Allison Harrison Ogawa, a senior at Albuquerque Academy, says creating her service project of Yoga Youth Connection allowed her to bring the benefits of yoga to another audience at All Faiths, a community nonprofit.
“Yoga helps me with stress. It’s taught me to balance. When I practice, I open up to God and have a running dialogue,” she says. Sharing what she learned with others helped her learn more about the best parts of herself. It also teaches her perspective – her key to resilience, she says.
She knows her parents love her and support her, but she learned it wasn’t the same situation for children in her yoga class.
“One incredible story is a little boy who was definitely living under the poverty line,” she says. “When he came in, he had stress and tension built up inside him. It made him mad. He was not really sociable and always was scowling. It was amazing to watch his tension melt away when he stepped on the yoga mat. He could have a moment to relax and not worry. It was precious to be part of that.”
Dara Johnson, director of community and global citizenship at Academy, says through required and voluntary community service projects, students contribute thousands of hours of community service, including direct service, fundraising, raising awareness and advocacy.
When the student is matched with the right project, “students see the value in helping others. They learn that their time has value to others.”
At Sandia Prep, community service is voluntary but almost the entire student body – 95 percent – participates, says spokeswoman Celeste Walther. “It’s all student-directed and lead.”
The students volunteer at Roadrunner Food Bank, raise money for students at an elementary school they’ve adopted, volunteer at various local agencies and have cleaned kennels at Watermelon Ranch, a no-kill animal rescue, she says.
“Adolescence can be incredibly stressful, but with volunteering they do something with their friends and they see the fruits of their labor immediately. It mitigates the stress.”
Community service helps students up from low spots, she says.
“It helps because you are channeling your energy into something positive, that you can feel passionate about. It’s not just about me, me, me. It’s about me and other people. It’s about me and the world.
“They spend time looking beyond themselves and they see there are greater needs and challenges,” Walther says. “It puts everything into perspective.”