We are working with schools to bolster educators' immune systems and soothe their stress levels. We'll focus on DC but share our successes (and failures) freely nationwide via YouTube and social media. And of course we preach "Team-care" more than Self-care (which is never enough, especially for teachers). Please support our new nonprofit by giving a tax-deductible gift that goes directly to supporting school wellness.
Tyecia “Ty” Powell spent 15 years in schools, Susan Comfort spent 25 years at nonprofits. Both have seen too many of their colleagues — idealistic, intelligent people committed to changing the world — suffer a decline in physical and mental health, often burning out and ultimately leaving their jobs.
When Ty got into teaching, she didn’t realize how much she’d absorb her students’ trauma and relive her own. Despite her investment in a master’s degree, the stress and the happy hour culture drove her out of teaching and into yoga, Pilates, even managing a fitness studio.
Susan was trained in grassroots organizing, acclimated to the pedal-to-the-metal schedule of political campaigns, and then immersed in the stress of the nonprofit fundraising hamster wheel. She raised $30+ million over the years, mostly for small environmental and education groups. She was also dealing with personal stressors related to bearing and breastfeeding two children, being a working LGBTQ parent, and going through a divorce.
In 2017, related to the change in administration, Susan saw a plummet in already shaky nonprofit staff well-being in her 20-year adopted home of Washington, DC. While studying organizational development at Georgetown University, she developed a survey to assess the extent of the problem, and then a pilot program to address it at 12 nonprofits over six months. (See the results!)
Susan approached Ty (at the fitness studio) for a donation of classes and instructional time to the Pilot. Ty and Susan both marveled at the dual benefit they observed one fateful day: not only did the staff at the Free Minds Book Club enthusiastically participate in an in-office Pilates class, but they also bonded in a new, special way. The employees begged for another class, this time with their service population of citizens returning from the DC Jail, and the same thing happened — everyone had fun, together, through a shared experience (with music).
And that’s the light-bulb moment: Non-profit employees struggle to make the time for their own well-being, but they’re superstars at helping others. So why not turn their superpowers on co-workers in addition to constituents? When staff are afforded space, time, and institutional support to care for their wellness together, it nurtures their sorely needed self-care, sure. But through vulnerability and mutual accountability, it also improves team trust.
Now Ty and Susan, two native Baltimorean queer women, born a decade apart, have joined forces as co-founders of Nonprofit Wellness is a 501c3 with EIN 87-1866602.
Susan Comfort led an "E.D. Chat" with our top Team-care tools, answering questions with hundreds of Executive Director TechSoup members (10/26/21, 40 min). These tools are available for free on the "resources" tab, above.
While directing Playworks DC, Susan receives the Pentagon's “Spiritual Fitness Award” for developing a Brain Breaks lunchtime talk for U.S. Department of Defense civilian staff. This same year, Ty serves as an instructional coach and athletic director at DCPS's West Education Campus, which Playworks was serving, however Susan and Ty don't (yet) meet.
Ty takes a sabbatical from education, becomes certified in Pilates, and starts directing a yoga studio.
Everyone watches nonprofit stress accumulate post-election, and school stress accumulate with new shooting and lockdown drills. Susan fields a Nonprofit Burnout Survey in December, attracting 240 responses from over 100 groups across the country.
Susan begins 8-month Georgetown certificate program on Organizational Development, using the survey responses to design a Nonprofit Pilot that evaluates self-care and team-care wellness interventions at 12 groups in DC. Susan is the only American invited to lead trainings at a TechSoup Europe conference in Romania. This is also the big year that Susan finally meets Ty, whose studio contributed classes to the Pilot.
Ty begins her dissertation, entitled "Whole Leaders Create Whole Schools," and helps adapt and expand Susan’s Personal Stress Prescription and Stressor Scorecard tools for an educator audience. An anonymous grant supports publishing the “Wellness Equity Report” on the Nonprofit Pilot.
The year started with two months of weekly webinars to build a YouTube channel, so when the pandemic hit, Susan and Ty were already experienced with online trainings. They expanded Zoom offerings with a growing team of diverse trainers and team-building wellness experiences. Nonprofit Wellness also was chosen for the CityBridge Education venture program, where Susan & Ty received support and mentorship to become official co-founders to scale their school-adjacent programming.
Nonprofit Wellness completes the CityBridge program with a business plan to become a 501(c)3 and serve even more schools and nonprofits. They now support school & nonprofit wellness committees, receiving charitable financial contributions as well as in-kind tools for wellness gear.
