Building community, reducing conflicts

RIT’s Leadership Institute provides interactive workshop for area teens




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Valarie Upson, director of organizational advancement for Community Place

Probation is a tough consequence of being in trouble, but it can also be a turning point for positive change.

For some Rochester teens, they received some tools and support to make life-changing decisions through a program developed by RIT’s Leadership Institute, members of the Community Place of Greater Rochester and Hillside Family of Agencies.

The program offers crucial skills needed by young people 11–16 years of age to help improve self-awareness, emotional stability, learning abilities and conflict resolution to reduce absenteeism, gang involvement, bullying and other crimes, says Duane Beck, who led a workshop for the Leadership Institute, part of RIT’s Student Affairs division.

Beck, a lecturer in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, collaborated on building the workshop with Molly McGowan, director of RIT’s Leadership Institute, and Valarie Upson, director of organizational advancement for Community Place, a local nonprofit agency. It was piloted this summer over six weeks at the agency.

“Many of the students came from different and difficult backgrounds and were mandated by the probation department to attend classes. I wanted to develop something more educational and empowering,” says Upson. “This became a program the kids looked forward to. They were able to talk about themselves, their lives and even what happened to them that put them on probation. This program might be one of the things that can change their lives.”

While listening to the students, Beck and the case managers assisted the students in applying critical-thinking skills as they addressed past situations. The process was intended to help them in making better decisions, should they face a similar situation in the future, he explains.

“The teens were very interactive and learned skills that they can demonstrate for making better decisions in the future. Students learned tools from Lean Six Sigma methodologies, which is a cognitive approach for determining problems, possible solutions and the path to continual improvement, key facets of Lean Six.”

Twenty young people participated in the summer program. According to the presenters, the program will be continued this fall.

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Valarie Upson, director of organizational advancement for Community Place

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Duane Beck, lecturer in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, and Molly McGowan, director of RIT’s Leadership Institute