This is the Edge

www.TheCitizensWhoCare.org

What we do
Why we do it
How we do it
Year End Report - 2016/17
Contact Information

The Edge in Action

Ashland Town Hall with Mayor John Stromberg
Phoenix Rising
Crossing the Line: Emotional Mentoring in Schools
Epidemic of Bullying
How to Save a Life

   

w What we do


The Edge offers student-faculty workshops to middle and high schools free of charge. Our workshops counter, head-on, a myriad of social issues: prejudice, peer pressure, drug abuse, bullying, body image and other self-esteem issues, learning disorders, gangs, name-calling, homelessness, hunger, cutting (self-mutilation), suicide, and many more. We accomplish this by emphasizing respect for self and others, promoting tolerance of unfamiliar cultures and ideas, and cultivation of a heightened sense of empathy and understanding.

See The Edge in Action Our organization addresses serious problems among children in our schools that also ripple out to affect our larger communities. By modeling and then advancing extraordinary honesty and shared vulnerability among school participants at an Edge workshop, facilitators utilize Edge protocols to reduce alienation and bullying, build school culture, and foster empathy, emotional literacy, and mature personal and social relationships.

Mission: Empowering students to support each other in a safe school environment through re­spect, em­pa­thy and dig­ni­ty.

Vision: Imagining a world where our youth co­exist peace­ful­ly by ack­now­ledg­ing and cele­bra­ting each other’s values and gifts.This is The Edge, Inc., a certified 501(c) (3) non-profit charity* staffed by experienced volunteer mentors, was developed for middle and high school students in Southern Oregon and Northern California to promote non-violent peer interaction, acceptance of others, and cooperation within school communities.

Students learn to accept their own uniqueness, and to express their individuality in an appropriate and safe manner, while accepting the many differences that typify our human race. It is our experience that, in most cases, the overall school culture is significantly impacted in a wide variety of positive ways by the end of the workshop: fewer fights, decreased disciplinary actions, and increased academic achievement.

We Help Schools Overcome...

Finger Pointing
Poor Communication Does Your Student Shut You Out?
Heavy Demands Does Teaching Have to Be Overwhelming?
Social Division Can “Loving Thy Neighbor” Heal Divisions in Our Schools?


Why we do it


Recent statistics tell us that substantial numbers of students are committing suicide, experiencing homelessness and hunger, self-mutilating, and suffering abuse. The Edge is a holistic program reaching out to our youth to break down individual isolation and support educators working to assist students—to help every one of them grow emotionally, thrive socially, graduate, and live a successful life.

The Josephine Institute Center for Youth Ethics has reported that, out of 47,000 high school kids, 47% have been bullied and 50% have been bullies; a significant overlap between the two groups.

The Edge has learned that the answers to problems such as bullying lie with the students themselves. When peer bystanders intervene to stop the victimization, and when bullies begin to exercise empathy, the problems diminish. Many other organizations have developed programs using experienced staff to teach a similar intervention approach, but the vast majorities are prohibitively expensive, and financially strapped school districts simply cannot afford their fees.

The Edge offers, not only a comprehensive program exploring the lives of students, but also provides this community service free of charge to schools, directly benefitting a large number of community schools, and thousands of our kids.

It must be remembered that any instance of crime or violence at school not only affects the individuals involved, but may also disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school itself, and the surrounding community.1

In addition to experiencing loneliness, depression, and adjustment difficulties,2 3 4 5 6 victimized children are more prone to truancy,7 poor academic performance,8 9 dropping out of school,10 11 and violent behaviors.12

Concerns about vulnerability to attacks can detract from a positive school environment13 and classroom disruptions are associated with lower student achievement for the offending student, as well as for that student's classmates.14

For teachers, incidents of victimization may lead to professional disenchantment and even departure from the profession altogether.15 16

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How we do it


A three hour Edge school program is partitioned into four main sections:

Introduction

Students and staff gather together in the school gym. The lead facilitator explains the purpose of an Edge workshop, introduces the adult facilitators and staff to the students, and stresses the importance of confidentiality and honesty in the process. All participants will be honored as equals throughout the entire program.

Then, an up-beat dance tune is played to begin the workshop with some silly but fun dance moves, gestures, and vocalizing. The main facilitator leads by example, playfully prodding participants to shed inhibitions, embarrassment, and shyness. Full participation in the simple yet spirited movements is encouraged in order to build camaraderie, put everyone at ease, and get all present laughing, engaged, and enthusiastic about continuing the process.

