Research in Brief: Equitable, Culturally Responsive & Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Practice

By: Aloïse Phelps


  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a research article situating equity in mindfulness practice within trauma-informed principles (i.e., safety, trust/transparency, & collaboration/mutuality) in the classroom.
Source: Canva

With the increase in research supporting the use of mindfulness in schools, educators have started implementing mindfulness interventions within their classrooms. However, limited research has investigated the intersection of mindfulness and trauma-informed care. As a result, teachers are implementing practices without centering equity and racial justice. Without recognizing the root cause of students’ distress, the authors argue educators can unintentionally inflict harm. This article highlights strategies for incorporating mindfulness into middle school classrooms in affirming, culturally-responsive, and trauma-informed ways. Specifically, the authors argue for situating equity in mindfulness practice within trauma-informed principles (i.e., safety, trust/transparency, & collaboration/mutuality) in the classroom.


  • School mental health professionals are in a unique position to help re-center the practice of mindfulness in the classroom.
  • In educating staff about the importance of culturally responsive practices, SMHPs are able to prevent harm through mindfulness.
  • Additionally, SMHPs are equipped to train school staff on improved practices that can be implemented in the classroom, which can create a more equitable environment for students.

Equity Considerations

  • Goal of shifting to trauma-informed, equitable, and culturally responsive approach is to allow students a safe space to process, examine, and heal.
  • SMHPs must use an intersectional approach when considering cultural identities.

Practitioner Tips

  • Invite students to tap into what makes them feel safe as a means of affirming and validating their experiences. Create a toolbox of these strategies with students that they can use when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Leveraging culture, by naming and engaging practices of finding peace used in a variety of cultures, can build trustworthiness and transparency into the practice of mindfulness.
  • Allowing students to opt-in (instead of opt-out) provides an opportunity to develop skills in autonomy and engage in mindfulness at a level they are comfortable with.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to collaborate and offer feedback on mindfulness activities and practices. This allows students to draw on their own cultural knowledge and creates a mutual effort to understand and practice mindfulness together. School mental health providers can encourage teachers to listen to the feedback with an open mind.  


Duane, A., Casimir, A. E., Mims, L. C., Kaler-Jones, C., & Simmons, D. (2021). Beyond deep breathing: A new vision for equitable, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed mindfulness practice. Middle School Journal, 52(3), 4-14.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Aloïse Phelps is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

Refugee Youth Voices: Journey from Afghanistan to Kyrgyzstan

By: Geeti, recent college graduate with Political Science/Cons. Pre-law & Criminology degree

This is the second post in a the Refugee Youth Voices series that is uplifting the voices of young people with refugee- and immigrant-backgrounds.


  • This post is part of the Refugee Youth Voices blog series in partnership with the Refugees Pursuing Education And Community Excellence (R_PEACE) coalition.
  • Students from R_PEACE are sharing their experiences from having a refugee background and now being in the United States.
  • Geeti talks about her life in Afghanistan before her family had to relocate to Kyrgyzstan.
Source: Jennifer Mann

My name is Geeti, and I’m originally from Afghanistan. My family and I left our home country in 2007 when I was 8 years old. We temporarily relocated to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan before moving to the USA in 2014. The motivation behind sharing my experience is to shed light on the fact that people like me do not come to the USA solely for a better life; it is primarily for our safety, as our lives were in great danger. I hope to reach a diverse audience because I want to be a voice for others facing similar challenges.

My Homeland of Afghanistan

Now, let me transport you to life in Afghanistan.

Life in Afghanistan was beautiful. I have beautiful memories of our family gatherings and the warmth of our culture.

Let me share a specific example: my grandparents’ houses. They had two houses, one in the city and the other in a village. Because my grandfather was a farmer, both houses had spacious yards and extensive gardens. They cultivated a variety of flowers, vegetables, and fruits. Life with our families and cousins together in our home country was truly beautiful. When we visited our grandparents’ houses, which was very often, we had the most wonderful and unforgettable times of our lives. Now that I think about it, it was like being in paradise—the most beautiful houses with enchanting gardens that filled the air with fragrant aromas, and kids playing around while the adults had heartwarming conversations together.

However, life also presented us with overwhelming challenges. As the situation in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate, my parents made the difficult decision to flee the country in order to safeguard our family from the escalating danger. I remember as a child when my father would instruct my sister and me to walk separately, one of us ahead of the other, so that if one was kidnapped, the other could escape. Those words are engraved in my memory forever.

