Inner Explorer and Aetna Foundation Partner to Bring Mindfulness Program to Florida Schools

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Grant will support daily mindfulness training for over 12,000 students, helping them reduce stress and increase academic performance

Inner Explorer, an education non-profit focused on developing healthier, happier, and more engaged students through practiced mindfulness, announces their receipt of a $10,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation. The goal is to bring Inner Explorer’s daily guided mindfulness practices to 15 schools in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Florida, which include the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The Aetna Foundation grant enables Inner Explorer to implement mindfulness programs in 15 public at-risk schools in the counties, reaching over 12,000 students. Inner Explorer’s daily mindfulness practices have already been shown to increase math, science and reading performance by 10-18%, reduce student behavioral issues by nearly 60%, and reduce teacher stress by 43%. The program helps students develop life-long skills of focus, self-control, and resilience while giving teachers more time to engage and inspire students – a combination of benefits that has contributed to an 11-15% increase in students’ grade point average (GPA).

“Our school serves a diverse mix of students and Inner Explorer helps us meet the needs of all of our kids," said Sarah Webb School Counselor at Roland Park K-8 Magnet School in Tampa. "What I have found most surprising is how self-aware our students have become since using Inner Explorer and how that awareness has increased their coping skills. One of my 8th grade students told me that he uses Inner Explorer at home too because it has helped so much at school! Our teachers love the program and have started a monthly mindfulness workshop to share ideas and deepen their own practice.”

“We are honored to receive this grant from the Aetna Foundation,” said Dr. Laura Bakosh, co-founder of Inner Explorer. “We’ve been building a relationship with the Aetna Foundation since 2015 and look forward to working with the Foundation to bring forward Inner Explorer’s mission in Florida.”

A Dollar a Day, Tools for Life

The Inner Explorer program requires no additional preparation or equipment, and does not require any additional training or changes in curriculum. What’s more, the entire program costs as little as $1 per student per year. With help from the Aetna Foundation, the cost is reduced even further, allowing Inner Explorer to focus on implementing its life-changing program in Title 1 Schools in Florida, bringing access to classrooms and students that need it the most.

“Mindfulness has emerged as a key theme for Aetna, which is a champion for the practice in the health care industry, and for the Aetna Foundation, which has made it a key part of its grant making activities,” said Sharon Ions, Corporate Relations Director for the Aetna Foundation. “We’re very proud to support Inner Explorer’s innovative work, which is introducing children to a powerful daily activity that can improve their health and wellbeing, as well as their academic success.”

Inner Explorer’s program is divided into four classroom-based editions, each edition designed for certain ages and stages. The exercises are delivered through an online audio platform, so any classroom with an internet connection can participate, and teachers simply have to press play.

“Stress has a disproportionate effect on the children struggling through poverty and violence in many areas of the country, limiting both their academic and social potential,” says Janice Houlihan, co-founder of Inner Explorer. “Inner Explorer’s vision is to break the cycle of poverty, violence, and despair through mindfulness, giving teachers and students the tools to help them manage and overcome the stressors in their lives, fostering wellbeing and academic success from the inside out.”

About the Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $465 million in grants and sponsorships. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered 3.8 million hours since 2003. For more information, visit

About Inner Explorer

Inner Explorer was developed by mindful awareness teachers with over 30 years of combined experience. Understanding the difficulty of making mindfulness habitual, Inner Explorer created automated programs that help teachers and students practice simply and efficiently each day, as well as providing the opportunity to learn together. With an unprecedented program and proven results, Inner Explorer is a non-profit organization working toward the goal of “One Million Mindful Children” - helping to improve education outcomes in order to break the cycle of poverty. For more information, please visit


Media Contact: Lisa Wang, lisa(at), 1-888-317-4687 ext. 703

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