The EDGE Prepares Students for Workplace Challenges

Posted: August 9, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: August 9, 2010 at 8:08 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Students relax after a day's work on the orientation area. Photo by Steven Hook.

Welcoming hundreds of individuals to its challenge course each month, Mason’s new Center for Team and Organizational Learning, otherwise known as The EDGE (energize, develop, grow, excel), provides elementary schoolchildren to adults with effective team-building, active-learning and communication exercises.

Recently, The EDGE partnered with the Integrated Design and Electronics Academy (IDEA) Public Charter School Military Academy in Washington, D.C. In late June, The EDGE welcomed eight high school students from IDEA to participate in a six-week internship program.

Building on its Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, IDEA prepares young people with the academic, social, leadership and occupational skills they’ll need to succeed in today’s competitive world. To carry out its mission, IDEA has developed a core group of business partners that are willing to invest in the lives of young people.

Realizing how students could benefit from participating in The EDGE, members of IDEA contacted and met with Susan Johnson, manager for Mason’s Center for Team and Organizational Learning, to outline a plan for the business partnership and internship program.

Johnson agreed to partner with IDEA’s internship program, which aims to provide every qualified student with an opportunity to develop and practice pre-employment and job-etiquette skills and to ultimately secure a paid summer internship.

Susan Johnson, manager for Mason’s Center for Team and Organizational
Learning and director of The Edge; and Steven Hook, a teacher at IDEA
Public Charter School, discuss the internship project. Video by Catherine

“Partnering with IDEA Public Charter School and having the opportunity to help prepare these young people for the skills they’ll need to succeed in the workplace speaks to the mission of The EDGE,” says Johnson. “As a team-development course, The EDGE offers opportunities for just about anyone who wants to grow as an individual and as part of a team.”

While The EDGE offers hundreds of possible team-building activities using a wide assortment of experiential options and simulations, the internship focuses on the Alpine Tower, one of the core elements and tallest components of The EDGE’s team-building course.

The students are working with Dan Nellis, facilities manager at The EDGE, to build an orientation area near the Alpine Tower. The work includes clearing a path to and from the Alpine Tower and constructing a harness, helmet rack and benches.

To help prepare them to work as a team and to understand The EDGE’s mission, the students participated in their own team-development course. Then, they created a plan for their project and learned how to use the appropriate tools and equipment.

Their first task involved mapping out a location and clearing an area for a trail from the Piedmont Trail to the Alpine Tower. Once the trail was established, students built the helmet racks and benches from scratch, by sanding, painting and assembling everything themselves.

For the remainder of the internship, which concludes Aug. 12, the students will continue making additions to the tower trail and the area directly around the Alpine Tower.

As a final element of the internship, the students will complete a project that discusses their experiences in-depth and how they helped shape their ideas for the future.

“Throughout the program and during the development of the orientation area, the students learned some of the key elements that will be beneficial to their success, no matter what they choose to do: teamwork, organization and effective communication,” says Johnson.

“After the students have completed the internship program, I hope they have achieved a sense of readiness, personal discipline and career preparation that they may not have had before. And I hope they view their experiences at The EDGE as an important steppingstone in their lives.”

More information about The EDGE is available on the website. To arrange a group program, contact Sue Czarnetzky, sales account manager, at 703-993-4313 or

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