Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education

Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education

Transforming Redwood High School

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Last Update: August 21, 2014

Quiet Time is a meditation-based stress reduction and readiness-to-learn program. Published research indicates that it enhances social-emotional competency, cognitive capacity, and academic success. CWAE seeks support to bring this program to underserved youth and teachers at Redwood High School.

Founded: 2007 Type: citizen sector

The Problem

Redwood High School is attended primarily by students from low-income backgrounds who suffer disproportionately from major life stressors such as multi-generational poverty, trauma and violence. Chronic stress jeopardizes students’ academic performance as well as their social and emotional development, and produces unsafe schools with unhealthy learning environments.

The Solution

Stress is one of the primary root causes of anger, violence, lack of empathy, and poor social-emotional development. Quiet Time provides students two short class periods every day to rest, decompress, rejuvenate and become more centered, empathic and alert. In Quiet Time students have the option to practice meditation or another peaceful activity, such as sustained silent reading. Training is provided in an evidence-based stress reduction meditation practice called Transcendental Meditation (TM). Students can practice TM, do another form of meditation, or read. Quiet Time has had a profound transformative impact on school climates. We will include school-wide workshops: Stress, the Brain, Emotional Intelligence and Empathy.


Quiet Time is a school-wide program that consists primarily of two daily 15 minute periods of silence in the classroom, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Students have the opportunity to learn and practice meditation or they may elect to read or rest. CWAE's Quiet Time staff work closely with students to ensure they are getting the most out of Quiet Time. Since the program's introduction to Visitacion Valley Middle School in 2007, the school has gone from being known as "the fight school" because of its issues with school violence to being voted the happiest school in San Francisco in the 2014 California Healthy Kids Survey. Teacher retention, attendance, grade point averages, and self-reported happiness have risen dramatically.


Since 2007, CWAE has brought meditation to over 7,000 students, teachers, and staff in 13 different San Francisco, Oakland, and South Bay schools (see white paper). The meditation technique that CWAE uses in Quiet Time has been scientifically validated as one of the most effective forms of stress reduction. Quiet Time has had significantly transformative effects on schools like Burton High, which has experienced dramatic reductions in suspensions (75% in 2 years), reduced violence and truancy, and increased attendance since implementing the program. We are excited to offer the first officially approved high school class focusing on social and emotional learning ("Social and Emotional Intelligence") at Burton in the coming year, and we are expanding our offerings in other ways including an anti-bullying program and a school club for advanced meditators who serve as student leaders. White Paper:

Full Impact Potential

Our work at Redwood City High School is an important step in building a foundation for a wider implementation of these programs throughout the Bay Area. The San Francisco Unified School District is being used as a reference model for implementation on a national scale. We have the enthusiastic support of the San Francisco superintendent, Richard Carranza and recently published a white paper on our work at CWAE and the transformative potential of the Quiet Time program, to assist in this endeavor. We are in the process of expanding our programs into the South Bay and the East Bay.

Budget: More than $1 million

Financial Sources

Individuals, Foundations, Businesses, National government, Clients

Sustainability Plan

CWAE is in a state of rapid expansion, in large part thanks to the strength of our relationship with the San Francisco Unified School District and the current superintendent, Richard Carranza. We have recently built new relationships with businesses like First Republic Bank and Kaiser Permanente, as well as organizations like the Sequoia Healthcare District, to help fund our expansion, and we are continuing to actively seek out new partners.


Mindful Schools and MindUp also bring meditation into schools. We applaud their efforts. Our approach is similar and also unique. We make school wide changes by incorporating Quiet Time into the bell schedule and having two 15 minute periods of deep meditation in the school day--one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We also maintain full time staff at the school to teach meditation and give ongoing support. Lastly, we utilize an evidence based meditation practice, Transcendental Meditation, which has been proven to reduce trait anxiety and improve health and cognitive ability.

Founding Story

The founders of CWAE spent 25 years in Silicon Valley building high tech start-up companies and teaching meditation based stress management programs to highly stressed executives. They discovered that with their own employees, and those in other companies, the ones who were practicing these methods regularly appeared to be more productive, clear thinking, emotionally stable, empathic, and able to function better in team environments. After the tragic incident at Columbine High School in 1999, they realized that children needed this too, and in 2007 they founded CWAE to develop an industrial-strength stress management program for public schools.

Team Explanation

Executive Director - 25 yrs high tech management, FT; Director Health Education – Stanford MD, PT; Director Operations - 25 yrs organizational development, FT; Director Research – PhD, 30 yrs educational research, PT; Director Development – 20 yrs fundraising, PT; Staff - Meditation instructors, 10 FT, 5 PT; Board Chairman – CEO; Board – Educator, 40 yrs in public schools; Board - MD, public health; Board - Harvard JD, MBA

Team Members


Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change

Supplemental Information

On which of the following California counties does your project focus its impact? (check all that apply):

San Mateo.

How does your idea help cultivate empathy skills to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change?

Research indicates that stress and trauma impair healthy brain development of youth. This in turn compromises psychological health, empathy, and leadership competency. Our Quiet Time program is a meditation-based stress reduction and social-emotional development program that enhances the underlying brain functioning of students. As a result of more integrated brain function, students are more calm and alert and have greater self-awareness and other-awareness, the foundations of empathy and leadership capacity. The research indicates the program reduces student stress, anger, and depression and increases self-esteem, happiness, resilience, grit, kindness - important psychological dimensions that support pro-social behavior and positive community interaction.
“Since I started Quiet Time, I am less stressed, more friendly, and I don't bully people any more” –Student




Tell us about your partnerships

We have worked closely with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) over the last 7 years to develop effective implementation and evaluation. We collaborate closely with the SFUSD Research Planning and Accountability Department and WestEd Research. Major funding partners include Kaiser Permanente, 1440 Foundation, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, First Republic Bank, Sequoia Health District and the David Lynch Foundation.


We address these challenges by (i) emphasizing research and evaluation as part of the implementation so that the program is highly evidence-based; (ii) working closely and collaboratively with the teachers and administrators in a gradual roll out that is tailored to this school’s needs.

Does your project use any of the following approaches to cultivate community members as empathetic and collaborative leaders?

encouraging philanthropy, creating a safe space, developing emotional competency, building leadership skills, collective problem-solving, identifying shared values and differences, instilling courage, enabling action.

Target Age Group(s)

6-12, 13-17, 18-35, 36-64, 65+.

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