Paradise Principal: Community Helps Us Through Challenge

In honor of the Peace Kits for Paradise anniversary, Mindful Littles asked Paradise Ridge Elementary School Principal Ed Gregorio to share his thoughts about facing adversity with mindfulness and empathy and what advice he has for all of us during this challenging time as we shelter in place.

“Less than a month after the Camp Fire, school was back in session for Ponderosa Elementary students and staff, but at a neighboring’s school district’s elementary school campus. Teachers and staff worked admirably in creating safe and supportive learning environments to help recreate the sense of community for the students. 

Though our school community worked hard to create normalcy for the children, it became very evident early on that our students were grieving their enormous loss of home, family connections, pets, personal possessions and way of life. It was imperative that our school provide students with the tools, mindset and support to address the range of emotions they were feeling. With school staff being equally traumatized from their Camp Fire experiences, Ponderosa Elementary School needed a partner to help us provide for our students’ immediate socioemotional needs.  

In collaboration with the Orinda Union School District, Mindful Littles reached out to us in a meaningful way. By listening to our story with great empathy and understanding, Mindful Littles Founder Tanuka Gordon helped identify specific actions that could be taken in order to support our students during this very difficult time. 

Mindful Littles worked alongside the Orinda students to create individual Peace Kits for each Ponderosa Elementary student. The Peace Kits provided the students with specific tools and strategies to help them cope with the intense emotions and thoughts they were experiencing. These tools provided the students with resources to enhance their mindfulness and build practices to reduce stress, encourage self-affirmation, and express and acknowledge gratitude for their daily blessings.

In the aftermath of the Camp Fire, we learned the importance of working with and supporting each other within our community to better meet the needs of our students and school families. We recognize the importance of addressing the students’ basic needs first (food and social engagement) before jumping into the online learning experience. We understand the importance of promoting mindfulness with our students and their families to help them draw on their strengths, resourcefulness and resiliency. 

Here in Paradise, as we continue to overcome the traumatic effects of the Camp Fire, we share a foundational belief that “we will get through this together.” I believe it’s this underlying faith in community that truly bolsters us in times like these.”

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