Project Pneuma teaches Balto. boys self control

Posted at 12:08 PM, Jan 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-15 18:09:14-05

"Pneuma" is an ancient Greek word meaning "breath." It is the basis for a city program, Project Pneuma, which focuses on teaching boys in Baltimore City about forgiveness, self control and discipline.

"We work with them to help them calm down and to center themselves," said Damion Cooper, founder of Project Pneuma. "So when they go back to school, they're set, they're ready to learn and get their lives started."

Two times a week, the boys gather at the Baltimore Police Academy to do different activities like yoga, meditation, martial arts and reading. Most of the boys come with behavior issues or lacking focus in school.

"The young men are learning that they're in a safe space. They're learning that they can come in and they can breathe and they can feel at ease and get some of those anxieties out of their system."

Cooper knows how hard it can be to forgive. Twenty-four years ago he was shot in the chest with the bullet coming within an inch of his heart.

"And for 4 years, 2 months and 18 days I became a very angry and bitter young man," said Cooper.

Then, while doing a prison mentoring program, Cooper learned one of the men he was working with is the same man who tried to kill him.

"For me to tell this man to his face 'I forgive you' took a lot out of me and it took a whole lot out of him," said Cooper. "So I'm trying to teach these young men that if I can forgive the man who shot me, they can forgive someone calling them names or talking about their clothes."

Finding the strength to forgive is a big lesson for the Project Pneuma boys. The techniques they learn through yoga and meditation can be used at school, at home and in their neighborhoods.

"Out here, these kids are on the streets, going to jail for selling drugs," said 9-year-old Zaccary Brunson. "They should be calming down and think before they do."

"We watch out for each other," said 13-year-old Nigel Cooper, who is also Damion's son. "If there ever comes a case where someone is upset we say 'Man, just calm down it's not that serious.' We keep each other from getting in trouble."

Damion Cooper is always looking for volunteers and donations to keep the program running. For more information on how to help, click here.