Beaufort News

Oprah partner Stedman Graham to bring health tour to Beaufort County schools

Stedman Graham, longtime partner of Oprah Winfrey, is heading to Beaufort County.

The self-help author and public speaker will address students at four high schools next week during one stop on the Live Sonima Tour, his vehicle for spreading a learning-management and health and wellness-curriculum to schools, universities and companies across the country.

The district was not charged for the tour, which starts with a Tuesday visit to Bluffton High School, according to schools spokesman Jim Foster.

Through the nonprofit Sonima Foundation, board member Graham and singer-songwriter Caroline Jones, who authored and founded another school curriculum based in musical expression, give presentations and lead student performances. It's the same foundation the school district is partnering with on a nearly $200,000 wellness program new to schools this fall. The program's goal is to improve students' physical and mental health and social and emotional learning, according to Jennifer Morillo, the district's director of teaching and learning.

The foundation's website says it trains local educators to teach its health and wellness curriculum in public schools, and has partnered with more than 100 schools across the country.

In 2014, the foundation's first Live Sonima Tour reached 60,000 students in 75 schools, the website states.

The Beaufort County stop follows a visit to Memphis last week.

The schedule includes:

  • Student performances at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Bluffton High School and 11 a.m. at Hilton Head Island High School.
  • A public performance at 6 p.m. at Bluffton High School.
  • A student performance at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Battery Creek High School.
  • A teacher/community event at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Battery Creek High School.
  • A student performance at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at Beaufort High School.
  • A public performance at 6 p.m. Thursday at Beaufort High School.
  • From the Lowcountry, the tour heads to North Carolina and then Florida.

    Graham's talks focus on helping audiences untap their potential through his "learning management system," called the Nine-Step Success Process.

    Graham writes that "many of us spend years trying to find out who we are and, sadly, too many of us never do. If we fail to define ourselves, we risk letting others define us by our race, gender and background."

    Students at 15 district schools are getting a simpler message on wellness from the foundation.

    All elementary schools except Daufuskie, Lady's Island and Okatie, along with Robert Smalls International Academy and Whale Branch Middle Schools, volunteered to participate in the new wellness program, which began teaching students yoga, breathing exercises, conflict resolution and other exercises this fall.

    The district paid the foundation about $13,000 per school, totaling about $195,000, out of its budget for in-person and online training for the teachers involved and ongoing mentorship and evaluations, Foster said.

    Superintendent Jeff Moss says the district will participate in a study that will measure how the program affects student attendance, performance and disciplinary problems.

    Already, teachers say they're noticing students coping better with stress and paying more attention during class. The district may expand the program to more schools next year.

    Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at