America’s Insistent Violence: a Call to Action from Merge Education
20% of America’s young people today have a diagnosable mental health disorder. (The National Center for Children in Poverty, University of Chicago http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_929.html). Merge Education has a solution that engages these overlooked young people. It’s a combination of progressive fine arts, mentoring, and strengths-based education.
Hurt (adj.) Children Hurt (v.) Children
Children and youth with emotional challenges become different from their peers, and while they may join small fringe groups of friends they are often shunned or bullied. Many become depressed or angry and potentially vengeful.
How To Fix the Hurt? With a Preventive Intervention
Merge Education sees the insistent violence in America as a call to action to address the needs of all youth, especially those who are most difficult to reach and often overlooked.
This solution utilizes Merge Director Bill Rossi’s unique educational approach that incorporates strengths-based mentoring and long-term, high quality, progressive fine arts training. It’s excellence in education so it’s good for most youth – and especially effective for those who are really in need.
This approach has an orientation of inclusivity, a creative sharing and celebration of uniqueness and our commonality – of developing distinctive voices and building community.
The Strengths-Based Arts Mentoring Approach
A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Bill began developing and implementing his approach in the 1980’s over years of teaching music students, refining the approach until it was potent.
One of his adult students who had experienced serious emotional challenges then offered to fund a program so that at risk youth could experience the same benefits he had.
For over 20 years, Bill worked with social workers, psychologists, educators, artists and program administrators to refine this approach. It ultimately served approximately 2,500 individuals (mostly youth). Details here: http://merge-education.com/merge-education-story.php
Replicating the Approach
Bill has also developed effective ways of passing this approach on to others, including software especially designed for after school program evaluation and management, a 2-volume primer on the approach, 2 books of curricula, and a manual for implementing an arts mentoring program.
The Beauty’s in the Details
One facet of the approach is to expand student’s knowledge of the history of their craft. This often also expands their awareness of their own history.
So many of today’s youth are exposed to little other than Hip Hop and Rock. But the roots of Hip Hop and Rock – Blues and Jazz – are distinctly Black music, international forms that, especially in the case of Jazz, can have a sophisticated elegance and beauty that transcend the challenge of race, class, or poverty. Jazz is, as Wynton Marsalis states, “egalitarian democracy in sound.”
The Blues and Jazz grew out of oppression – they were a people’s answer to slavery and the degradation of prejudice, and became a universal call for freedom for all people. They have greatly influenced contemporary American music.
Exploration of this tradition and history by learning the music it created leads into the humanities, and provides fertile ground for educating youth. It also opens doors for youth who might have only passing interest in Hip Hop and Rock but are excited by what they see as the more well-rounded progression of Jazz.
A Time for Action:
Bill and his wife Mary-Helen Rossi are looking to partner with like-minded people – agencies, organizations, and foundations – to develop a comprehensive initiative to serve America’s overlooked young people.
Visit http://merge-education.com/merge-education-story.php or contact Mary-Helen Rossi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.785.2474.