Wellbeing and Mindfulness for YOUth

Wellbeing and Mindfulness for YOUth


Photo above ~ Dee DiGioia’s “Circles” program in Northern CA

After working with youth for over 35 years, including special education, Dee DiGioia founded Mindful Kindful YOUniversity (MK YOU) to offer Mindfulness-based Social-Emotional Learning Enrichment Programs intentionally designed to address the challenges youth, and adults, face in school, and in life, which interfere with learning, relationships, and mental well-being, such as:

  • managing difficult emotions (such as stress, anxiety, overwhelm, depression, anger)

  • distraction, impulse control, difficulty focusing;

  • and social-relational challenges (including bullying).


MK YOU equips and teaches children, teens, and adults HOW to cultivate the inner resources, or “superpowers” for reducing stress and managing difficult emotions and experiencing more balance, resilience, and overall well-being by integrating evidence-based strategies and practices of mindfulness, movement, and social emotional learning to develop the essential life skills of emotional intelligence, or “Sm’Heart skills”!

Sm’Heart Skills: 

The essential education for responding more skillfully to life in the 21st Century!

These positive experiences will transform, not only inner peace and happiness, but also our social dynamics at school, at home, at work, and in the community! These are skills for life!


7 Questions Every School Should Answer

~because our children deserve a “sm’hearter” education ~

Transcript here

Mindfulness provides a foundation for education because it contributes to optimal conditions for learning and for teaching. Many of our children in school are not in the state of mind to absorb learning because they are in a chronic state of stress.

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity mission:

At MK YOU our mission is to empower youth with the core competencies and essential life skills of emotional intelligence, or “Sm’Heart Skills” by cultivating healthy:

  • life skills & habits,
  • attitudes,
  • behaviors,
  • relationships.

At MK YOU we blend neuroscience, social emotional learning and evidence based practices of mindfulness, movement, and yoga to cultivate these core competencies and essential life skills. Having access to this learning, and with regular practice and repetition, youth are empowered and equipped with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to move through the every day challenges which arise at home and in school. They can draw upon the reservoirs of strength and calm, using the tools and resources they have practiced in our mindfulness program to get through with confidence. The more our children/students practice healthy ways of responding to life in times of calm, the more prepared and available they are to take in higher learning!

Over time, our evidence-based practices may help students improve their self-awareness of the world within their own bodies (thoughts, feelings, sensations) which leads to greater self-regulation and resiliency; social awareness & relationship skills improve and positive attitudes are cultivated through empathy, compassion, and kindness; responsible decision making improves; all of which positively impact all other areas of their lives including learning readiness and academics.

These, and other potential benefits are the core competencies of social-emotional intelligence, and the major predictors of overall well-being, success, and happiness in life. 

With practice, mindfulness can help children to become aware of the present moment, both positive and negative, by observing rather than reacting in an automatic or habitual way. They learn and practice observing:

  • thoughts,
  • feelings,
  • physical sensations,
  • and the environment.

Through learning, repetition of practices, and reflection, youth discover why/how to pause, connecting heart and mind, and then responding more thoughtfully, creatively, responsibly, and compassionately. They learn that every day challenges which arise at home and in school don’t have to overwhelm them.  They can draw upon the reservoirs of strength and calm, using the tools and resources they have practiced in our mindfulness program to get through with confidence, remaining calm and centered through life’s ups and downs. Consequently their emotional intelligence is growing up with them, leading to improved self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. We call these “Sm’Heart” skills (pronounced “smart”) ~ our daily practices connecting the mind and heart with every thought, word, and action. The more our children/students practice healthy ways of responding to life in times of calm, the more prepared and available they are to take in higher learning!

“Neuroscientist Immordino-Yang writes that “emotions are skills—organized patterns of thoughts and behaviors that we actively construct in the moment and across our life spans to adaptively accommodate to various kinds of circumstances, including academic demands.” Many students will struggle when initially engaging in tasks that challenge them socially and emotionally. Without an intentional focus on Social Emotional Development (SED), students might display anger or recoil from uncomfortable situations, or feel badly about their inability to display more mature skills. Educators need to consider the SED competencies required for academic success and weave them into instruction. SED can create the foundation that enables students to engage with challenges more confidently and successfully.”

Source: This Time with Feeling: Integrating Social and Emotional Development and College- and Career-Readiness Standards

In traditional educational settings, the emotional intelligence life skills including cultivating wisdom and compassion for self and others are not formally taught, yet these are the essential skills to handle life’s pressures, stresses, and challenges that arise throughout the day and across the years. These life skills essentially provide the foundation for all other learning to take place.

