POPP’s New County Jail Peace Project in Atlanta

POPP’s New County Jail Peace Project in Atlanta

This Summer POPP will launch new Peace Initiatives with Cobb County Juvenile Courts and Cobb County Jail. The program is built to interrupt and redirect young people who are getting involved in gang life and to decrease violence in the County Jail stemming from gang activity. This pilot program was born through our partnership with Judge Wayne Grannis and Deputy Chief Milton Beck. With youth crime and violence on the rise, we have to start thinking outside of the box and be willing to try new ideas and bold initiatives. Public servants and community leaders are beginning to realize that we cannot arrest our way out of this growing epidemic or legislate our way out of it either. We must roll up our sleeves, get to work, and be willing to get our hands dirty—our kids need us now. We are so grateful for our partnership with Cobb County government, as well as Rotary, Kiwanis, and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. If these programs are as effective as we expect them to be, then we will have a model that we can roll out to other communities around Atlanta and beyond. Peace is on the move!

The March Continues in Selma, Alabama

The March Continues in Selma, Alabama

POPP’s Community Peace Initiative is moving in this beautiful, historic civil rights city in the South. Unfortunately, youth crime and violence are on the rise, and street gangs are claiming the kids. Last Fall POPP arrived in Selma, having been invited by a group of concerned business leaders, pastors, and elected officials. Since then, Kit has been going over to Selma twice a month and laying the groundwork for our Peace Initiative there. Great inroads have been made as Kit has developed relationships with the business community, faith community, government leaders, law enforcement, and educators.

Here is what we have found across the nation: In every community there are three vital institutions: schools, jails, and churches. Unfortunately, in many communities, these three institutions have become somewhat dysfunctional. Schools have become a pipeline to the jails. Jails have become a repeat customer business, and churches are often sitting on the sidelines. That’s why POPP has developed three programs to bring communities together and heal them from the inside out: Forty Days to Freedom for the jails; Forty Days of Power for the schools; and Forty Days of Prayer for the churches. Working hand in hand, forty days at a time, community leaders create momentum toward peace, compassion, and unity among these vital institutional components. We have seen measurable success using this model in prisons, and then pulling in schools and churches to support the work. Now we are bringing all those elements together and tackling the issues that are dividing these beautiful but wounded communities across the country.

Selma has suffered for the Struggle in this divided nation of ours. They are remembered every time there is a significant MLK holiday, only to be forgotten once again. Outsiders get their photo on the famous Edmund Pettis Bridge, the site of Bloody Sunday, and then they leave and things return to normal for the residents of this iconic city; POPP aims to change that. Selma feels used and abused; POPP aims to correct that. They are not forgotten anymore, and God willing, they will become a light to the nation, as Dr. King intended. The Dream Lives, and the March Continues. Let Peace Reign in Selma!

This is How We “Protect the Dream”!

This is How We “Protect the Dream”!

This month POPP kicked off our third annual “Character and Leadership Development” competition with six competing football teams in Cobb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties. Each coach selected sixteen team leaders and we meet once a week for eight weeks, as they go through their Summer practices and workouts. The campaign culminates with a community event where all the players and coaches, as well as families and community leaders, will come together to reward and celebrate these young men who are striving to become positive role models and use their influence for peace in their classrooms, hallways, and communities.

Every day the players read quotes from iconic world changing athletes, and every week they meet with their POPP Squads and Power Partners to hold one another accountable, and work to complete the daily Action Challenges together. In the second half of the Protect the Dream campaign they will create a three-minute video on one of the “Seven Dream Killers” that they want to tackle at their school (bullying, irresponsible social media, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.) These videos will be featured at our POPP Graduation Celebration on August 11th at NorthStar Church, where all the teams will be competing for our “Dream Team” award given to the team who makes the most positive community impact. The players are also competing against one another for our biggest prize: The Mason Legacy Award for the outstanding character athlete. These videos will be circulated throughout the student body to show that there is a new standard that the student-athletes are striving to live up to and model for the young ones coming up after them.

