Ed Stone wants every student at Northampton High School to feel that there are adults in the building who they can talk to and trust, who make them feel heard and not judged. He believes that having strong and safe relationships is a key to student success in a world that “doesn’t make a lot of space for us…to safely have feelings and have our needs met around those feelings.”

In his five years as a school adjustment counselor at NHS, Ed has worked with students to help them become more self-aware, to identify their own triggers and needs, to figure out why they make the choices they make, and to understand the effects of their actions on their relationships. Ed started his career working at the Dearborn Academy STEP Program, now located in Newton, MA, a short-term educational placement for students who are struggling to be successful in school due to social, emotional, and mental health challenges. In that job, Ed “learned what targeted instruction and true support can actually do for students,” and he brought this strong belief in student-centered education to his work at NHS. 

 In his first year in Northampton, Ed was involved with the high school’s student support resource room, which was a space where any student having a hard time could go, check in with staff, and receive both academic and counseling support. Now, he works primarily with special education students and students with behavioral challenges. He teaches them coping and problem-solving skills, and he does a lot of listening. A clinical social worker by training, Ed’s goal is to support students in discovering and being true to themselves, in developing language to “speak to their experience holistically, whether as a special education learner with different learning styles or as a person of color in a majority white dominated space.”

Students of color often gravitate to Ed naturally for support, in part because he is a biracial man and one of only a few educators of color at NHS. For students (and sometimes caregivers) who may feel detached from the school in part because they don’t see themselves represented racially or culturally, his presence can sometimes serve as a bridge. He makes connections with these students and supports them as they navigate the challenges of living in a world where they are often marginalized. For example when a student of color comes to his office and says, “I’m not going to take that class, that class is for white kids,” he helps them work through the idea of internalized oppression. They discuss the origins of this way of thinking, the ways it can dehumanize people of color, and ways the student might disrupt it.

Ed feels lucky to collaborate closely with a small group of colleagues who care about the students he works with and want to ensure that they are not left behind. He feels that many people in the district have good intentions and that we are “facing the right direction” in many ways. And yet, he believes that significant systemic and cultural change is still needed at NHS because outcomes for students of color and special needs students continue to be poor. Those students are the true measure of whether our good intentions have come to fruition, according to Ed. “When their stories start changing,” he says, “that is when we will know we are doing it right.”

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