Announcement, News, Press Release

GreenLight Atlanta Launches Inner Explorer to Improve Youth Mental Well-being

Oct 26, 2022


In partnership with the Atlanta Hawks Foundation

ATLANTA, GA – October 26, 2022 – Today, GreenLight Fund Atlanta announced a multi-year investment in its third portfolio organization, Inner Explorer, a nonprofit organization, designed to support the mental health and well-being in centers and in over 70,000 classrooms across the country. In collaboration with the Atlanta Hawks Foundation who will provide a variety of supports, including invitations to games and activations that drive awareness, Inner Explorer will launch this innovative and proven approach to support healthy behaviors of every student, teacher and administrator in Clayton County Public Schools. 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.

“As we continue to focus on mental health and wellness in relation to academic achievement and personal growth throughout our school system, we are excited to partner with Inner Explorer to incorporate additional resources into our wellness and mindfulness toolbox,” said Dr. Morcease J. Beasley, Superintendent/CEO of Schools. “It is a great time, as we navigate the impacts of the global pandemic, to reinforce character traits such as empathy, self-awareness, and most importantly resilience as critical life skills needed to be successful in any walk of life. We anticipate this being a great addition to our mental health and wellness efforts.”

After a rigorous, year-long selection effort in partnership with GreenLight Atlanta’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.

According to Joli Cooper, GreenLight Atlanta Executive Director, “The time to act is now, as we’ve heard loud and clear from our community. Our young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being continues to be adversely impacted, leaving them stressed, anxious, and struggling to cope, especially our children in communities of color who must also contend with social stigma and lack of access to affordable, culturally responsive care. We are excited to support Inner Explorer’s program as it meets our children where they are.”

With Inner Explorer, all Clayton County Public School 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.

“We are proud to team up with GreenLight Fund Atlanta and are incredibly connected to their mission of providing mental health support for youth,” said Hawks EVP, External Affairs and Executive Director of the Hawks Foundation David Lee. “At a time when there is a tremendous need to ensure Atlanta youth’s wellbeing is cared for, we are committed to using our platforms and resources to make a difference in this space.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Clayton County Public Schools as the first metro Atlanta school district to provide Inner Explorer in every school and classroom,” said Laura Bakosh, CEO of Inner Explorer. “The timing is critically important with student and educator stress at record high levels. Research has proven that chronic stress hinders brain development, blocks learning and causes mental health vulnerabilities.”

“Our research continues to point to the fact that mindfulness practices alleviate stress, improve coping, and boost self-compassion in young people and improve their engagement in school. These findings also emerge across marginalized populations, signaling the cultural relevance of mindfulness across diverse groups” says Dr. Natalie N. Watson-Singleton, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Spelman College, the lead researcher on the initiative.

GreenLight Atlanta’s multi-year financial and on-the-ground 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. Inner Explorer will launch in Clayton County Public School classrooms in January 2023 with plans to reach 25,000 students this school year while expanding to other school districts and community-based organizations in the near future.