Who Dat: Co-founder, bisexual/bilingual/bipedal whistler from Baltimore. Susan has 30 years of nonprofit and advocacy experience, which brought a lot of stress. Yoga class helped her cope.
Graduate of: Willow Street 400-hour Yoga Teacher Training
Also graduate of: UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Heels!)
Fave hobby: creating alternative sidewalks
Fave dancing: Salsa, 5 Rhythms
Fave job: Bo Brooks crab house server
Fave mental health boost: Learning K-pop dances via YouTube w/ daughter
Fave exercise: Walking, preferably near water
Fave veggie: anything roasted
Fave 80s Icons: Michael, Janet, Prince, Madonna
Fave city: Bal'mer, hon
Four Tendencies Type: Obliger
Follow @comfortconsulting (IG)
Who Dat: Co-founder, 17-year education veteran, pursuing Doctorate in Education, passionate about wellness for school leaders after experiencing her own burnout from the classroom and re-entry into schools.
Fave veggie: broccoli
Fave dog: Bruce
Fave new hobby: writing a dissertation, "Whole Leaders Create Whole Schools"
Fave mental health boost: yoga class-- practice heals my mind and my body
Fave kid-show character: Josh from Blues Clues
Fave way to help people face limits: squats, the hot room, planks, yoga poses
Fave book: (impossible; too many!)
Fave school: Sojourner Truth Montessori PCS
Fave quotes: "Waves Will Come. Ride Them." "Show Love & Sow Love"
Four Tendencies Type: Questioner
Follow @tyeciapowell (IG)
Who Dat: Civil (water) engineer from Bogota, Colombia; Passionate about environmental restoration, regenerative agriculture, and social equity impacts of climate change.
Fave school: Cornell University
Fave dancing: Cumbia
Fave faraway place: Tibet
Fave nature spot: Rocky Mountain National Park
Fave mental health boost: Transcendental meditation
Fave exercise: Yoga, mountain climbing
Fave veggie: Mashed sweet potatoes w/ maple syrup, cardamom, a splash of bourbon (almost no longer a veggie).
Fave fruit: Mangosteen
Fave charity activity: Playing the congas at Jammin4Water benefit (pic).
Fave quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -- Mary OIiver, The Summer Day
Who Dat: Yoga teacher, nonprofit leader, education strategist.
Most recently: 12 years as co-founder and executive director of the National Public Education Support Fund, a learning community of the 30+ leading national foundations focused on improving learning opportunities and outcomes for all students in the U.S.
Where Terri & Susan met: League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (1997)
Where else Terri has worked: Institute for America’s Future, People for the American Way, and the Governmental Accountability Project
Graduate of: Georgetown University
Also graduate of: Willow Street Yoga Center teacher training; join Terri for Let Your Yoga Dance class on Saturday mornings
"I was diagnosed with severe arthritis in my hands, hips, knees and feet after a car accident in 1992. The pain interfered with sleep and increased to a place that I could not walk around the block. I had lived a very active life, so I wasn’t ready for immobility in my fifties. Today at 80, I live without pain, active, healthy, enjoying life, thanks to the practice of qigong."
Read more from Joann & Pat
Joann Malone and Patrick Smith have been practicing regularly since 2005.They got certified in 2011 with their acupuncturist and teacher Nianzu Li, and have been teaching Qi Gong at the Takoma Park Recreation Department since 2013.
Kevin O'Keefe has taught tens of thousands of people to juggle, and now does it online, with simple plastic bags or scarves. Book his juggling workshop or make it a circus-themed year at your office (which some people say is a circus anyway).
Kevin is the founder of www.CircusMinimus.com and co-creator of Circus Yoga. He is a mindful tennis player and lives in a tiny house in Vermont.
You can book Kevin for an online or in-person juggling training or Circus Minimus show, contract with him for a circus residency, or find him on Instagram @CircusMinimus
Leslie created a skill-shop entitled "Grief with Grace" specifically for workplaces grappling with widespread pandemic-related grief. Let us know if you're interested in bringing it (online) to your team.
Leslie is the author of Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like "Journey" in the Title.
She was an entertainment columnist for the Palm Beach Post for years until returning to her hometown of Baltimore with her son, Brooks (and re-connecting with her elementary school friend, Susan). You can find her freshest thoughts on Twitter @lesliestreeter
A sophomore at University of Vermont, Davis is an art history major who respects the ancient art of upcycling and co-designs our Mindful Art series.
