The Benji Project was founded in 2016 in response to the suicide of a cherished Port Townsend teenager.
We teach teenagers stress management and emotional resilience skills using an evidence-based curriculum of mindfulness and self-compassion called Making Friends with Yourself.
Our vision is a community where youth thrive because they have the skills to cope with life’s ups and downs.
Founder and Board Chair
Cynthia brings expertise in business and communications as well as extensive experience serving on nonprofit boards. She has been a mindfulness meditator for more than two decades.
Bonnie is assistant head of school at Swan School and has held executive positions at several nonprofits including OlyCAP. She also provides financial consulting to nonprofit organizations.
Derrell, a licensed mental health counselor, recently retired from a career as executive director of mental health agencies in the Los Angeles area. He also has a background in nonprofit development.
Kelli has worked throughout her career with at-risk adolescents. She manages a juvenile justice diversion program in Jefferson County and works internationally as a master trainer of anti-bullying curriculum.
A nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health, Susan manages the School-Based Health Center at Port Townsend High School and is a healthcare provider at Jefferson Public Health.
Adviser to the Board
Lorraine is director of youth and family programs at the University of California San Diego’s Center for Mindfulness. Along with Karen Bluth, she developed the Making Friends with Yourself curriculum offered by The Benji Project.
Teresa is a professional therapist at Dove House Advocacy Services primarily supporting survivors of sexual violence. She utilizes mindfulness and facilitates healthy relationship skills courses to 9th grade students throughout Jefferson County.
Heather brings a background as a writer and communications consultant for non-profits and has served as an administrator in New York City and Detroit K-12 public schools. She uses movement, meditation, and writing as tools for self-discovery and community connection.
Our program targets youth ages 11 to 19 in Jefferson County, a demographic of about 2,500 people.
Our area is largely rural, remote, and economically disadvantaged which impacts teens’ well-being. A lack of age-appropriate mental health resources adds to the challenges that adolescents face. The Healthy Youth Survey showed in 2016 that 23 percent of our 10th graders had attempted suicide, double the state average.
We serve all teens regardless of means, and 85 percent of participants pay nothing or a reduced amount on a need-based sliding scale. Keeping programs affordable to participants requires extensive and ongoing fundraising.
Our programs include:
8-week classes (once a week for about two hours)
Special workshops for parents, teachers, therapists, healthcare providers and others who work with you.
Programs began 2017
Nonprofit status gained in late 2017 via fiscal sponsorship
Partnership with School-Based Health Centers
Winner of 2018 grant from the Fund for Women and Girls
Awarded two teacher-training scholarships in 2018 so we will have local teachers available.
Increase participation of boys; seeking sponsors for boys programs
Increase program frequency
Add more trained instructors
Expand geographic reach