The Allstate Foundation’s dedication to youth empowerment has been a core pillar of its mission for more than 15 years. Partnerships with nonprofits such as Inner Explorer help The Allstate Foundation empower young people with skills to succeed in school, work and life.
Inner Explorer, a nonprofit organization bringing audio-guided mindfulness programs into K-12 classrooms, was founded in 2011 by Laura Bakosh, Ph.D. and Janice Houlihan M.Ed. Having experienced the positive results of daily mindfulness practice as adults, they realized there was an opportunity to bring these benefits to young people. They developed an evidence-based program of audio-guided practices for educators to easily implement in the classroom to reduce stress and promote learning. To date, the Inner Explorer program has been used in more than 39,000 classrooms by more than 1 million students.
Inner Explorer’s programs give young people the opportunity to build skills such as stress-management, resilience and emotional regulation; important social and emotional learning (SEL) skills that The Allstate Foundation believes – and research shows – are crucial to a student’s success, especially in times of crisis. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced school closures and a shift to virtual learning, both Inner Explorer and The Allstate Foundation saw the importance in equipping youth with tools to deal with stress and uncertainty inside and outside of the classroom.
Thanks to the support of The Allstate Foundation, the Inner Explorer-Home app is available to families at no cost. The app allows families to access daily, 5-10 minute mindfulness practices at home that help young people cope with stress and anxiety, and teaches them to be present and focused as they learn new things. The audio-guided practice is available in both English and Spanish.
“The team at The Allstate Foundation is really remarkable with their ‘can-do’ approach. When COVID caused schools to close, we went to them and said: ‘Here’s what’s happening. What do you guys think?’ and they were right there with us, brainstorming, trying to figure out a way to help kids continue developing these important SEL skills, and that is just not the case at a lot of organizations,” says Bakosh about Inner Explorer’s partnership with The Allstate Foundation. “I feel like there’s already great momentum in our work together, a sense that ‘we can do this and make a difference in the lives of millions of kids and families,’ and that willingness to jump in is really inspiring.”
Parents and educators alike have raved about the benefits of mindfulness and Inner Explorer to unlock children’s potential. An educator in Wooster, OH says, “Now, more than ever, it is important for our students to find that inner calm. With so many uncertainties surrounding our students and their families, anxious thoughts can build up, questions can arise, and feelings of being completely overwhelmed can take over. Taking a moment before each Zoom meeting to notice our thoughts, practice deep breathing, and focus on all that is right in our world was incredibly helpful.”
To Bakosh, it’s one thing to hear about the benefits of the program from others, but it’s another thing to witness the change and see the impact on the children firsthand. For her, this is the most gratifying part of what Inner Explorer does.
“Witnessing the transformation in children is awe-inspiring. I have literally thousands of stories of massive transformation from children who are in some of the most difficult environments. We are grateful for The Allstate Foundation’s support!”
Inner Explorer’s mindfulness trainings have been shown to reduce disruptive behavior by 63% and increase scores in key subjects like math, reading, and science by 20%. Their programs are proven to be effective and thanks to the mobile app, students are continuing to reap the benefits from the safety of their homes.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Inner Explorer’s mobile app has been downloaded in more than 15,000 households nationwide, ensuring that learning does not have to stop for students just because school has.
Inner Explorer continues to be a trailblazer in the arena of social and emotional learning and The Allstate Foundation is proud to support them.