“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.” ~David Caruso

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity educates the whole child

Mindful Kindful YOUniversity educates the whole child and provides emotional intelligence life skills to help youth flourish socially & emotionally, which will develop the foundation to succeed academically. 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! See “What Students Are Saying”!

Our program is a blend of

  • neuroscience,
  • social emotional learning,
  • and evidence based strategies and practices of mindfulness, movement, and yoga

“It was such a pleasure working with you Dee! You are a fabulous human being and the work you did with our kids in “Circles” was so so transformative! Keep up being sunshine, this place really needs you!” ~Emma Shandy, 1st grade teacher at PS7

MK YOU offers a variety of programs for YOUth of all ages:

While learning about the brain and the science behind it, I also received training in a variety of therapies or strategies over the years for prevention or effective responses to moment to moment challenges. I find great joy in helping children find ways to calm themselves and help restore peace in their corner of the world! I have developed programs & evidence-based strategies that have worked successfully with hundreds of students to practice mindfulness, compassion, and other important life skills. In every day challenges, children can then draw upon the reservoirs of strength and calm, using the tools and resources they have practiced to get through with confidence.

Our MK YOU programs utilize evidence-based practices and developmentally appropriate language for explaining key concepts and practices to develop Sm’Heart Skills including:

Mindfulness: I am a certified through Mindful Schools and MBSR-T. I utilize a variety of mindfulness resources including the evidence-based curriculum for grades K-12 from Mindful Schools which is designed for under-resourced public schools facing high turnover rates and toxic stress: simple, effective mindfulness practices that can be integrated into the school day and adapted for diverse environments. Those who have gone through this curriculum report strong improvements in students’ emotional regulation, focus, and engagement, as well as improved connection with students and ability to deliver school curriculum. I used the Mindful Schools curriculum for grades k-5 in the Mindfulness program I pioneered in a Northern California charter school and more recently at Shell Beach Elementary School and Sinsheimer Elementary School in San Luis Obispo County.

Yoga Calm: I was attracted to Yoga Calm because of its secular, school-based approach bringing together mindfulness + yoga + social-emotional learning. It is also effective for special needs, including ADHD, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and behavior and mental health issues. Originally developed in behavior classrooms, it readily provides the foundation for trauma-informed practices, as well.

Autism Movement Therapy (AMT): I am a certified Autism Movement Therapist and have integrated movement therapy into my work as a speech language therapist and in community classes for a variety of special needs youth including those with autism, intellectual disabilities, ADHD. Through cognitive re-mapping, AMT is a structured program integrating music, movement, and sensory integration to connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain for a “whole brain” cognitive re-mapping approach that significantly improves concentration, focus, social interaction, flexibility in thinking, speech & language skills, behavioral & emotional skills, academic readiness for learning and academic performance, and sensory integration.

Social-Emotional Learning: I integrate a variety of other programs/resources accumulated over the years, including, but not limited to: The Zones of Regulation; GoZen: Programs to Manage Stress & Build Resilience for Kids (Including Stress/Anxiety Relief, OCD Relief, and more); HeartSmarts (by HeartMath); and more.  I also tap into my own bullying intervention program — I am a published author, bullying prevention specialist, and founder of “Caring and Courageous Kids”, and have a program I developed based on my children’s movie “Which Team Will You Choose?” to empower and inspire children to stand up bullying and grow acts of compassion. I have additional training in “trauma informed” practices, sensory processing disorders, and more!

Different modes of learning may be integrated thru

    • literacy,
    • movement,
    • yoga,
    • music,
    • art,
    • and student projects;

Each student will commit to weekly intentions to practice the healthy habits to become leaders who help will make the world a better place, beginning with their world within their own bodies and translating to their relationships at school, at home, and in their communities. MK YOU creates a safe, supportive, and accepting “community” within our program to help each student feel confident to try new things, discovering their gifts, reaching new heights in physical, mental and emotional well-being! Sm’heart fitness inside and out!!!!

In one generation we can begin to transform families and communities to living more mindfully, kindfully, and skillfully.



>>> What is Mindfulness? <<<

>>> Mindfulness Skills for the 21st Century <<<

>>> Research and Benefits <<< 

> Resources: Why Mindfulness in Education? <<<


Photo above ~ Dee DiGioia’s “Circles” program in Northern CA