. It opens the door for knowledge, opportunity, and a better quality of life. Robbing a child of his/her access to equal education is damn near like robbing them of their future. Education inequality issue manifests itself in a number of ways: Lack of funding/resources, poor faculty retention rates, “militarized schools”. My kids are coming from high poverty, low income neighborhoods and a lot of them have difficult home lives. They’re already frustrated. They’re already on edge and rightfully so. Then, they get to school and nothing is better. They lash out. They fall behind. They fight. They drop out. They’re up against problems you wouldn’t believe, and they’re not even adults! It’s mentally taxing, it’s spiritually hurtful.
What I found was that I couldn’t’ take my student’s out of their situations, but what I could give them a place inside of themselves where they could go to heal. Yoga and meditation are scientifically proven to relieve stress, create a sense of calm/peace, promote focus, and lead to better decision making. Being a teenager is already hard enough. My program is focused on manifesting inner growth that could eventually lead to outer growth in self confidence and performance in school.
Besides Young Yogi Youth Project, I am working on creating a youtube channel teaching videos online and a lifestyle blog where I speak on living a positive, peaceful life for the modern day urban millennial. My ultimate goal is to make yoga and mindful living accessible to all communities because I believe in it’s power to change mindsets and therefore, change minds.
Be sure to stay up to date with Young Yogi Mel and all her future endeavors by following her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter @Youngyogimel for all three accounts.