Meeting Human Needs Before Academic Needs

By Giving List Staff   |   January 2, 2023
For J3 Foundation, the mindfulness and social-emotional learning parts of their free after-school reading program are just as important as the reading lessons.

The classroom lights are turned off. The blinds are drawn low. J3 Cozy Reading Club is about to start at George Washington Elementary in Compton. In the middle of the room, the kids have arranged their chairs in a circle. As the J3 teachers corral them to settle down, the students begin to reel in their restless after-school energy. Ms. Weatherspoon, the kind of teacher with wide eyes and big gestures, stands at the front of the classroom.

“Now,” she asks once it has quieted down, “who wants to do the chime?”

Hands shoot up. Bottoms come off their seats. A buzz of excitement fills the circle again.

A little girl with purple braids is chosen. She hops from her chair to the front table, picks up a wooden stick, and gingerly taps the chime that sends a ding through the air, bright and clear. Almost instantly, a calm comes over the room. Inside the circle, eyes close above lingering smiles, the fidgeting stops, bodies relax, and a stillness settles in as the chime fades out.

When Ms. Ward first explained the chime to her students, they responded with reluctance. After the first try, she heard one kid whisper, “Wow, that was like magic!” She says, “It quickly went from eye rolls to calm acceptance that this is how we begin each session… we connect as a group…. we have created a safe space filled with curiosity.”

This is just one of the many mindfulness tools and exercises J3 Foundation uses in their free after-school literacy program. Founded in 2018, they created the Cozy Reading Club to help struggling fourth graders from low-income neighborhoods become better readers so they can succeed in the classroom and beyond.

“Remember,” Ms. Weatherspoon gestures at the door. “We’re in here now, our favorite time of day. Whatever is going on out there, we leave out there.” 

For the kids in this program, their lives “out there” are often riddled with trauma and stress. Many J3 students are struggling to have their basic needs met and are constantly in survival mode.

“Violence at our school right now is definitely affecting these children…The area they live in, they hear helicopters all the time. They’re thinking: I could be shot, she could be shot, what will happen to me? Kids are being aggressive with each other. That aggression is coming from a place of fear,” says Ms. King, a J3 teacher at Tibby Elementary in Compton.

J3’s Cozy Reading Club not only provides a safe space for these kids, but also equips them with the tools to better understand their emotions and how to handle them. 

“When students come from a stressed home or community, we need to lower the anxiety. They can’t learn when they’re in fight or flight,” says Jamie Mohn, Psy.D., psychologist and co-founder of the J3 Foundation.

J3 uses the MindUp program and CASEL’s framework to teach mindfulness, relationship skills, and social-emotional learning to their students and teachers. Mental wellness is explicitly taught and thoughtfully woven throughout J3’s 30-week after-school literacy program. 

Before the introduction of the chime exercise, J3 teachers help their kids develop the “foundation” for mindfulness with brain-based learning. On Day One of the program, the kids learn about self-awareness and emotions. On Day Two, they explore the three key parts of the brain involved in thinking and learning, and how their feelings arise. On Day Three, they learn that they have the ability to change what they do in response to bad feelings by using mindfulness techniques (like practicing mindful breathing and listening). 

J3 shows this powerful short film to their kids when they introduce the chime exercise. In “Just Breathe,” kids talk about how they use mindfulness to navigate tough feelings. 

J3 Foundation also understands that community and connection play a huge part in the well-being and success of their students. “We needed to create a special environment where they belong, where they could be successful. We are building a club atmosphere, a community,” says Stacee Longo, J3 Senior Program Director.

Halfway through the session, a little girl volunteers to read “Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story” and makes her way to the front of the class. When she speaks, she is soft-spoken and reads slowly; it took some courage to go up there. The kids stay quiet as she reads the book from beginning to end. When she finishes, the whole class snaps their fingers in appreciation.

On her way back to her seat, she passes Mr. Myers, the J3 site coordinator who’s leaning on a desk with his fist extended. 

“Hey. You did great,” he whispers. 

She bumps it, smiles, then bounces away to take her spot inside the circle.

Once the human needs of their kids are met, J3 can successfully meet their academic needs.

Our kids face an uncertain future. These academic and social-emotional difficulties aren’t just present in Compton. Schools across the state and country are seeing the same thing. With your donation, J3 can open their circle to the growing number of students who need their help.


J3 Foundation

Donate now!
(310) 924-2422
Director of Operations: Bobbie Boggs-Miller

Matching Funds — $1,500 Funds a Young Reader

One of the reasons J3 Foundation has been so effective is that it’s stayed laser focused on what it does best: teaching kids to read. The Cozy Reading Club anticipates serving 700+ students this year and J3 hopes to double that number by attracting more private donations. Creating a new reader who will grow up to be a positive contributor to society costs the organization just $1,500 annually.
“I think it’s the best $1,500 we as a society could ever invest,” says Joe Blackstone, J3 Foundation co-founder. “And that number will go down as we get more students.”
Glaser Weil will match every dollar raised, up to $10,000.


To equip 4th grade scholars with the skills, habits, confidence, and book access they need for a lifetime of reading success

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.

I appreciate J3 for the organization’s commitment to doing everything possible when it comes to reading proficiency. It’s rewarding to see your dollars make an impact immediately. J3 Foundation is so well run that I don’t have to think twice about the actual support that’s being implemented. The rate they’re scaling is just amazing. J3 sees every child’s potential and never gives up on its mission.
– Carron Brown
J3 Advisory Board Member Vice President of Strategy,
Planning and Operations: Warner Bros. Discovery

Key Supporters

LA Lakers Youth Foundation
Warner Bros-Discovery: BOLD
CTBC Bank Corporation
Glaser Weil LLP
Armanino LLP
Barry Family Foundation
Joel & Sherry McKuin
Humberto & Maria Gray
The Book Foundation
Ocean Direct
Jeffrey & Nicole Westheimer
Bob & Karina Matuszak