ROPE Berkshires | Founder
Shirley Ann Session Edgerton is a Community Activist, Diversity Trainer, manager and avid cyclist. 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 when her three children were small, intentionally involving them and exposing them to the realities and rewards. They have all grown up to partner with her.
She served as the Director of Berkshire County State-Operated Homes for Adults with Developmental & Intellectual Disabilities, and retired from the Department of Developmental Services in January, 2015 after 25 years of service.
Ms. Edgerton is the founder of the Women of Color Giving Circle (WOCGC), a program of the Women’s Fund of Western MA, as well as founding director of the Youth Alive performing arts group, and the Rites of Passage and Empowerment (ROPE) program.
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 who lit the fire that drives her second career as a youth mentor.
Youth Alive, the dance troupe she founded, is now over twenty years old. This performance arts group has supported hundreds of young people in developing life, leadership and team-building skills and raising their self-esteem. The members have participated in cultural and academic programming across the state and beyond. YA is proud of its alums and its record changing the odds of teenage pregnancy and high school drop-out over the years.
The ROPE program grew out of YA, focusing attention on young women and horizon-expanding mentorship and academic support. ROPE recently celebrated a decade serving young women of the area with similar, stunning success.
Ms. Edgerton enjoys engaging youth and the community. She is grateful for the women that were role models in her life; for them, she is paying it forward. In addition to her responsibilities to ROPE and YA, she is working part-time with the Pittsfield School Department to support recruitment of teachers of color, diversity training and in-school mentoring programs for the students. Recognized as a leader and trusted advisor, she is called upon formally and informally to advocate, communicate and interface for the Black community in the County.