School staff appreciation day sign over library door.

In 2011, our community yoga studio, Hosh Yoga in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, partnered with a local public school to start an afterschool yoga club for students. Six years later, Hosh Kids has shared yoga with over 15,000 children in Brooklyn School District 14 and every child at that region's PS 196 benefits from yoga today. Hosh surely showed up, but the cooperation of everyone at the school and the district leadership of Superintendent Winnicki were paramount. 

We all recall the deep love and respect we had for certain school teachers growing up. They are ambassadors of hope lifting the spirits of school children and shaping minds to do great things for people, country, and planet in the decades to come.

...we can choose to be the hope and optimism that schools, our lives, our communities, and this world deserves.

Principal Janine Colon and Assistant Principal Debbie Casey gave Hosh a chance many years ago. They epitomized community leaders and education pioneers that excel in cultivating good community work that makes a difference for hundreds of children, parents, and teachers. Infusing their school with fun and joy is at the core of their programming, creating timeless moments and experiences for their school as they navigate the deep challenges of academically and emotionally educating children to lead healthier and happier lives.

This week they hosted their Oscar Celebrity Teacher Appreciation Day, where teachers came dressed to be awarded the best look-alike of stars such as Ellen Degeneres, Jennifer Lopez, Charlie Chaplin, Cher, and many others. And our contribution to their school community for many years has been to infuse and reinforce their commitment to community life by helping teachers, students, and parents move better, think better, and feel better through yoga. The spirit of wellness is all over their school building, and it transcends academic outcomes. They are truly a community center of social, academic, and emotional learning.

Kate Liberman, wellness teacher at PS 196, best describes the school environment as "family-like." A statement that speaks to the spirit of the school on daily basis. And at this teacher appreciation luncheon, I sat next to two retired community women who put their civic heart and love to action every week and give a helping hand to the endless tasks that go into running the school. 

Organic and local love and support applied daily are the essential ingredients of any community—it's how we heal systemic and generational wounds and can lift the hopes and spirits of those immersed in decades of low-income and underserved disenfranchisement in poor communities. It can't and won't simply be the many times studied, measured, and imposed paternalistic approach of exterior charity and higher orders. But no help is ever turned away at PS 196 as long as it is a guaranteed good time for staff, students, and parents!

This example teaches us that we can choose to be the hope and optimism that schools, our lives, our communities, and this world deserves.

Brooklyn school leaders prove it everyday. 

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About The Author

Henry Cross's picture

Henry Cross grew up in sunny Miami, Florida. Upon graduating high school, he moved to the politicized Washington, D.C. and double majored in History and Politics at the Catholic University. He served as a social studies teacher in Prince George’s County Public School in 2008-2009. In the fall of 2009, he moved to New York City to continue and grow his work in education and service.

He joined Hosh Yoga in 2011 as a teacher and Program Director. And since 2013, he founded and expanded programming for the organization with Hosh Kids and Hosh Seniors. Henry's entrepreneurial spirit helped developed the organizational, program, and financial capacity of the nonprofit to deliver self-sustaining and self-supporting health and wellness services to over 3,000 children, adults, and seniors every month in a cost-effective and fairly-priced way. And from 2014 to 2016, he participated in a philanthropic role by expanding the programming, policy, and public advocacy efforts of the Sonima Foundation as Community Relations Director.

His work has been featured by the Huffington PostElephant JournalBlog Talk RadioThe NYC Social Innovation FestivalSocial Venture Institute, and multiple Brooklyn and Queens newspapers. He is an appointed New York City official of Community Board 5 in Queens, serves on a Department of Youth and Community Development Neighborhood Advisory Board, and on the board of directors of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association. And in 2015, Henry was selected as an business fellow and awarded Top 40 Under 40 Nonprofit Rising Star. He finds joy in his community work service everyday and loves ballroom dancing!

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