This Summer we are also bringing on teams from Selma, AL and Benton Harbor, MI. If we are going to turn the dangerous tide of violence, self-harm, and risky behavior toward peace, compassion, and acceptance in our schools, it must start with the students who are already leading the way. Together, they can begin to shift school culture and change “what cool looks like” on their campus.

Leading with Empathy

Leading with Empathy

This story from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is one that has always stuck with me and reminds me of the importance of understanding someone else’s perspective and experience:

Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed. The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?” The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

This short story gave me perspective as a principal and teacher.  I remember as I progressed in my career, moments of misbehavior from students affected me less emotionally because it often had little (if anything) to do with me, and everything to do with what was going on with the student at the time. I just learned to breathe and calm down and get to the heart of what was going on.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care about what my students were going through; I just realized that it was often not a reflection due to our interactions.  Something else was often going on.

The next time you struggle with a student, colleague, or someone in your personal life, remember this Covey story.  There is probably a more significant side to the story that you are not seeing. May 27, 2018, The Push and Pull of LeadershipDecember 13, 2011 Empathy and Emotion

Source: George Couros

POST WRITTEN BY Monica Thakrar

POST WRITTEN BY Monica Thakrar

For the last few years, mindfulness has been getting a lot of attention and press.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading thinker in the field, mindfulness is about “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” It is about being more in the present and thereby being able to do everything with more discipline and focus.

The Case For Mindfulness

Large companies, such as Google, Aetna, and General Mills, have been implementing large-scale mindfulness programs over the past few years. Thousands of employees have gone through their programs with data now showing that there is a definite impact on leadership skills by practicing mindfulness, such as:

• Increase in productivity

• Increase in decision-making

• Increase in listening

• Reduction in stress levels

But for leaders, the biggest benefit of mindfulness is its direct impact on the development of emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, a leading expert on emotional intelligence, recently made a direct connection between mindfulness and emotional intelligence, saying that:

•Emotional intelligence builds attention and focus.

• Attention and focus are cornerstones in enhancing self-awareness, as well as empathy.

• Self-awareness and empathy are critical skills for enhancing emotional awareness.

Google’s mindfulness program focuses directly on the link between mindfulness and emotional intelligence, and it’s had some significant traction with employees.

How Leaders Can Implement Mindfulness

Mindfulness tools include meditation, breathing, yoga, walking, music, nature — anything that allows you to come back to the present moment. Our minds are often thinking about regrets, incidents from the past and worries about the future. Any tool that brings the mind back to the present moment is a mindfulness tool.

As a mindfulness practitioner of meditation and breathing for the last 10 years, I have seen significant changes in myself in terms of the enhancement of emotional regulation, patience, discipline, focus, and productivity, as well as a decrease in stress. While I used to use physical exercise, such as running marathons and doing triathlons, meditation has now become my tool of choice for reducing stress levels and being more productive.

So how can you as a leader get started? What tools can you use in your organization to bring yourself into the present moment?

1. Body Scan: Begin by sitting with your back straight and eyes closed. Take three deep breaths in and begin to notice your feet and legs, calves and thighs, groin and abdomen. Continue up the body and then take another three deep breaths. Continue for a total of three times. This is a great way to get in tune with your body and begin to notice any stress or strains. The breaths help you to relieve tension.

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing: Using your thumb and index finger, you can do an easy breathing exercise called alternate nostril breathing. With your right index finger, close your right nostril and take a breath in through the left nostril. Now, close the left nostril with your thumb. Open up your index finger and breathe out through the right nostril. Then breathe in the through the right nostril. Close the right nostril with the index finger. Open up the thumb and breathe out through the left nostril. Continue doing this eight-to-ten times. This helps to calm the system as well as harmonize the two hemispheres of the brain.

3. Breathing Meditation: Sit with your back straight and eyes closed. Begin to notice your breath. Notice your breath in and your breath out. Keep your focus on your breath. Whenever you notice your mind wandering off, bring it back to noticing the breath. Do this for three-to-five minutes. This is the start of meditation practice. It is a simple and easy way to start training your mind to be more present.

While mindfulness can seem like a hard thing to do, as mindfulness expert Sharon Salzberg says, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” Begin a practice today.


Monica Thakrar on Forbes.com