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Bronx Kids Boogie, Learn & Laugh With Help of Nonprofit

November 21, 2016Posted by Helaina Hovitz

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The Bronx has ranked at the bottom of New York State’s health and wellness list for the past seven years in a row—that’s last place out of 62 counties.

There are many reasons this unfortunate statistic exists: poor health, obesity and sedentary lifestyles, less access to nutritious food, and living in a low-income household are just a few.

Fortunately, one local nonprofit, Bronx Kids Boogie (BKB), is working to foster healthier habits in its tiniest community members, getting kids moving while practicing mindfulness through dance, yoga, arts programs and exercise at local parks and community centers. The program, which is the nonprofit arm of Sweet Water Dance & Yoga and Dance, has also been life-changing for children with learning disabilities. 

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It all began at a health fair led by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, who announced the health initiative #not62 with the purpose of addressing the health reports announcing the NYC borough’s poor ranking.

Sweet Water was invited to participate in the health fair by manning a table and giving yoga and fitness classes; the problem was, the fair was held during the day, while children were still in school.

“Nobody was focusing on kids as the core victims of these circumstances,” said Sweet Water Owner Yosara Trujillo, who is Executive Director of Bronx Kids Boogie. “The bulk of our citizenry is actually elementary school children.”

Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Trujillo created Bronx Kids Boogie as a low-cost program for elementary school children, first by giving away 200 yoga mats to kids in the community, then by introducing them to movement and the culture of wellness in a fun and engaging way during a carefully curated six-week program.

Trujillo was joined by Moses “Bronx” McCarter, a Capoeira teacher, Ambar Hernandez, a high school teacher, and Jasmin Cintron, a yoga and mindfulness instructor.

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Over the summer, from 10:00am to 4:30pm, kids participated in dance, yoga, art, capoeira, and meditation classes, trips to local farms and museums, and ate lots of healthy meals. 

At the end of the season, the kids planned, created, and implemented a final “Roots and Rivers Around the Way” production, hosting an evening of art displays, poetry and skit performances, and showing off everything from their capoeira moves to their mindfulness practice.

The program continues to operate as a weekend initiative, but they need your vote this #GivingTuesday in order to help bring their specific solution-based program to even more kids.

“Our year-round program is currently at capacity, and our there is already a waitlist for our summer program.  Getting proper funding is no longer optional,” Trujillo said.

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More than anything, they hope to send a message to anyone willing to take a look at their metrics, which, says Trujillo, prove that the way out of poverty is not to engage in a broken system, but to “look within in order to heal the community.”

The impact the nonprofit has is tangible, especially in children who have learning disabilities or live with other challenges.

Blaze, 17, a young man living with Autism, was having issues managing anger and frustration born out of his inability to communicate; he was otherwise very high-functioning. The program’s staff connected first with his grandmother and later with his mother, and brought him into the program.

His interest in hip-hop dance helped him to release physical energy and powerfully reduced his physical stress, while yoga helped to soothe and clear his mind. Blaze has learned that when he begins to feel anxious, he can go for a run, or he can make it into the studio for a class, and now knows that “child’s pose” calms him when he gets upset., because he can “trust the floor” to support him.

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Sisters Ashley, 7, and Leslie, 12, struggle with ADHD and anxiety issues, respectively.

Their mother, Grecia, brought them both into the studio for yoga classes, and after several months, Ashley’s grades and attention span have greatly improved.

“Leslie is now a volunteer here at the studio during our kids program. She says yoga is her life, and wants to become the first kid certified to teach yoga,” said Trujillo.

“Parents and families are doing the impossible to get their kids into this program,” she continued. “We must make this more accessible, because healthy and well-supported Bronx Kids today will be healthy Bronx adults tomorrow, and we believe many will be leaders.”

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