Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning

14-year-old Adam Avin on “Improving Well-Being and Mental Health in Our Schools”

July 26, 2019

This episode is also available on YouTube.

Our special guest today is Adam Avin, the founder of Wuf Shanti[1], a company that promotes health, wellness, and happiness in children, and encourages peace and positivity. Wuf Shanti was created by a kid for other kids, and started when Adam was younger, with his illustrations, voice and his dream to make a difference in the world. He shares his character, Wuf Shanti, with children across the planet, in the hopes of guiding them down a path of peace and positivity with his programs. His Wuf Shanti videos are in hospitals around the globe, helping children smile while they heal from their cancer treatments and in 25,000 schools across the country. I first met Adam this past Spring when he was hosting the Mindful Kids Peace Summit[2] (a five-day summit that I was a part of) that brought awareness to the need for immediate change in our schools today. It was incredible for me to see his knowledge and enthusiasm for social emotional learning (he understands the competencies just as well as the experts he interviewed) and his experience with mindfulness and meditation as he interviewed over 70 experts!

Welcome Adam! It’s wonderful to speak with you. 

Q1: For those who have not yet seen your TEDTALK[3] where you explain this in detail, can you give us some background on your company, what exactly Wuf Shanti does, and the reason why did you started this company? 

Q2: I mentioned in the intro that you were a host of the Mindful Kids Peace Summit this year and interviewed over 70 experts. I know to do this well, you need to research your expert in order to ask questions and be able to speak on the topic you are asking them about.  What did you learn from interviewing these experts, and hosting this summit?

Q3: Watching your interview with the teacher from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS (Chelsea Briggs) was a part of the summit that I will never forget, since one of the main reasons I got involved with this work back in the late 90s was because of the Columbine tragedy (April 20, 1999). This is going back before you were born, I was working with a group of 12 teens who created a pin to honor the 13 lives lost in that tragedy. I kept the pin to remind me of why I am doing this work, and last year, I had the chance to meet Darryl Scott the father of Rachel Scott, the first teen shot that day, and he took a pin to remind him of the ripple effect that his daughter has had on the world. The Parkland shooting (not far from where you live) was 17 lives lost, the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook (20 children and 6 adults).  How did speaking with the students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland impact you and your work?

ADAM: Mentioned that this event inspired him to work harder because the statistics[4] show the need is imminent for change. We agree as the research shows that “80% of children who struggle with mental health issues receive no treatment.”[5] 

Q4: We saw “student voice” emerge after the Parkland shooting and it remains a concept, I know schools are placing a focus on. How has Wuf Shanti helped you to bring “student voice” to the forefront? What do your friends think about your work? Have you helped any of your friends with success or coping strategies?

Q5: On a lighter note, it was fun for me to watch your promoting the summit, especially when Maroon 5 noticed you on social media. How do you think bringing in a celebrity helped to spread the word and your goals for the summit?

Q6: What’s your vision for Wuf Shanti? Where would you like to see your programs go?

ADAM: His vision is to have mental health programs in all schools K-12 for students and educators. Educators need stress reduction techniques as well.[6] 

Q7: What final advice do you have for anyone listening to bring for mindfulness into their daily lives? (the tips you gave at the end of your TED TALK were perfect). 

Thank you for your time Adam. We think you are wise beyond your years and doing incredible work to make an impact spreading social and emotional learning and mindfulness around the country and world. For a 14-year-old, you’ve accomplished more than many adults. I hope you are proud of your hard work and know that you will keep going to do some incredible things. 

RESOURCES:

https://wufshanti.com/resources/

https://wufshanti.com/resources/mindful-kids-peace-summit/

https://wufshanti.com/sflpbs-wuf-shanti-schedule-2017-2018/

https://wufshanti.com/resources/kids-association-mindfulness-education/

https://wufshanti.com/giving-back/

https://wufshanti.com/research/

Stay Tuned for the second release of the Mindful Kids Peace Summit coming Sept. 23, 2019.

https://wufshanti.com/resources/mindful-kids-peace-summit/

RESOURCES:

[1] www.wufshanti.com

[2] https://www.mindfulkidspeacesummit.com

[3] “Mindfulness in Education to Lower Stress and Violence” by Adam Avin, TEDxYouth@KC June 10, 2019. https://www.tedxkc.org/adam-avin-kcyouth/

[4] Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-24 (Center for Disease Control) cdc.org

[5] Dr. Daniel Amen (Thrive by 25 Online Course) https://www.brainmdhealth.com/brain-thrive

[6] “Teacher Stress and Health” by Greenberg MT, Brown JL, and Abenavoli RM  (September 2016) https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2016/07/teacher-stress-and-health.html

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