In Your Community

Project Pneuma Orders Love and Respect for Young Black Males

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Pneuma is defined as the vital spirit, soul or creative force of person. And Project Pneuma, a small non-profit organization in Baltimore is inspiring youth through yoga and martial arts by building the spirit of young black males to confront and overcome life challenges.

Damion Cooper is the founder of project Pneuma that operates out of the Baltimore City’s Center Training Facility in west Baltimore.  He talks about his vision for Project Pneuma as a place of refuge for Baltimore youth.  

“Most of the youth we work with are challenged by feelings of abandonment and displacement. They are young men who struggle with finding their identity.  We offer them love and respect.”

Project Pneuma started in 2014 with 35 participants and has expanded to over 100 in just a few years. The Project is an after school program that includes wrap around yearly services in tutoring, martial, arts, yoga and STEM. The purpose is to ensure that participants can competitively enter high school and increase their academic development above the high school competency standard.

“Every day there is a focus to train the mind and body of our participating youth in order to ensure that we are developing men who are not only physically active but academically strong as well”, says Cooper.

Damien Myers, a recent career-changed professional, is the current STEM academy director of Project Pneuma who left the medical field in 2010 to become an educator in Baltimore City schools.

Myers work with Project Pneuma involves working with program youth to inspire career pathways in the medical professions.   For Myers, this was an avenue that he too far remembers  in his early years of study where he did not find many young men of color.  This left a void for Myers, often finding himself disconnected  to young black medical professionals throughout his career.  With the new STEM academy model, Myers is hoping to encourage youth through STEM to help fill this void.

Currently Project Pneuma  services 65 young black males through the ages of 10 and 16 years in Baltimore City. “And that number continues to grow,” says Damion.  He explains that the large number of young males participating in the program are challenged by insecurity and a lack of commitment from the men in their lives.

“Our young black men get used to hearing  men say ‘I got you,’ or they may come around occasionally, but there is no lasting commitment in their lives.”  

He further explains, “these are circumstances that affect our young black males constantly and is the detriment to their existence.” “So that is why we tell our boys we love them every day.”

“Most of our program youth lack exposure to opportunities that advance and expand their experiences and being exposed to activities as common as camping where they don’t hear an sirens or gunshots has impacted them in ways you couldn’t imagine,” says Cooper.

The program also incorporates yoga which at first made some of the participants nervous about doing stretches that seemed more appropriate for girls. Yet surprisingly, the yoga classes helped to release much stress and has become a favorite  activity among participation.

The program also uses martial arts is to impress discipline and preparedness. Martial arts is a team sport as much as it is about individuality,” Coopers explains.  

“The methods used in training is about team building and lifting each other up. In martial arts, the competition is man to man.  However, there is a component of inner self and well- being that includes mental strengthening, focus and balance.”

Programs such as Project Pneuma are important in exercising the mind through physical activity and can be critically important in a school environment.

Cooper and Myers feel that programs like this should extend from school and home in order for real impact and change to exist in every aspects of a young mans life.

To learn more about Project Pneuma contact:

Damion Cooper, Executive Director
www.projectpneuma.org

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