Interview with an HLF grad: Larry Jackson
Get an inside look at what it's like to be one of the kids in the program from grade school to college
When did you get started working with the Holistic Life Foundation?
I’ve known the founders of the Holistic Life Foundation and participated in their after school yoga program since 2003, when I was in the 5th grade. I was one of the first 20 boys selected to be in the program. I stuck with the program and practiced yoga for several years. Now I’m able to come back and mentor the students in the current after school program. We now mentor 50 kids, boys and girls, grades ranging from pre-k to 5th grade. Myself, and many other students that participated in the program throughout the years, came back to mentor. We’re one big family.
What was your first experience working with HLF?
My first experience working with HLF is pretty much the same as it is for everyone else. The story that always gets told are the times when we used the yoga mats to wrestle. One of my peers or I would yell Wrestle Mania and jump off the heater/AC unit and on to whoever was standing on the mats. I didn’t know much about yoga at the time. I was asked to join the program by Ms. Cassie, Atman and Ali’s mother. A lot of my friends were in the program as well, so I knew that there was a good chance of me enjoying the program. I became a lot closer with my friends after the program started.
What was your favorite part of doing the HLF programs growing up? How did they help you grow into the man you are today?
My favorite part of being in the HLF growing up was going out to eat at Pizza Huts, all you can eat restaurants, and camping out in the woods for days at a time. The HLF after school program introduced me to nature. Till this day, enough students don’t get that opportunity to travel and get away from the hood.
HLF has had a strong influence on why I am the man that I am today. I've lived with the founders for about 7 years now. They were the ones who played the father figure in my life. Atman always told me, “All a man has is his word and his balls, and you wanna keep both of them.” They gave me a place to live, responsibility, and supported everything that I wanted to do. The yoga has helped me to get stronger physically and mentally. It changed the way I viewed the world and the life in it. I’m aware of the decisions I make. The meditation keeps me calm in stressful situations. There are countless reasons why people living in this city, or any city with large amounts of poverty, have a lot of stress. Knowing exercises to keep calm and think clear is a great tool to counteract all the bullsh*t.
You're teaching for HLF now. How did you decide to start teaching yoga and mindfulness through HLF?
I started teaching yoga and mindfulness through HLF years ago when I was in middle school. I would tag along with Andy, Atman, or Ali to a group home or center. In the beginning, I demonstrated the poses while they explained the exercises and benefits to the class. Now that I’m older and have more experience, I’m able to teach classes on my own. Over the summer, my long-time friend Oba and I taught yoga classes at Bloomsburg University for six weeks. We had over 270 college freshmen. I can’t think of a more fun or easy way to make money. They always told us that some day we would get paid for teaching yoga and, finally, it has come to be true. I’m able to give my full attention to helping the kids in our after school program and not have to stress about finding ways to make money.
What's your favorite part of teaching?
Working with the Holistic Life Foundation has given me a fun, healthy way to give back to the Baltimore community. It has given me opportunities to travel, meet new people. It created a network of people who just think about themselves. I’m happy to be able to come back and mentor kids who are going through the struggle that I went through already.
My favorite part of working with HLF is being able to come back and mentor the kids. We give them tools that they can use to better their lives for the rest of their lives We teach them to love one another, especially everyone in the after school program.
What are you looking forward to in your future?
I’m looking forward to traveling and teaching yoga to people everywhere. I’m looking forward to the change that’s going to come from our program expanding. The kids we teach will help continue to teach and help those below them just like were doing. We already have our elementary school kids teaching their friends and family members how to breathe properly. That’s an amazing thing.
Besides the success of the Holistic Life Foundation, I’m looking forward to building a film career. Like many people in media, I would like to produce local films in the Baltimore area that show the positive aspects of Baltimore City and highlight people and organizations that demonstrate leadership in the Baltimore Community. What I do not want to do film with the intention of having the viewers feel sorry for the subject. There are good ways to capture a person’s lifestyle. I want to capture the rose growing out the concrete or the diamond in the rough, as some say.