written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Jan Hummer grew up in Middletown, Maryland, where she currently resides. “I’ve moved to so many places,” shares Jan, “but I always come back here because it’s such a beautiful place and the community is so supportive.”
She especially enjoys spending her spare time in outdoors activities in the area and hanging out with her young daughter. “She’s nine years old and growing up fast. She enjoys a lot of the same things that I do. We’re huge Star Wars fans!”
Jan achieved her RBA in Graphic Design, Early Childhood Education and Social Justice at Shepherd University in 2002. She followed it up with a Masters of Arts Degree in Contemplative Education from Boulder, Colorado’s Naropa University in 2011.
She has more than fifteen years of experience working in special education and underserved communities in early childhood settings. She teaches mindfulness education in Autistic, ADHD and Asperger classrooms.
In addition to wearing the hats of Co-Founder and Executive Director of Open Minds, Inc., a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, Jan is the Mindfulness Program Manager, Teacher and Networking Coordinator at Fox Haven Learning Center in Jefferson, Maryland.
Some of the benefits of Mindfulness include:
* Breathing Techniques
* Being More Present
* Being More Focused
* Awareness of Every Step
* Creates Stability
* Calms The Mind
* Opens The Heart
How Open Minds, Inc. Opened Its Doors
The path to Jan’s career was a serendipitous route. “I was supposed to NOT go to this conference in D.C., about three years ago. I had a very late night the night before and I ended up just being at this conference at American University.”
Although it was a Mindfulness Conference, Jan admits that she wasn’t really paying attention at the start. “I was a little bored at first.” Then, three men from the Baltimore area appeared and were highly inspirational. They were with the Holistic Life Foundation.
“I didn’t even know this was going on in the area. I was totally sold on it. I literally texted my friend, Amanda Adkins, my co-founder and partner in the non-profit.
“Look, don’t think I’m crazy. I’m going to drop everything and start a non-profit. Are you in?” That was in March of 2014 and they have been knocking down doors in the area ever since.
Open Minds Programs are currently serving underserved communities in Frederick County, MD, Washington County, MD and Jefferson County, WV.
Jan Defines Mindfulness
“Mindfulness is trying to find that ‘present’ moment — being here in the moment — being aware of where you are and how you’re going to talk to or be present with other people.
“Even if you learn these tools, you’re not going to be perfect all the time. You’re going to be human. What matters is the effort to come from a place of kindness.”
Jan’s Biggest Challenge Along The Way
“Time management. Trying to definitely create a space for myself so that I don’t burn out and not wanting to do everything all the time.”
She continues, “You want to help as many people as you can but if you do that then you’re not going to be able to create a really sustainable organization.”
The Advice She’d Give Herself If She Could Start Over
“Doing this work does require that you need to have a little bit more business sense. I would have liked to have known a little bit more about the money aspects with it.
“That has been quite a challenge for us,” she adds, “and that has created a little bit of burn-out. Now, we are learning what we need to do. It goes back to sustainability and time management.
“The money is very important. I don’t like to ask for money but now I don’t really have a problem doing it.”
A Clear Sign That Open Minds, Inc. Is Making A Difference
One of the places where Jan teaches is Wildwood Middle School which is located just outside of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. About eighteen months ago, a friend asked her to initiate an Autism classroom.
One student in particular would walk around the classroom saying random things. He appeared to not be paying attention and would sometimes yell out.
“I was used to that type of behavior,” said Jan. The other students were also used to it because they grew up with this kid. Still, one teacher suggested that perhaps he should not be part of the Mindfulness program.
Jan responded, “Let’s just keep him here. He’s not a distraction to me. He’s not a distraction to the rest of the class. We don’t know what he’s getting. He’s paying attention in his own way. Let’s see what happens.”
Only a week later, when Jan returned to the school, she was told about how this boy had become anxious one day in the middle of the gym. “All of a sudden, he started doing the breathing technique and meditation that we do at the middle and end of each session.”
Jan said, “He sits with me at the end of every session. He might not engage but he’s there and he always says a meditation at the end.”
Fox Haven Retreat Center
Fox Haven Retreat Center is another non-profit and is a big partner for Open Minds. The Center is located just outside of Jefferson, Md. “They’ve given us so much and the space to actually have Open Minds programs.
“We have an organic farm out here. We do programs that range from environmental education to diversity programs and fermentation. One of our biggest programs is mindful eating and mindful nutrition where we invite the community. It’s donation based.”
Mindfulness Conferences are also available. “It’s an affordable conference for teachers and anyone. It’s $50!” Usually, a Mindful Conference will range from $350 to $1000. That’s an incredible savings!
“I decided that wasn’t cool,” shared Jan, “and have been doing the last couple years something very small but we’ve had some excellent people who have come through to present.”
YOU can make a difference by attending a Mindfulness Conference, Workshop or Seminar, making a monetary tax-deductible gift or contributing specific items (listed on the website) during their donation drives.
Reach out to Jan Hummer today to learn more about Open Minds, Inc. and Fox Haven Retreat Center. Be sure to ask about volunteer opportunities!
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Contents Provided by Frederick Advice Givers Podcast Episode #081: Eric Verdi Interviews Jan Hummer