Our firm had the privilege last week to be a part of something truly important and remarkably innovative. We were a part of the first Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning program in the nation to be adopted into the core curriculum of a charter school for at-risk girls. This was the result of a collaborative effort of a unique consortium of entities. The pilot program could not have come together without three organizations and their leadership pulling together to spark this vision into reality.
The leadership team from the Just For Girls Academy in Bradenton, Florida displayed courage and an innovative spirit in sharing this vision with us earlier in the year. Becky Canesse, the CEO of Just For Girls, and Dr. Jennifer Rosenboom, the school’s principal, took the first steps to usher this progressive idea into reality. Leadership of a charter school seeking fresh, meaningful approaches for educating, in their words, the whole girl. None of this could have happened without another noteworthy community leader coming in to the consortium; Gail Clifton, the volunteer Executive Director of SMART (the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, also in Bradenton), a 501(c)(3) that has been supporting the needs of children in the community for over 25 years. Gail graciously provided the facilities, the exceptional horses, curriculum support and a team of heart-centered volunteers to make this all happen. Yet another leader from our organization, Sarah Murray, Director of Business Development, worked with Gail and Dr. Rosenboom to co-create and align the curriculum and finalize the schedules for the series of workshops.
I find this breathtaking. A public/private collaboration that drew upon the talents and resources of a charter school, a private charitable corporation and a for-profit company coming together to benefit the lives and futures of nearly 90 young girls in our community. A collaborative effort that introduced a truly innovative approach to educating our children. An approach that is focused on experientially imparting the emotional intelligence skills, sense of self, healthy boundaries, and empathy for one another that are so critical to success and wellbeing in the growing complexity of our contemporary times. Success based upon intrinsic values, not the extrinsic values these young people are bombarded with by the mindless media that simply wants to drive consumerism and amplify divisiveness. Intrinsic values that transcend the superficial differences of our multi-cultural, global community. Values that celebrate and take joy in personal development, authentic relationships and being of service to others.
The courage and leadership these second graders displayed was humbling. I personally watched these wondrous children face their fears and muster the courage, with only the adults holding the space for them and providing a safe environment, to face their fears and walk right through them. I watched as these polite, charming young ladies held each others’ hands as they did so, providing peer support to one another with love and respect. I watched as they engaged in their emotions with remarkable self-awareness, allowing themselves to feel the full spectrum of their emotional landscape that ran the range from anxiousness to joyousness.
This is what can be accomplished when diverse groups of leaders collaborate to deliver positive change. This lesson transcends organizations and organizational objectives, as it is a lesson in the capabilities of the human spirit.
I encourage you all to visit the websites of these two organizations and open your hearts at this time of year with your generous support.
© 2012, Terry Murray.