Nonprofit brings skills of resiliency to at-risk children

The Silence Foundation, an Oklahoma City nonprofit, is implementing The Resilience Project with students at several local schools. The project combines mindfulness, image-based journaling and sharing circles to help kids learn the traits of resiliency.
by Heather Warlick Published: March 17, 2013

During a recent session at Positive Tomorrows, Webb and O'Connor led an interactive discussion with the students in which they talked about some signals of resilience in nature.

One boy raised his hand and gave an example of how a lizard can regrow its tail if it's severed.

“There's a lot of resilience in nature,” Webb agreed. “Things come back in nature. Trees may look kind of dead right now, but we know that in a few weeks they're going to be green again, right?”

The kids were asked to choose a photo of an animal and to think and write short poems about how their animal uses the traits of resiliency in its life. After they finished writing, the group formed a circle to share some of their poems.

“I am a tiger and my greatist (sic) danger is humans and hunters,” wrote Devven, one of the students. “And my greatist strength is meat and sharp claws. And my number one resilient trait is independence. Also humor. Run to get meat.”

After each child who wasn't too shy to read his or her poem aloud, the circle of children applauded and gave praise.

O'Connor realized the need for resilience training during her career teaching at-risk teens.

“I just knew that they needed some help because at that point in their lives, they'd failed so many times. I noticed they were without hope,” she said.

“So I just felt it important to start empowering people with these traits. Life is going to be hard for all of us, but it doesn't have to be that thing that slams us.”

Webb and O'Connor tested The Resilience Project for two years at Putnam City Academy with about 100 at-risk teens.

In addition to Positive Tomorrows, Webb and O'Connor take the project to Boulevard Academy (an alternative high school in Edmond), Putnam City Academy and Mission Academy.

The two plan to hire and train several new staff members this summer to take the program to more schools, as the foundation has a waiting list.

by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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I just knew that they needed some help because at that point in their lives, they'd failed so many times. I noticed they were without hope. So I just felt it important to start empowering people with these traits. Life is going to be hard for all of us, but it doesn't have to be that thing that slams us.”

Cathy O'Connor,
Resilience Project facilitator

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