Eleven years ago, Erica Rumpel decided to learn yoga. What she learned changed her life and became a passion she is now passing on to youth in Humboldt Park.
Rumpel, a psychotherapist and owner of two yoga studios in Chicago, received a $1,315 grant last year from Scholastic Media to provide holistic health services in underserved parts of the city.
"It was something I'd wanted to do and I was developing a plan, and then this grant landed on my desk," Rumpel says.
It didn't take her long after receiving the grant to create a youth outreach program at Urban Lotus, her Humboldt Park yoga studio.
She also added parent training on stress management and self-care programs for local mental health professionals. All of the programs are free.
Although yoga for kids was a tough sell at first, the program has grown.
"The community is mostly Latino and they might not be culturally familiar with this," Rumpel explains.
The youth program not only helps children age 12-17 learn yoga, it also focuses on body image and self-confidence during a developmentally awkward time, Rumpel says.
"When you go into a yoga studio and you're sitting on the floor, the barrier is gone," she says. "It's comfortable and you start to move like everyone else and it provides a format and a way in to talk about some other issues. …It's a way for youth to be heard, as well as to learn and develop confidence and strength."
For the parent training, she hired an instructor fluent in both English and Spanish.
The parent training sessions provide a forum for the community to come together while learning yoga, breathing techniques, meditation and other ways to handle the stress of being a parent.
Although the grant money will only last six months, Rumpel hopes to develop other revenue streams to keep the programs going.
"I've made up my mind; it's continuing," she says.
For more information on the yoga programs, visit www.urbanlotuschicago.com.
The American Family Insurance/BE BIG contest is open to kids of all ages, teachers, parents and community leaders to submit a "big idea" for a chance to win a community grant of up to $25,000 from the BE BIG fund to implement the idea. This year's deadline to enter the contest has passed, but look for information in the future on next year's contest at scholastic.com/bebig.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.