The Story of Ed Benson, ARISE Founder
Edmund F. Benson: At-Risk Kid
As a child, Eddie (his name back then) was a “troublemaker.” That’s what they called at-risk youth when he was growing up. Parents would warn their children, “Stay away from that Benson boy; he is bad news.” Fortunately, drug use was not as common in those days and crime wasn’t an option in his family circle. Committing a crime would have been as remote an option as planning to eat lunch on the moon. It is sad to say, but Eddie’s home life was miserable. There was no love or understanding. His family looked at him as a loser, a dropout, and a rebel. In their eyes, he couldn’t do anything right. At school life was no better for Eddie. The teachers would use whips (long, hard pieces of bamboo) to beat him over his hands and body in an effort to control him. That didn’t work.
Eddie was not destined for higher education. He joined the Massachusetts State Guard at the age of 14 and the Massachusetts National Guard at 15. He quit school at 16 and enlisted in the US Merchant Marines at the tail end of World War II. His first trip on a freighter lasted six months and went to South America, Africa, and Germany. The ship was populated with people who were either dishonorably discharged from the US Armed Forces or who hadn’t been allowed to enlist in the service due to their prison records. They were tough characters. His adventures could fill a book, including one where he was totally lost one night in the infamous Kasbah in Casablanca, North Africa. It was common for Americans to be killed just for their shoes in that area. After the Merchant Marines, Eddie joined the US Army Engineers where he got his GED. He received an honorable discharge when his enlistment time was up.
At age 21, Eddie started his own business selling pots and pans door to door. In those days he was referred to as a custom peddler. He realized if he was going to be successful with his limited education, he would have to work twice as hard as those with high school diplomas and college degrees. That’s what he calls his “two-day-a-day work ethic.” Eddie (now called Edmund) still works no less than 16 hours a day, seven days a week. This entrepreneur built a successful business that stretched from Boston, MA to Austin, TX and at age 52 he retired.
He left the world of commerce with a single purpose—to share the life skills he learned (the hard way) that led to his success. Fortunately, Edmund met and married the love of his life, Susan, an educator with a master’s degree, and between them they have written over 125 books that teach life skills to at-risk young people (like Eddie as a child). They have created a complete resource center for at-risk boys and girls and young adults. When developing these lessons, they made sure that there were no hard-to-understand words, no run-on sentences, no small type or tiny line spaces that restricted those with difficulty reading. Every word and lesson has been created to be interactive, interesting, and informative. As a dropout himself, Edmund understands that these problems are exactly what caused him to explode with frustration and anger in a classroom setting. In 1986, the Bensons established ARISE Foundation. In the 25+ years since ARISE has been in existence, there has never been a report of a child flaring up due to an inability to understand the material or grasp a concept (even with those who are barely able to read or write).
Many circumstances land at risk youth in juvenile hall. Often they are angry, frustrated, and in tears. Some have been traumatized by violence; some have been abandoned, abused, or mistreated; others suffer with addictions to drugs or alcohol. All of them worry about what’s next in their lives. It doesn’t require a crystal ball to see that with a limited education, they are most likely to be unemployed, involved in crime, in need of state-funded medical care, or on welfare. This is not a pretty picture. The Bensons feel misery has enough company.
As a former at-risk kid, Edmund feels he was born to provide the lessons he and his wife wrote to turn these at-risk children away from a more serious criminal path. This is why they devote their lives to writing life-skills lessons and training staff members and volunteers to teach ARISE groups to at-risk children, particularly during incarceration. ARISE trains not only juvenile care officers, but other caring individuals as educators and mentors for these troubled at-risk youngsters with documented results. After all, little Eddie wanted nothing more than love, understanding, and someone to show him what it takes to get ahead in a society that demands good character, education, and law abiding behavior.
ARISE Life Skills Takes the “Risk” out of At-Risk Youth
At-risk youth are “at risk” for two reasons: Their continued anti-social actions have put them “at risk” of criminal charges and their inability to live peaceably in the community puts everyone else’s lives “at risk” due to their behavior. These youth are also at risk for substance abuse, truancy, and violence.
ARISE cognitive/behavioral skill development is designed to provide at-risk youth with the skills that will assist them in changing their negative behavior. Juvenile offenders and others accustomed to solving disagreements with gangs, fists, knives, and guns who attend ARISE group sessions soon acquire the social and life skills society demands to make responsible decisions and manage their anger.
ARISE award-winning life-skills curricula, videos, and motivational posters are created for guidance and prevention professionals working with at-risk youth grades K-12 and young adults. Those with absolutely no teaching experience at all will find this interactive life-skills curricula as easy to use as a telephone book.
At-risk youth entering the workforce for the first time or those juvenile offenders who have suffered setbacks and need assistance in finding new jobs will find ARISE life-skills interactive group lessons as helpful as money in the bank.
ARISE interactive life-skills lessons include the following subjects: self-esteem, anger management, conflict management, dropout prevention, social skills, health, nutrition, personal hygiene, preventive health care, employ-ability skills training, filling out job applications, preparing resumes, and proper job interviewing techniques. Additional lessons include parent education, foster care, financial management training, job and social skills.