In Research Review

Modello and Homestead Gardens. The story of two public housing communities in Miami, Florida in the late 1980s continually shows up in the positive psychology literature. These publicly-funded community revitalization projects generated amazing, some say maybe even too amazing, results. Critics point out that the training these communities received was founded in the very spiritual mindfulness philosophy of Sydney Banks. It’s also important to acknowledge that this is a case study and did not include an experimental design to reveal any mechanisms of cause and effect. That said, the real, positive impacts were undeniable. Modello and Homestead Gardens show us what can happen when a community buys into a coach-oriented mindset and learns to embody it. 

Results of the study include:

  • 500% increase of parent involvement in schools.
  • 60% of households became employed (previously 85% of households were on public assistance).
  • 87% of parents reported less conflict with their children.
  • Police reported no criminal activity in either of the communities for a full year. 
  • School absence rates dropped by 80%.
  • School disciplinary action and suspensions decreased by 75% at the middle school level. 
  • Failure rate dropped from 64% of students to 1 student. 
  • Parents and teachers self-organized to start a parent-teacher association and fundraise on their own to continue the work. 

What:

  • Sydney Banks. He was a welder in 1973 when he had an epiphany that humans are born resilient. He developed a spiritual philosophy about how to manifest innate well-being by understanding the three principles of mind, thought, and consciousness. Pioneering psychologists Roger Mills, George Pransky, and others incorporated Banks’ philosophy into a psychological model of change, termed Health Realization. 
  • The Three Principles. According to Sydney Banks, mind is the universal life force and source of life’s energy. Each human also experiences an individual life force through their own mind. Personal mind can be aligned or misaligned with the universal mind. Consciousness is humans’ awareness of the present moment and ability to link sensory experience with abstract thinking. Thought is our conceptualization of the moment, our ability to analyze what our senses experience and assess how to act.  According to some psychologists, teaching people to understand how the three principles combine to create our perspectives can help someone shift from a distorted perspective to a resilient one. This practice is what practitioners term Health Realization. 
  • A publicly funded project beginning in 1987 in Miami, FL. Modello and Homestead Gardens were two public housing communities with the highest rates of violent crime in Dade County. Florida’s attorney general funded a three-year Health Realization school project to teach parents, teachers, and students how to use the three principles to understand their own mental processes. The results show us that this type of collective Health Realization immersion can improve multiple levels of a school community system, from student academic success to household employment. 

Why:

A) Proactive responsibility. Modello and Homestead Gardens demonstrate how coach-oriented training can improve well-being in marginalized communities. More importantly, they show how the training can become self-sustaining. The participants initially needed outside assistance to learn to use the principles of mind, consciousness, and thought to process and direct their thinking and actions. When they started to experience the positive results, they began to self-organize and continue the work of manifesting their inner resilience on their own. 

 

B) Community support. Community members self-organized to build social infrastructure that bolstered resilience. Parents formed a Parent Teacher Association and worked with teachers to design an after-school program that provided more academic support to students that needed it. By the end of the project, residents were working together to write grants and secure contracts with agencies and private providers to improve services in the community.

 

C) Self-sufficiency. At the end of the three year funding period, the project leader Robert Thomas wrote to the Florida attorney general that: “They had no further need for the coalition of providers and officials I had organized to bring change from the outside. Change had followed the drawing out of the innate competence of individual residents and they were working as an inspired community to change the quality of their own lives.”

How:

  • Dade County United Way implemented the project. United Way is the largest privately funded non-profit in the world, and the Dade County chapter has worked since 1924 to better social and economic conditions in Miami’s communities. They worked alongside Florida public health agency employees to train teachers and parents in instruction methods that build student confidence in their own common sense. This is the Health Realization alternative to using verbal abuse or shaming as the main disciplinary avenues. 
  • Project leaders taught self esteem and leadership classes with the youth themselves. They taught youth how their thoughts are actually formed and present themselves within the mind as reality. Youth developed the skills to recognize their negative “habits of thinking” and curtail them in favor of their underlying happiness and self-esteem. 
  • 600 youth in 142 families participated in the project for 3 years. Project leaders measured results through changes in school truancy and class failure rates, disciplinary referrals, suspensions, police crime records, and parent surveys. 

References:

 

Kelley, T. M. 2003. Preventing Youth Violence through Health Realization. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 1:369. DOI: 10.1177/1541204003256057.

 

Mills, R. C. and Shuford, R. 2003. Health Realization: An Innate Resiliency Paradigm for School Psychology. Paper presented at the Hawaii International Conference on Education (1st, Waikiki Beach, HI, January 7-10, 2003. 

 

Pransky, J. B. 2007 second edition; 1998. Modello: A Story of Hope for the Inner City and Beyond; An Inside-Out Model of Prevention and Resiliency in Action through Health Realization. Strategic Book Publishing, New York, NY. 

Read the Wikipedia entry on Health Realization: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_realization

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