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Maria Shriver

My Project: Goldie Hawn and The Hawn Foundation

Image: Goldie Hawn and Students
The Goldie Hawn Foundation

As an Academy Award-winning actress, author, and producer, Goldie Hawn has entertained countless millions around the globe, but it’s her commitment to helping the world’s children flourish, both in the classroom and beyond, that may have the greatest impact yet.

In 2003, the actress and philanthropist launched The Hawn Foundation, and in the decade plus since its inception it has worked to provide kids with social and emotional learning programs that not only enhance their ability to learn, but help them develop the kind of resilience, optimism and compassion that will enable them to thrive in their adult lives.

Key to this mission is the foundation’s MindUP program which it developed in collaboration with neuroscientists, psychologists and educators. A curriculum and training program, MindUP helps kids learn to self-regulate their behavior, improve their focus, and develop an empathetic, hopeful outlook.

The philosophy is simple: happy, mindful kids are better able to learn and better equipped to navigate life’s inevitable challenges. And the Hawn Foundation has taken this philosophy global, expanding its efforts far beyond the United States, providing educational support from China to Australia and the United Kingdom.

Tomorrow in Los Angeles, Hawn will celebrate not only her own birthday, but 10 years of MindUP’s work, with a special event called “Goldie’s Love In For Kids,” the proceeds of which will benefit the educational program.

Here, Hawn shares the challenges the foundation faces in its work, the hope the children have given her, and the mantras that help inspire and sustain her commitment.

What motivated you to get involved in this work?

My concern for the wellbeing of our youth. Today we live in stressful times and our children are suffering the alarming symptoms of this, from aggression and bullying, to depression and ADD. My wish has been that our children gain better tools to deal with their emotions and stress today so that they can be more engaged in their learning and live happier more balanced lives.

What have you been most surprised to learn?

When I entered into the school system with our program MindUP, I learned of more dysfunction than I could ever imagine: antiquated systems of education, and teachers who are stressed and burdened by the difficulty of managing growing responsibilities and increasing demands on their time. A large percentage of teachers drop out of their vocation after five years feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated.

What do you most want people to know?

I think we all need to look at our children as our most precious resource. They are only 25 percent of our population today, but they are 100 percent of our future. We can’t turn a blind eye to the importance of the wellbeing of our children, and we need to pay close attention to building the future leaders of tomorrow.

I think we all need to look at our children as our most precious resource. They are only 25 percent of our population today, but they are 100 percent of our future.

Who or what has made the greatest impression on you during your involvement?

The children have given me hope! They have proved time and time again that when they are loved, helped, heard and nourished, they are receptive, grateful, and most of all they experience innate joy.

What has been the hardest part of this work, or how has it most challenged you?

Each school district is different. They have different sets of rules and processes, and that makes it very challenging to mold our program to their needs and disciplines. Not everyone wants to take the time to change their ways, even when their approach is not working for them or the child. That being said, we are now scaling our program and experiencing exponential growth. My mantras are “Never give up,” and, “Stay the course for the sake of our future and theirs.”

My mantras are “Never give up,” and, “Stay the course for the sake of our future and theirs.”

How has this work changed you?

I am more resolute than ever that the path I have taken is right and true. It has brought me untold amounts of joy and happiness. I am also more optimistic than ever that we will eventually change our systems with children in mind.

What goal do you have for the next 12 months?

The future of the Hawn Foundation and the MindUP program will be moving forward with our very focused strategy, seeding more schools, training more teachers, and working with more parent workshops.

For more information and inspiration visit MariaShriver.com