The Journey to Mindful Kindful YOUniversity
Hi! I am Dee DiGioia (di JOY uh). I am a wholistic educator who finds great joy in helping others discover and understand the inner workings of the mind and body, while cultivating the life-skills and positive habits for emotional, physical, and social well-being. The practice of mindfulness is integrated into all aspects of my life, both personally and professionally, and I am coaching others to do the same.
In 2017 I was inspired to launch Mindful Kindful YOUniversity (MK YOU) to share mindfulness and well-being programs to make a positive impact on the lives of children, and adults, in our schools and communities while addressing the challenges youth (and adults) face in school and in life, which interfere with learning, relationships, and mental health & well-being.
As life continues to re-shape and transform, so do my programs. In 2022, I needed to return to working full time (in the traditional sense) which meant letting go of my in-school programs and putting the development of my virtual “Mindful Explorers” youth program on pause. In so doing, I was reminded of the challenges of working in the public education system and and my focus has turned to offering Sound Journeys, Drum Circles, and Retreats for self-care, relaxation, and healing for adults.
I am grateful to have the experiences, resources, and training to share the wisdom, science, and evidence-based practices of mindfulness, movement, and social emotional learning which has proven over and over to lead to greater resilience, more joy, and peace in life ~ mindful, kindful, and peaceful.
To understand how Mindful Kindful YOUniversity came to life, is to look at what came before it.
My life and its experiences are the very fabric of the program I am deeply committed to. As an educator in schools, the skills I am passionate about sharing with youth are the ones I see are missing from our school curriculums and the missing piece (and peace) in educating the whole child. Personally, I wish I had learned these skills as a young child who struggled with severe anxiety and complex childhood trauma. (See my blog, “I See You!”.)
As an educator in schools, I understand, firsthand, the challenges of stress and burnout working in public education and know far too many fellow educators who feel the same. I am equally passionate about sharing these skills with educators, as well as with parents, to support them in their challenging roles. Personally, these skills and practices would have been a lifeline for me as an educator some time ago, and as a parent, for navigating depression, preventing burnout, and dealing with the stresses in life.
Through my work in supporting children with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges, I eventually discovered how positively impactful and transformative mindfulness and emotional intelligence life skills were for my students, as well as for myself. For a period of time I left behind the stresses and challenges of working full-time in special education in the public school setting to launch Mindful Kindful YOUniversity in order to offer programs for youth, educators, parents, or anyone seeking the essential life skills for well-being. I had to return back to work in public education in 2022 due to life circumstances but continue to offer services geared towards adults in my community.
Now that I am more prepared and equipped with tools for resilience for myself and my students, I am returning to full time work as an SLP in August 2022. Some of my programs will be discontinued, while other programs and services as seen on this site will continue.
I teach the skills I wish I learned growing up, and the skills that would have helped me through my darkest of times.
40 years working with youth:
I have taught and served youth from ages 0-18 for 40 years, including those with social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and communication challenges, in my roles as a Speech-Language Therapist, Autism Movement Therapist, Yoga Instructor, Preschool Director, Bullying Intervention Specialist, Day Care Provider, Personal Life Skills Coach, and more. In the last 15 years in my work in special education I took the unique approach of teaching school wide programs to contribute to a positive learning environment for all students through social-emotional learning, bullying prevention & intervention, and mindfulness with all ages. I have seen first-hand how impactful compassion and mindfulness training can be in my work with all ages from preschool through the adult years.
Bullying Prevention & Intervention:
In 2009, while working as a speech-language therapist, I founded Caring and Courageous Kids, a bullying prevention & intervention program, to awaken and inspire the hearts and minds of young children through adults to bring mindfulness and compassion into daily living with the intention to help stop bullying and start contributing to a more peaceful and compassionate culture in our homes, schools, and communities. For several years I helped bring attention to the pervasive problem of bullying and inspiring compassion through in-school and after-school programs such as Peace Project, school assemblies, public speaking and conferences. I wrote, directed, and produced a children’s educational movie, Which Team Will You Choose? and followed that up by publishing a guidebook to supplement the movie for educators and parents – One Caring and Courageous Choice at a Time. After piloting a bullying intervention program at a middle school in Folsom and a school-wide program at an inner city elementary school in Sacramento, CA, I began to shift towards mindfulness because I felt it was a missing and essential component. I believe mindfulness is the missing piece (and peace) in education.