Facilitated Break-out Circle Exercises

Students count off randomly so as to prevent the usual social cliques from forming. Instead, small, same-gender groups of students are joined together who might not normally gather together. An adult volunteer facilitator of the same gender is then assigned to each new group and the groups spread out to different locations in order to maintain group privacy and confidentiality.

Once settled in, the adult facilitator initiates group conversation, spurring participation by asking each member a question from a prepared list. The purpose of the questions is to raise student awareness of each person’s unique differences, as well as our commonalities, through compassionate listening skills. In asking questions of their peers, and also in answering questions from their peers, new bridges of understanding and communication open up among students who might normally not even speak to each other. The process helps break down the alienating in-group, out-group biases so common in today’s schools.

Crossing The Line Exercise

This is the crowning point of the workshop. It consists of another series of questions, but this time directed towards the entire mixed-gender group, which has reassembled back on the main floor of the gym in a single line along one side of the room. The lead facilitator moves to the front of the entire group and begins the process. If the answer to a specific question applies to an individual participant, or to someone he or she knows, then that person walks over to a blue line of tape placed about 12 feet in front of the group, turns around, and, without speaking, faces those who did not move.

What is witnessed, heard and felt, are the real-life situations that keep us separated, which, ironically, now begin to reveal what we all really have in common. This protocol allows participants to meet and ponder human issues such as ageism, prejudice, the many forms of abuse, self-loathing, bullying, body image anxiety, homelessness, gangs, suicide, and much more. Questions are articulated in a way that provides for a safe environment that allows honest expression without singling anyone out.

The Gold Questions that follow highlight student choices wherein an individual may reflect on instances when they stepped up to support a friend, family member, other person in the community, or even a stranger. Each question prompts participants to reflect silently on the goodness of their actions on behalf of another; a time when they offered respect, kindness and assistance. Students experience the pride and strength of their own character and begin to appreciate the power of taking positive action for others. Isolation then transforms into cohesion as they “cross the line”. Each witnesses how their classmates also helped, intervened, or reached out to another.

The Horseshoe Closing Exercise

The “Horseshoe” is a final opportunity for students and staff to gather together and reflect on their individual workshop experience and perhaps share that experience with the group; to begin the process of creating a culture of support and cooperation within their school community. Many students have silently delved into their emotions during the workshop and now have an opportunity to express out loud how the experience affected them, what they learned. Spontaneous sharing often occurs—among individuals, and to the group. Apologies, declarations of intent to change behavior, and requests for renewed friendship are common themes during this process. The facilitator carefully guides the conversation to this end and thus ends the program on an emotionally uplifting note.

Follow-up Workshop

Another integral part of the training is a follow-up workshop offered after completion of the first morning’s program. At the school’s invitation, we are prepared to return—our recommendation is within a two-week period—for a two-hour follow-up session with the students. We offer questions that challenge the students to step into a leadership role in their school community, utilizing the skills of awareness and self-empowerment that they acquired in the original workshop.

Year-End Report 2016/17


It was in March of 09 that we started our program at Rogue River Middle School. Thanks to Floyd Graves we got in the door and we were off. It was raw and rough and the mistakes flowed; but next to the flaws were the wins and we were well on our way. In the past eight years we have served 23 schools, provided over 70 Edge events which means over 8000 students have experienced this most vital and valuable work. Today, more than ever I see our place as more important and essential than ever before. Our schools are underfunded, overcrowded and under staffed. Teachers, if you think about it are tremendously important in the life of a child. They can literally be the primary force behind success or failure. These paragons of science, literature, language and government are also understaffed, underpaid, underappreciated and over worked. We live in perilous times. And this tells me how needed we truly are….

This message to all of you is my final update for 2016-2017 up until September. I wanted to share a little before the summer is upon us…which feels like now 90 degrees today…

I was being visited by my family last month (three adults and five kids…7-13). We were in Target for some belated birthday presents and while I was waiting for three kids (not good for my less than ample patience) a young woman approached me and asked me if I was with the Edge. She remembered me from her sophomore, junior and senior years at Phoenix High School, each year attending an Edge event. She paid me one of the most unforgettable compliments I have ever received. I was dizzy with gratitude and asked her to please remember her words and put them in writing. Here they are. Needless to say, I floated out of the store…