Journey of Survival in Kyrgyzstan

Leaving behind everything we had in our homeland, we began on a journey of survival in Kyrgyzstan. We had to adapt to a new language, learn a different culture, and integrate into a society that was not our own. Challenges, like extremely cold winter nights and not having enough food, tested how tough we were.

Slowly but surely, we overcame these obstacles. We became proficient in Russian and Kyrgyz, excelled in school, and achieved numerous awards. During this time, my father’s business in Kyrgyzstan also began to flourish.

However, despite our achievements, we faced limitations in Kyrgyzstan because we were not native Kyrgyz or Russian. This eventually led us to make the decision to move to the United States when our case was accepted by the USCIS.

What I Learned

Our time in Kyrgyzstan significantly shaped my worldview. It showed me how important it is:

  • To be able to adjust to changes,
  • Keep going even when things are tough, and
  • To never give up, no matter the challenges we face.

My parents taught us that no matter where life takes you, with determination and hard work, you can overcome the most overwhelming challenges.

Stay tuned to this Refugee Youth Voices blog series to read more from Geeti on her experience in moving to the USA and how she is thriving!

Please note that pseudonyms are being used to protect the student writers and their family’s safety as part of this Refugee Youth Voices blog series.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Geeti is part of a group of college students from refugee-backgrounds that formed a coalition called R_PEACE (Refugees Pursuing Education And Community Excellence). R_PEACE creates content by using a critical literacy perspective, telling their counter-stories regarding access and entry into college, and disseminating information. The goal is to increase access to college for other refugees via three avenues: live speaking events in non-profit organizations serving refugees, a multilingual brochure, and through social media.

Supporting Emerging Artists & Youth Development Globally

By: Joyce Chow


  • March is Youth Art Month and I am revisiting a non-profit, I AM Art House, that I founded.
  • In this blog, I emphasize why art education is important and how virtual art classes may be an option to get young people involved in the arts.
  • I share some resources and strategies for getting young people involved in the arts that all youth-serving adults should consider.
Source: Joyce Chow

In 2019, I founded a non-profit, called I AM Art House, that supports emerging artists and youth development globally. Since March is Youth Art Month, I wanted to share more about why using art as a tool for empowerment is important for young people.

I AM Art House

One of the goals of this non-profit, and many other art-based organizations, is to organize exhibitions, workshops, and fundraisers to showcase art and raise awareness of the importance of art education. We host art classes for students of all ages and international exhibitions.

Also, our fellowship program is designed to guide recent university graduates (regardless their chosen field of study in university) as they navigate the uncertain waters of starting and sustaining their own art businesses. I AM Art House has hosted several international virtual art exhibitions with several young and emerging artists.

Art Education

If you are a parent and your kid may be interested in art, there are many avenues that provide opportunities to explore art. If you don’t have a local art scene in your community, I’d encourage you to look at online options!

I have taught virtual art classes, and try to personalize them as much as possible. Each week there is a “teaching assistant” who gets to choose what we draw. During a session, one of my students chose a cute milkshake. We usually use reference photos we look through together via Google but sometimes the kids have their parents send me photographs they would like us to use.

Teaching virtual art classes to kids has been such a blessing to the youth and to me. See this session as an example. My students teach me so much, and they are my pride and joy!

Get Youth Involved in Art

Throughout my blog I have talked about all the different mediums of art from design to culinary. I think art can be a tool for empowering youth to be creative, and youth-serving adults should provide opportunities for exposure and growth in all the arts.

Here are some art-based resources or tools that may be of interest to use with youth:

  • Check out some Youtube channels for fun tutorials, like the Art for Kids Hub.
  • Consider some free or low-priced sites that offer art classes online, like Art Projects for Kids.
  • There are also some organizations that have regular and informational newsletters on opportunities and ideas! Consider learning more about Kids & Art, the Arts Fund, and Arts Ignite
  • I also suggest looking into your local schools, libraries, and community centers for opportunities. Consider going to live music and finding other ways to increase exposure to the arts!

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: After earning a master in the History of Design at Oxford University and a Graduate Diploma in Art and Design from the Royal College of Art in London, I returned to my alma mater the University of Virginia to pursue a M.Ed. in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science and to serve as a University Advancement Ambassador. I founded I AM Art House back in 2019 to support youth development initiatives and emerging artists globally. I am passionate about teaching art, music, and sports classes to kids.