Mindful Kindful YOUniversity – the beginning:
My bullying intervention program at St. HOPE (PS7) in Sacramento, CA transformed into a successful school-wide mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms, and also for educators through staff development workshops. Skeptics turned into rallyers! The inner city school where I worked at that time had a population of many, if not most, of the students having trauma in their lives. There were numerous behavior challenges that the teachers had to deal with daily, hourly, minute by minute. Most teachers reacted in a highly punitive way and these students were not learning how to calm themselves, how to regulate themselves, how to be more self aware and kinder, etc etc. I was frustrated by the cycle of aggression and dove into my mindfulness certification program so I could offer some powerful training for both children and staff! Many of the testimonies I share from St HOPE are from the youth and adults. It was a transformational experience for myself and for those who I was fortunate enough to share it. Unfortunately the school was a highly stressful work environment and staff turnover was weekly! I made it through two years and then decided to move to be closer to family.
In 2016, I worked one more year in public education as a speech language therapist where my dreams of launching mindfulness programs were on hold during “the most difficult year ever as an educator”. It was the final straw for me with my mental and physical health being severely impacted from the stress of the caseload and lack of support from administrators. Staff turnover was high in special education in this district as well. At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, I made a decision to follow my own advice for my well-being by leaving the stresses and challenges of working in special education in the public school setting and to follow my heart and calling…
In 2017 I was inspired to launch Mindful Kindful YOUniversity (MK YOU) to share mindfulness and well-being programs to make a positive impact on the lives of children and adults in our schools and communities while addressing the challenges youth (and adults) face in school and in life, which interfere with learning, relationships, and mental well-being. Working on the “inside” of public education, I can tell you that our schools simply do not have enough resources to effectively address all the ranges of social, emotional, and mental health needs, however any program such as MK YOU can help make a significant difference. It already has! MK YOU equips and teaches children, teens, and adults HOW to cultivate the inner resources, or “superpowers” for reducing stress and experiencing more balance, resilience, and overall well-being by integrating evidence-based strategies and practices of mindfulness, movement & yoga, and social emotional learning to develop the essential life skills of emotional intelligence, or “Sm’Heart skills” — the essential education for responding more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!
I have been offering school and community programs where I now live in San Luis Obispo County, CA since 2017.
UPDATE : Now that I am more prepared and equipped with tools for resilience for myself and my students, I am returning to full time work as an SLP in August 2022. Some of my programs, including the in-person school and community programs for youth will be discontinued, while other programs and services as seen on this site will continue.
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” ~Wendell Berry
My own transformation can be yours as well:
As an adult I went through a period of deep depression as I did not have the skills to manage and heal from childhood trauma and severe anxiety. In my studies to help children, I ended up finding the missing piece/peace and tools for my own life! Afterall, adults who grow up without learning the life skills and tools to support them when younger, become adults without those tools! Consequently, life can be filled with stress and overwhelm because of certain relationships or life situations as parents, as educators, or any other role. The skills I love to share with educators/parents/adults are the ones I wish I had learned years ago as a young parent and educator which could have helped me through the depression, prevented burnout, and dealing with the stresses in life. And yet these experiences have become my purpose and path in life as a Mindfulness Guide.
I love to teach from the approach that resonated with me and helped me heal. Having these skills helped me to have a very unique experience with the “most difficult year ever as an educator” and I walked away with gratitude and resilience for getting through it rather than spiraling back into the patterns of deep depression I had experienced many years ago. With me you will learn the fundamentals of pragmatic, evidence-based mindfulness to handle life’s pressures and positively support you in responding to life as it is — the good stuff, the tough stuff, all of it — with grace and skill. Through a variety of practices you will experience for yourself how these essential life skills of mindfulness can be the foundation for greater strength, resilience, health, and happiness.
Thank you for reading this far! ~Dee DiGioia