“When I was a student at Phoenix High School, my principal and vice principal brought you guys in to help our students become aware of the impact that they have on others. I attended the event in the spring of my sophomore year, which was a particularly hard year for me in my high school days, and it changed my year. It changed my life. For the very first time I was able to witness students interacting with each other in a humble and understanding way. There were no judgments or fears. We were all completely and honestly ourselves without fear of what others may say. We were all struggling with something. It was truly enlightening. My school held this event for the next three years, twice a year. I went EVERY time. This program changed who I was and how I treated others. I learned things about myself that I carry forward with me throughout college and in my work place. It taught me that how I interact with the world truly does make a difference. It didn't just change who I was however, it change the atmosphere of my high school. My class was an extremely close one. We were all friends and we all respected and valued each other. I whole-heartedly believe that this program played an intense and large factor into that. I am extremely sad that it is not being utilized. I think right now, at this point in time, our youth need a program like this more than ever. Sincerely, Alex Hull"

I have spoken to Alex twice since and she is more than willing to help us if and when she can. She is a floor supervisor at Target. If you’re shopping there, you might consider saying hello.

If you haven’t seen our documentary in our website, please do so. It was done at Yreka High School where we will be returning for our 7th year in a row at the end of this summer. A very strong note of thanks to Maria Haywood, the counselor at Yreka. We love her and cherish her trust in us.

I am also reminded of another testimonial. I am sure that those of you who were with us at Roseburg Middle School a ways back, will remember their principal, Bill Bartlett. It was our second Edge day there and in the middle of our closing circle he walked in and broke down with the story that a young seventh grader, a boy, had decided not to take his life. It was because of his Edge experience. I am thinking of one of our board members, Tanya Maxwell who works as a counselor there. Her support over the years has been invaluable. I hear a lot from Tanya. It would be inappropriate for me to divulge what she has shared, what so many of her challenges are. However, I will say this. The Common Core testing program has these kids testing all day for a month of full days per year with not much else going on. It is disruptive to the education these kids need, both in and out of doors. This is one of the reasons why we have not been busier. The schools in entire districts are swamped with new schedules and have less and less time. Hello federal subsidies. Getting back to Jo Lane Middle. Here is another testimonial and this one is from Bill, the principal and Tanya, the counselor, both of whom have as much heart as any school we have ever visited.

“Trust and a sense of belonging to one's school is essential to creating a nurturing and inspiring school climate that gives students and staff the safety to express themselves, to ask questions, and to feel what they have to say is worthwhile. Many of our students have experienced feelings of isolation and mistrust in just being themselves with others—on the defense, which only leads to compromising who they are, accepting bullying behaviors, and striking out at others. The Edge made a great difference in our school. After The Edge event, the school climate changed noticeably. Students that felt alone and hopeless reached out to other students and to staff. Students that had bullied other students or ‘stirred the pot of peer conflict’ subsided in those behaviors and showed empathy toward others. A culture of kindness was increased, which gave students the safety to express themselves, their feelings and opinions. That is what a thriving learning environment offers students. We certainly look forward to bringing The Edge back to our school.”—Bill Bartlett, Principal, and Tanya Maxwell, Counselor, at Joseph Lane Middle School

Please revisit our website. Take a look at some of the testimonials. I just did and what a lift it has been. Whether we are in a high school gymnasium, a summer retreat, or an impoverished area in eastern Africa, working with kids of all ages, men, women, men and women together, we have been an undeniable force for bringing people together to realize our deeper connections and what it means to be authentic, vulnerable and courageous. I thank all of you for all your support, regardless of how often or when you were there. We cannot do this without you. We need you… and anytime you can help by supporting us to a school, bringing in a new volunteer, sharing a new idea or just mentioning us on Facebook, it could lead to another school willing to let us in and that can lead to anything from a saved or transformed life to a new or healed friendship.

One last thing that is important. We are reaching out to other nonprofits to consider collaborating. There was a meeting today with Resolve. Wayne Kelly, our ED had a promising report from this meeting in which Deltra Ferguson, their ED and Judge Joe Charter, one of our consultants shared information that might be beneficial for all and we believe that after listening to what the Edge does, Deltra will attend one of the Edge days at Yreka for the incoming Freshmen

Thanks again to all of you and have a great summer……………….

Grant Williams…Founder/President...This is the Edge

"I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of anybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so one doesn't create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people. - Baba Ram Dass"

Contact Information

This is the Edge
1467 Siskiyou Blvd #228
Ashaldn, OR 97520
waynekelly@thisistheedge.org
541/201-1159

 
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