The Education Initiative (E.I.) at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine (BHI) is honored to be a part of the important Center for Community Health Improvement programs (CCHI) at MGH. This short article describes the Bicentennial Scholars Program, and BHI's contributions to the program's curriculum. On May 31, 2012, the first class of MGH Bicentennial Scholars graduated from high school!

BHI Takes Part in the MGH Bicentennial Scholars Program

14/Jun/2012

BHI Takes Part in the MGH Bicentennial Scholars Program; 2012 Scholars Graduate from High School


The Education Initiative (EI) at the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI) is excited and pleased to be a part of the important Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) youth programming at MGH. The EI has been involved in this program for the last four years.  Every year, the youth program identifies a group of ninth grade students from Boston area schools who are interested in health and science careers. The program provides an intensive college preparation program which includes mentoring, tutoring, internships and peer support.

The students engage in a mindfulness exercise to help them learn to appreciate the present time.

Last year, as part of the MGH Bicentennial anniversary and in celebration of its commitment to the community, MGH designated a group of high school juniors as Bicentennial Scholars. This special group will be mentored and followed throughout their college years. Through this program, MGH aims to expand horizons for local young people - both as a health improvement strategy and a workforce development initiative.

The EI plays an important role within CCHI's youth programming by providing students with relaxation response training along with stress management strategies and positive thinking concepts. The EI, established in 1989, is a research-validated program that brings these skills to students and educators throughout the United States. Research conducted at BHI found that stress in teens interferes with learning, and that stress management training helps students achieve academic potential.

During the BHI portion of the Bicentennial Scholars Program, students discuss their own stressors and learn about the physiology of stress and its opposite state, called the relaxation response. Specifically, the Scholars learn different strategies to reduce stress, such as deep breathing, mini relaxation exercises and chair yoga. They are also taught healthy coping skills and the value of positive approaches to life.  The curriculum involves interactive games, discussion and role plays.

Kristina Aiello, age 18, a Bicentennial Scholar who used to suffer from test taking anxiety and sleeping problems, feels she has greatly benefited from the program.  According to Kristina, she used to toss and turn the night before the test scores would be announced. She explains after taking the SAT subject tests early in the year she used the relaxation techniques she learned from BHI. “The night before the scores came out I took some time to meditate. I was able to sleep through the night thanks to the Benson-Henry Program,” Kristina states enthusiastically.

On May 24th, Dr. Peter Slavin visited the group during its weekly session. Each student announced their plans for the upcoming year; nearly all students received a college scholarship.

Nathalie Garcia, another MGH Bicentennial Scholar, has worked for the past 6 months as an intern at BHI. Her experience has taught her how to manage her time and balance work and school. Not only does she have an improved work ethic, but she has a greater appreciation for stress management. Nathalie often leads mini relaxation exercises for the CCHI programs.

Now that she’s graduated from the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers and from the MGH Bicentennial Scholars program, Nathalie has many ambitions, including majoring in nursing, psychology or social work. Nathalie states, “The knowledge and experience I have gained at BHI have helped me get through the stress and anxiety of transitioning from a small high school to my dream college.” She will attend Salem State University in the fall, and is the first person in her family who will attend college.


On May 31st, 2012, the first class of MGH Bicentennial Scholars graduated from the program. The Graduation ceremony was held at the Hyatt in Cambridge. Congratulations and best wishes to all MGH Bicentennial Scholars!


Learn more about the BHI Education Initiative

Learn more about the MGH Bicentennial Scholars Program