By Paul Gessler

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore City youth program is growing after partnering with several local businesses.

Project Pneuma, which works with 500 city kids with a focus on mental and emotional health, is growing to reach 15 schools and 500 kids.

Their goal is to help children deal with grown-up issues, said Project Pneuma Executive Director Damion Cooper.

“A lot of the young men are what I call ’emotionally illiterate’. They don’t tap into their feelings. They’ve been taught that you have to be tough at all times,” he said. “You can’t show anger. You can’t show fear. You can’t show any kinds of emotion, or the street’s gonna eat you alive.”

The program meets twice a week at the Baltimore City Police Training Academy as well as a handful of schools. It focuses on activities like meditation, yoga/mindfulness, cultural competency, public speaking, martial arts and wrestling.

They aim to sharpen the kids’ emotional and mental skills.

“My father was locked up in jail, so I was so much angry because I didn’t have no one to talk to. My mother always just worked,” Hasan Harrison, 12, said.”I just had to calm down and control my anger, or I was gonna be in jailed or locked up if I didn’t control my anger.”

Harrison admits he was a troublemaker in school just a couple years ago, but his mentors and teachers say he has learned how to control his emotions.

The program involves Baltimore City Police cadets at the city’s training center on Northern Parkway. It started with 20 cadets as mentors and continues to grow.

“Since I’ve been on the street, I’ve already met three kids from the program, and it was good. Like, I didn’t expect it. They just came up and hugged me,” newly-sworn-in BPD Officer Diamond Sykes said.

Project Pneuma is always looking for volunteers and partnerships. To learn more, go to projectpneuma.org.

Paul Gessler

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