Announcement, Press Release

GreenLight Fund Brings Inner Explorer to Charlotte to Improve Youth Mental Well-being

Sep 7, 2023


CHARLOTTE, NC – September 7, 2023 – Today, GreenLight Fund Charlotte announced a multi-year investment in Inner Explorer, a nonprofit organization started in Massachusetts, to support the mental health and well-being of students, teachers and administrators. Inner Explorer’s audio-guided program is easy-to-implement, culturally intentional and a highly effective resource proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while also activating learning readiness in the classroom. Over the summer, Inner Explorer piloted the program locally in partnership with Dottie Rose Foundation, International House, Youth Meditation, National Black Child Development Institute and several CMS K-5 schools reaching over 1,500 students. This innovative and proven approach will have a full rollout this academic year via community-based partners.

Richard G. Lambert, Ph.D., Ed.S at the University of North Carolina Charlotte describes the impact of Inner Explorer, “In a study conducted in two schools over an entire school year which included 378 students, there were statistically significant differences found in academic growth rates over time between students who received the Inner Explorer mindfulness based program and those who did not. Children who participated in the program made greater gains over time across several measures of academic success. In particular, there was a 9.6% difference in the growth rate for students with disabilities in the treatment group as compared to students with disabilities in the control group counterparts.”

After a year-long selection effort in partnership with GreenLight Charlotte’s Selection Advisory Council, youth mental well-being was identified as an immediate opportunity area. GreenLight’s investment in Inner Explorer comes during a critical time as the need to access preventative mental health resources for all children, especially those in under-resourced communities has skyrocketed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently declared a Child and Adolescents Mental Health Emergency and a July 2021 report by the American Psychological Association indicates 81% of Gen Z teens (ages 13-17) have experienced more intense stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, uncovering lack of support for mental wellbeing as one theme.

“North Carolina ranks 42nd for the prevalence of mental illness among youth, and 38th for access to care among all fifty states,” said Sam Smith, Jr., GreenLight Fund Charlotte Executive Director. “We recognized that, though there will never be enough counselors, advocates and/or resources in our schools to tackle the rising mental health crisis, implementing a self-guided program such as Inner Explorer brings an innovative, evidence-based approach to improve student outcomes and overall well-being. We appreciate our many community partners that have joined the charge in supporting Inner Explorer’s expansion to our community.”

Dr. Devonya Govan-Hunt, President Charlotte Affiliate, National Black Child Development Institute, reflects on the organization’s commitment to partnering in this effort. “Black children experience the reality of structural racism and inequities in their daily lives, some of which occur in the very places that should protect, promote, and preserve them, such as school buildings. The Black Child Development Institute-Charlotte works to help dismantle structural racism and systemic inequities that get in the way of our children experiencing success and joy in school and life. While we work to “burn the system down,” there are things that we can do to protect our babies, such as teaching them the art of meditation. We saw this to be true with the implementation of Inner Explorer and Youth Meditation. Inner Explorer and Youth Meditation worked beautifully together to teach mindfulness and encourage self-confidence in children in identifying and expressing emotions. This type of collaboration and the implementation of meditation can be an extra layer of protection for children and adults in school and at home. It teaches them to self-regulate, identify, and manage feelings in a given moment. While the systemic fight happens outside of school buildings, these tools help protect our children while they are in school buildings.”

With Inner Explorer, pre-K through 12th grade scholars and teachers will be able to access the Inner Explorer daily mindful awareness program at no cost. As an extension to the program, families can also engage by accessing Inner Explorer’s mobile app and practicing mindful awareness at home with their children. Inner Explorer is available to students in both English and Spanish. Started in Massachusetts, Inner Explorer is reaching over 2 million scholars across the country with impactful results.

“In my extensive 13-year journey working with the youth of Charlotte, I’ve discerned that stress often hinders their academic and interpersonal potential. Many grapple with mental well-being and performance, primarily because they lack the coping mechanisms and resilience to navigate life’s challenges. Daily mindfulness practices, such as those provided by Inner Explorer, equip these young minds with the fortitude they need to overcome these obstacles and succeed,” said Fard Morales, Regional Director-Charlotte, Inner Explorer.

“It’s a privilege to partner with an array of outstanding non-profits, all striving to enhance the holistic experience of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ students. Inner Explorer’s methods have been empirically proven to diminish stress, thereby cultivating an environment conducive to learning. As a result, students are settled, attentive and receptive, which enhances nearly every aspect of learning, from increasing grades in the core subjects including reading, math and science, to exploring STEM lessons through the dot. Consulting. Our comprehensive approach not only benefits students but also empowers educators in their pivotal role,” said Dr. Laura Bakosh, CEO, Inner Explorer.

GreenLight Charlotte’s multi-year financial and on-the-ground strategic support along with strong local partnerships positions Inner Explorer to achieve impact in both the short and long term. Additional financial investments from public and private partnerships will ensure program sustainability for years to come. Full rollout of Inner Explorer is underway with the start of the school year with plans to reach 25,000 students in the 2023 -2024 academic year while continuing to expand to other school districts and community-based organizations.

Inner Explorer is the fourth organization GreenLight Charlotte has invested in, joining Center for Employment Opportunities, ParentChild+ and Alternatives to Violence.