Individualized Learning - Edgewood Community School
April 22, 2015
Edgewood's Community School offers an alternative learning environment for high-need youth by combining academic, extracurricular, and therapeutic programming.
Imagine feeling angry, frustrated, and hurt. Imagine being unable to calm yourself down and stop yourself from lashing out—hitting others, throwing tantrums, or completely withdrawing whenever you felt these strong emotions. This is the daily reality for the children in Edgewood’s Community School, and for many of the hundreds of thousands of children in California who are enrolled in Special Education programs. Traditional public schools do not always have the resources to provide the supervision and therapy these students need, so that is where Edgewood Center for Children and Families fills the void.
Did you know?
"In California, 38 percent of non-traditional students (i.e., those enrolled in Community Day Schools or Continuation Education) had the highest percentages reporting depression-related feelings in the past year."
Robert Urowsky is the principal of Edgewood's Community School. He explains that staff are trained to work with youth who have experienced repeated abuse, neglect, abandonment, and trauma.
"Children have had so much frustration, pain, and anger, that they develop these intense defenses,” according to Urowsky. “If your facial expressions, even your eyebrows, are slightly contorted in the wrong way…[our students] can sense disapproval immediately since they’ve been so harshly rejected and had a life full of school and social failure. The slightest hint that you’re rejecting or criticizing them triggers a fiery reactive chain.”
This reactive chain has gotten students in trouble at school, where police may be called to intervene for fear of children hurting themselves or others. Edgewood's Community School staff are specially trained to address these issues and to help students stay on track academically while learning social skills, teamwork and collaboration, anger management, and the self-confidence they need to succeed.
Edgewood’s Community School, located at its San Francisco Campus in the Sunset District, serves 50 children in grades K-12 during its 11-month school season. Students in the Community School have significant learning and/or behavioral challenges that prevent them from attending traditional public schools where they don’t have the behavioral health supports needed for success and growth. Roughly half of these 50 children live in the community and travel to campus each day for school and the remaining 25 live on campus in an Intensive Residential Program. The curriculum includes fundamental math, literacy, and social sciences and follows common core standards set by the school district. Additionally, therapy and behavior coaching helps youth learn and recover in a supported learning environment.
What makes Edgewood's program unique is its small class size and therapeutic approach to behavioral challenges.
Classes consist of no more than 12 students, with a minimum ratio of three students to each staff member. This allows counselors to offer individualized behavioral coaching, academic support, and therapy. Because of this higher level of supervision, youth can participate in enrichment activities like art, recreation, cooking clubs, sports, and field trips.
Our goal is to graduate students from the program and have them return to a less restrictive academic environment with peers. Every year, at least five of the 50 youth attending Edgewood's Community School transition back into public schools. This means that students do not feel ashamed or stigmatized for being removed from school and being singled out as problematic. It also means they have successfully learned how to control impulses and cooperate with others.
“Once they experience success there’s no stopping them [Edgewood youth].” Robert Urowsky, Edgewood Community School
We have had many successes, including a young boy, “Will,” who used to handle his anger by kicking holes in the walls of his house. Will recently told Community School teachers that he realized he could now communicate with others instead of making himself angry and acting out to resolve strong feelings. He was able to change his behavior pattern and noticed how much happier he was after making this change. Read another success story about a teen who attended our Community School, here.
You can help Edgewood serve the needs of vulnerable children, youth, and families and support a positive transition to adulthood. Help us provide innovative behavioral health services and programs to kids and families like the Community School; please donate today.
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