Building Communities that Ignite Potential

There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests got together to work toward the same goal.

Idowu Koyenikan

The deeper I dig into my work with schools, the more I realize the need to bring tools for wellness, mental health and well-being beyond just the classroom and into the whole community and culture of the school. This includes everyone – teachers, staff, para-professionals, administrators, bus drivers, janitors, parents and families.  The mental health crisis we are now recognizing in our schools is not isolated to our children and our teens, I believe it is a poignant reflection of our society and culture at large.

It seems an overwhelming task in this light. How can we even begin to cultivate greater wellness, mental health and greater well-being, not only in our schools, but in our communities, our gathering places, and in our families? One step, one family, one community at a time. 


Imagine the fire that could spread if we were all more daily conscious of not only who we are being, but what we are each doing to support the community around us? Imagine building communities that encourage the wellness and well-being of every individual, that ignite the potential of all of its members.

As I was contemplating this a question continued to arise: How do we create a culture of wellness and well-being? What are the components needed in a community to encourage personal growth, resilience, compassion, empathy, gratitude, innovation and inspiration? 

My thoughts…

6 Essential Components to Building a Culture Wellness and Well-Being

A Wellness Investment in EVERYONE. We cannot expect our children to embrace wellness practices if our teachers are not.  We cannot expect teachers to embrace wellness practices if school leaders are not. We cannot expect our children to communicate openly and clearly if their parents are not. Each and every member of a community must be afforded the opportunity to learn about wellness practices, practice them, and to be encouraged in an understanding of themselves and their potential for personal growth and well-being.

Community Vision.  Every community group would benefit from creating and cultivating consensus around a vision of wellness and well-being. What does wellness, mental health and well-being mean to you, to your family, to your community? We can create visions for our classrooms, our schools and our districts.  A vision provides a guiding light of inspiration, brings a group together and guides everyone toward the same goal.  My vision is to “build communities of wellness and mental health that ignite potential.”  This vision guides myself and those I work with toward the same light, it gives us common motivation and inspiration.

Common Language.  There is a great call to build a deeper, more textured language, not only around wellness and mental health, but also around our emotions.  We have become a society filled with such a negativity bias.  We have these powerful words we repeat over and over again: stress, depression, anxiety, over-whelm, anger, and hate.  We have forgotten to dig deeper into our emotional vocabulary and talk about the feelings and experiences that have led us to these places.  In the hustle and bustle around us are we listening to each other?  Do we feel safe expressing the deeper feelings that are going on for us?  Can we even define well-being? Do our children understand what it means to be mentally healthy? Do we?  

Everyone Matters. EVERYONE. We live in a multi-cultural and incredibly diverse culture.  We must teach our children, and remind ourselves, to embrace differences and to celebrate diversity.  We are all unique human beings with our own special gifts to bring to the world.  Let us work together to ignite the potential of every child, of every teen, and of every human being.  We all have the capacity to grow and learn, but every path is different, every journey unique and every human important.

Encourage Open Communication. It saddens me to see how closed minded many of us have become.  Our way is the right way, everyone else is wrong.  Our choice is the only way forward, all other paths are closed. It is impossible to change, this is just the way it always going to be.  We should be doing it this way. This language, these perspectives, are so limiting and stifling.  We can strive to encourage a sharing of ideas and beliefs, more open forums of communication and a deeper practice and understanding of the art of listening.  We miss so much when we are not willing to have courageous and open communication. 

Continual Connection.  I think we often forget that this journey through life is a journey grounded in relationship.  We as humans thrive when we are in connection.  Coming together in shared vision, exploring ourselves though another’s eyes, feeling and expressing appreciation, kindness and gratitude, witnessing together an awe-inspiring sunset over the water, laughing together, cooking together, just knowing someone is sitting with you in darkness. In this age of technology, we can often forget this basic human need to feel connected, to be a part of something greater then ourselves, to belong.

Who is Your Community

Your family, your workplace colleagues, your social circle? Are you ready to be wellness leader in your community and ignite your fire and the potential of those around you? Writing this has brought to mind one of my favorite songs, John Lennon’s “IMAGINE.” Yes – just imagine!