Davis has perfected the art of Earthalopes, the mindful transformation of discarded paper products into artistic, usable envelopes.
She trains kids and adults alike on making cards, envelopes, and simple origami while focusing on positive presence and mindful moments.
Follow @earthalopes on Instagram
Hailing from Colombia, Ricardo and his partner Elba Garcia have taught, choreographed, and performed at hundreds of events.
In 2008, Ricardo founded the After School Dance Fund, which supports public school dance clubs and produces the annual MCPS Latin Dance Competition at the Music Center at Strathmore.
A graduate of the Nonprofit Management program at Georgetown, Ricardo worked with the Kennedy Center’s “ArtsEdge” to develop an instructional series, “5(ish) Minute Latin Dance Lessons” and he received Montgomery County’s "Community Award for Excellence in the Arts & Humanities.”
Founder of Building Better People Productions, Lynne developed a session called “Improv for Teamwork” for nonprofit and school staff.
Lynne specializes in social emotional learning and educational theatre, and applies these skills to help build trust between co-workers. She works with kids of all ages (including "adults").
She coaches, instructs and directs all over the world -- lately, mostly online. Glimpses of her life are on Instagram -- DM her your favorite karaoke song.
Who Dat, Fitness entrepreneur, former Early Childhood Educator, completed master's program at Harvard, supports educators with fitness & mindfulness
Fave veggie: Asparagus
Fave work job: supporting others, children or adults, in their physical and mental growth
Fave school: Bowdoin College
Fave new hobby: Spin at home
Fave workout: Any Spark by Gabby class: https://www.sparkbygabby.com/
Fave foods: plantains & smoothies (not together)
Fun fact: named a "2020 Fitness Influencer" in Washingtonian mag; now lives in Chicago
Four Tendencies Type: Thought she was Upholder but is truly a REBEL
Follow @sparkbygabby (IG)
Who dat: New Yorker, Public Policy and MPH graduate student, passionate about immigrant issues, education, wellness, and health education.
Fave college: Queens College
Favorite Fruit: Mangos (so good!)
Favorite Future Goal: Study Portuguese
Favorite Exercises: ride bicycle, zumba, dance
Fave Mental Health Boost: organize stuff and hike
Fave Job: Assistant to the Deputy Director
Fave food: Pupusas
Fave place: San Miguel City
Fave show to rewatch: Bones
Fave hobby: writing fiction stories
Fave quote: “Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.” Frida Kahlo
Immune Booster #10: Move with Music
Who Dat: George Washington University MPH student residing in Atlanta. Pursuing a career that impacts population health through attention to mental health, nutrition, and physical activity.
Most Recently: Ran a small travel company offering cultural group tours.
Fave Spot: Block Island, RI
Fave Mental Health Boost: Walking my King Charles Cavaliers, listening to a podcast.
Fave Podcasts: The Daily, Crime Junkies, Even the Rich
Fave Veggie: Roast broccolini w/ garlic, olive oil, lemon.
Fave Charity: International OCD Foundation
Graduate of: Smith College
Favorite Quote: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
GWU Master of Public Health Student, passionate about health policy and helping underserved populations.
Fave movie: Just Go With It
Fave Place: Emerald Isle, NC
Fave exercise: Weightlifting
Fave activity: Baking and walking my dogs, Nugget and River
Fave Show: Grey’s Anatomy
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
- Babe Ruth
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
-- Wendell Berry
"That was an awesome wellness session! I enjoyed the poll shares and chat shares and it was nice to do breakout groups-- that was way less awkward than a big group." (teacher at DC public charter school)
"This was my favorite of the wellness sessions we've had because it was so specific and helpful in giving concrete strategies. I appreciated the background information on what burn out looks and feels like and the opportunity to assess where we were at." (teacher, DC public charter school)
"They gave us a list of 15 bite size things that I could add to my life to boost my immune system/improve my health that I am excited to implement. I particularly enjoyed the 2 minute meditation that allowed me to be in a space of mindfulness after a long day." (teacher, DC public charter school)
"I thoroughly enjoyed this session because it's imperative to ensure this area of your life is in tip to shape, since it affects how well your performance is in the classroom. You want to be the best you possible every day!" (teacher, DC public charter school)
We are working with schools to bolster educators' immune systems and soothe their stress levels. We'll focus on DC but share our successes (and failures) freely nationwide via YouTube and social media. And of course we preach "Team-care" more than Self-care (which is never enough, especially for teachers). Please support our new nonprofit by giving a tax-deductible gift that supports school wellness in this challenging year.