The Harlem Yogi: His Lived Experience is Transforming Lives

“All people need help navigating the constant flux of life. For kids in foster care or experiencing trauma, the need for mindfulness is even more important” says Demetrius Napolitano, tenant at CV’s Harlem Apartments.

Demetrius was in foster care from the time he was a toddler. Over the years, he was diagnosed with countless emotional and mental disorders, and lived in many different homes. At one point, when he was facing juvenile detention, Demetrius decided that he was going to do everything in his power to get out of the foster care system and become successful. His determination and support from his mentors and role models along the way helped him graduate high school, but like all young people he still needed support to transition to adulthood. Demetrius found the WAY program, which helped him move into his own beautiful apartment in CV’s Harlem building. While there he earned a BA from NYU – an amazing accomplishment! But he still felt unsettled, and sought a natural way to deal with focusing his mind. He started a GoFundMe campaign, and raised enough money to embark on a 9-month journey to India to study yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. He just returned from his trip and is teaching what he has learned to youth in NYC, including at The Children’s Village.

A 2018 study by the NIH indicates that mindfulness-based practices can be extremely effective for people who have experienced trauma. In foster care, we know all too well that removing children from family can be a traumatic experience. Having lived through that himself, Demetrius wants to share what he has learned with kids who may not have the tools they want and need.

“At a young age I was saddled with depression, anxiety, and deep-seated insecurities, like so many youth in foster care. I believe they trust me and we can connect on a different level to find their own healing and awakening. It’s hard not to feel neglected, forgotten, and unable to focus when you are without family – I want to share the tools we have within us to address these feelings.”

Demetrius is in the process of forming his own nonprofit called “Fostering Meditation”, so that he can formalize his teachings and reach more youth in the NY metro area. He continues to serve alongside The Children’s Village, helping youth navigate the challenges of being in and exiting foster care.

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