The Amy Awards: Sarah Dimick and Nisa Giaquinto seek wellness for changemakers

Zen Ed founders are recipients of a 2022 Amy Award
Wellness Seekers
Photo by Hillary Schave
Sarah Dimick and Nisa Giaquinto

Sarah Dimick and Nisa Giaquinto want to see a world filled with well women. And they wonder, what would society look like then?

Dimick and Giaquinto were connected last summer by a mutual friend who knew they shared a lot of the same values. Dimick, a licensed school psychologist, and Giaquinto, a licensed school counselor, share passions for women’s rights, environmental justice, ending gun violence, wellness and yoga. Both were seeing a need for self-care among their peers, and they were tired of feeling like they weren’t making a difference.

So they teamed up to pursue an idea: create a better world by supporting changemakers. To do that, they’re setting out to make wellness more accessible.

“We’re very aware that wellness can be something that only the privileged can access, and [we] feel strongly that that isn’t OK,” says Dimick. “We’re not well unless we’re all well.”

They launched Zen Ed in fall 2021, and they were part of StartingBlock Madison’s 2022 Social Impact Cohort, which includes selected startups that go through a nine-month program to help them scale their businesses.

Both still have day jobs as they pursue Zen Ed — Giaquinto is a yoga and psychology instructor at Madison College and Dimick is a mental health clinician in schools in Madison and surrounding areas. “We’re still close to our passions and backgrounds,” Giaquinto says.

They hope to use their skill sets to bring positive psychology and wellness into schools, corporations and nonprofits that might not otherwise have the means to provide that kind of programming.

“There are so many careers in our culture that are dominated by women, and they’re not paid well, even though it’s incredibly important work,” Dimick says. “We call them caretaker/caregiver careers. They’re a pillar of society but not compensated in a way that would allow them to pay for their own wellness or do their own yoga class.”

They’re talking about teachers, social workers and certified nursing assistants. “People working at the Rape Crisis Center or DAIS [Domestic Abuse Intervention Services] who are really the safety net for a lot of people, but they don’t have support,” Dimick says.

One program they hope to launch is “If Women Ran the World,” a mentorship curriculum for high schools in Dane County designed to inspire leadership in young women. “During our combined 30 years in education, we have seen the lack of mentors and connections with community/business leaders available to high school students,” Dimick says. “We have also witnessed the systemic practices that ultimately leave girls feeling that they cannot be leaders. Our work will change that.”

Giaquinto knew Amy Gannon, who was her primary instructor for Collaboration for Good’s 2019 Social Good Accelerator, which Giaquinto participated in. Giaquinto says she pictures Gannon saying, “Yay! Go for it,” about their concept.

One can only imagine how a girl like 13-year-old Jocelyn Gannon, already a natural leader in her too-short life, would have blossomed in the “If Women Ran the World” program.

“This sort of program, centered around supporting young women in stepping into leadership roles to change the world for the better, is an idea we think Amy would have championed,” Dimick says.

Andrea Behling is editor at Madison Magazine.