About the Founder

Shirley Ann Session Edgerton is a Community Activist, Diversity Trainer, manager and avid cyclist. DSC_0425_choice

Ms. Edgerton was raised in Mount Vernon, New York where she attended local schools. She graduated from Herbert Lehman College ( City University of New York) with a B.A. and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a M.Ed. She began her trek in community work while exposing and involving her now three adult children in community activities.
She is the founder of the Women of Color Giving Circle, the Rites of Passage and Empowerment program and founding Director of Youth Alive performing Arts group. She retired from the Department of Developmental Services as the Director of Berkshire County State Operated Homes for adults with Mental Retardation in January 2015.

After 25 years of services to the department she decided to focus her attentions on other passions. Youth development has been a driving force in her life. Ms. Edgerton credits the women in her life starting with her grandmother as the motivators that incited the fire that drives her to mentor youth. Youth Alive is over twenty years old, this performance arts group has supported hundreds of youth in developing life skills, leadership and team building skills and improving on their self-esteem. The members have participated in cultural and academic programming. YA is proud of its alums and the very low rates of teenage pregnancy and high school drop-out over the years.

The Rites of Passage program is five years old, targets junior and high school girls. This holistic program celebrates girls entry into womanhood and provides the girls with skills and knowledge to be successful and independent women. In 2014, 7 girls graduated from high school and 7 were accepted and are attending college. ROPE collaborates with numerous organizations including  Colonial Theatre where 2 of the girls are interns and the Flying Cloud Institute where 5 of the girls are mentors in elementary schools in girls Science Clubs. Other members travelled to Ghana, West Africa in the summer of 2014 and shared with girls from Ghana.

Ms. Edgerton enjoys engaging youth and the community, she is grateful for the women that were role models in her life, so she is paying it forward. Currently, she and the ROPE program are preparing for a visit of four girls from South Africa where she visited and led workshops. She also is working part-time with Pittsfield School Department to assist in recruiting teachers of colors, organizing Diversity training and initiating mentoring programs for the students.


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