Mikal was a shy freshman at Patterson High School when the Institute's Alicia Diehl met him in the school's garden in 2013.
"He was quiet in the classroom and didn't interact much with his peers," she recalled. "But one-on-one, he was very engaged."
Mikal was fascinated with growing food, so Alica gave him tomato plants to raise with his grandmother in the family's backyard.
He became involved with the Mindfulness at Patterson Partnership, a collaboration spearheaded by the Institute that introduced a curriculum of yoga, breathing exercises, and quiet reflection at the school. It piqued Mikal's curiosity. He peppered Alica with questions about yoga and meditation and read up on the subjects. She gave him a yoga mat, and he began practicing at home.
"With his enthusiasm for healthy living, Mikal was poised to become a leader in Mission Thrive Summer 2015," Alica said. The five-week program at Real Food Farm exposes students to healthy lifestyle choices through experiences and instruction in urban farming, cooking, mindfulness, physical fitness, and nutrition.
Participating in Mission Thrive Summer built upon Mikal's skills and developed his social side, enabling him to become a stronger communicator and supportive team member.
"[The program] helped us see each other as different people and understand each other better," said Mikal. "I had to be more open to ideas. So it kind of challenged me, but I got better at it."
Mikal now leads yoga and gardening projects at the Park Heights Community Health Alliance, and volunteers with the B'More Healthy Communities for Kids program. He hopes to return for Mission Thrive Summer 2016.