After years of working in different school settings, it became apparent to Andrea Thomas, founder of Growing Minds Incubator, that the demand for mental health services in children was on the rise. "With economic factors more frequently necessitating a dual income household, fewer parents are with their children in the after-school hours, which means there is more unsupervised time in which children easily to slip into unproductive habits," she noted. "This is valuable time for children to develop. In school, we nurture them with academia and social interactions for nearly eight hours a day, and then they go home alone, to decide on their own what to eat, watch, or do. Children need direction. Children need boundaries, and if there is no one present to aide in guiding them, the choices are often not productive nor safe."
So, in January, Andrea and her husband, James, started the Growing Minds Incubator.
The Growing Minds Incubator is a whole health initiative guiding children toward complete well-being through discovering their innate value. By being part of the incubator, learners actively "hatch" themselves on a journey to "me." Participants focus on a variety of healthy lifestyle choices regarding nutrition, exercise, peers, cultural perspectives, mindfulness and establishing community, all while spending their after-school hours in a fun, safe place.
Held on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Lincoln Elementary gym for children ages kindergarten-fifth grade, the program is off to a great start. Ironically, most of the current participants actually wouldn't be home alone -- their parents just felt it was a good investment to have their child participate.
"Our community has been hit hard recently with tragedy in our schools," Thomas said. "While you can never completely prevent such happenings, it is our hope to play a part in our community's rally around our kids by hatching children into intentional observers and proactive interpreters of the world around them. We are empowering the world's most valuable resource: people."
The incubator has received great support from teachers, parents, and administrators. However, there is a discrepancy between the interest in and need for this concept and the ability for parents to pay for the session.
In order to sustain the future of our community for generations to come, it is imperative we grow open, stable, and powerful minds to make positive, proactive, and responsible choices. "The litmus test that this program is working come from the kids," says Thomas. "Each week the children give an 'I am' statement at the end of class. The first week I heard things like, 'I am six' or 'I am a girl.' Four weeks later I was hearing 'I am brave' and 'I am grateful.' That is the proof of a growing and resilient mind!"
For more information about the program, to make a donation, or to register, visit www.growingmindsincubator.com or call Andrea Thomas 901-1936.