Welcome to the March 2017 issue of the monthly newsletter produced by the Union EDGE Program. Volume 2 | Issue 3
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EDGE News: The Union EDGE Program Monthly Newsletter

In This Issue


EDGE Program

Employment training
Daily living skills
Godly focus
Educational enrichment
Union University

EDGE Sponsors First Formal

As the EDGE Program continues to grow, we have taken on a new project!  This spring we are sponsoring a special needs prom for all of the counties near Jackson, Tennessee.  Any special education student in grades 9-12 who has either been accepted into the EDGE Program for the fall of 2017 or attends school in West Tennessee is invited to join us on this very special night.   Karl and Angela Snider own the venue The Barn at Snider Farms and have graciously offered it for the evening.  We will have light finger foods catered, a DJ, and a photographer that will be helping us.  We are joining with Englewood Baptist Church, BancorpSouth, and the Law Office of Nancy L. Choate to sponsor this event.  Our hope and prayer is to provide a safe, comfortable local location for students with special needs to have a special evening of fun.  The cost to attend this event is only $5.  We do need anyone planning to attend to sign up online as soon as possible.  You may register at  Our current EDGE students and mentors will be working this event as a way of saying thank you to the community for the support.  Please share this information.  Sign up is limited to the first 100 students.
“I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well."
Psalms 139:14

Observations from the EDGE

I love the way our mentors love our students!  I was recently approached by a mentor, Josiah McGee, who asked if I would be open to a group starting an EDGE intramural team.  "Are you kidding me?  That is awesome.  What a great idea!!!"  Can you tell I was totally stoked about it?  Guess what, they are good!  As of today the team is averaging  4o+ points a game.  They are very competitive and having a great time.  These guys are a living demonstration of how to love like Christ does! 
Pictured:  Drew "the beast" Grisham, Andy Campbell, Ethan Wilson, Johnny Mitchell, Josiah Murphy, Danny Turchick, and Binh Morris.

An Opportunity to Give

We are continuing to raise money for our bus stop pavilion. We have raised $5,000 thus far.  The cost is now estimated at $18,500.  Would you be willing to give to help us raise $13,000?  This is a need that our program has for our students who are unable to drive.  The Jackson Transit Authority has a bus that comes on our campus to pick up our students to transport them to work.  Because of the bus routes, students are given an hour window in which they can expect the bus to arrive.  They must be outside and ready to get on the bus.  If it is raining, they are outside.  If the heat index is 102 degrees, they are outside.  If the wind chill is 18 degrees, they are there!  We hope to build a structure that will shield them from the elements and that has a heating element.  This is a non-budgeted item that requires lots of partners.
If you are interested in helping with this projects, please go to our website at, click on the giving link.  There should be a box that says EDGE, so that the donation will go specifically to the Union EDGE Program.  If you prefer to  mail your donation you may do so!  Our address is Union EDGE, 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN  38305.

Dates to Know

Special Needs Prom
April 6

Spring Break
April 8-17

EDGE Spring Banquet
May 11

Spring Graduation
May 20

In the News

In Breakthrough, Researchers Detect Autism Signs In Infants

by Michelle Diament | February 15, 2017

A man holds a young child

New research suggests that it may be possible to predict a child's risk for autism before behavioral symptoms present. (Thinkstock)


For the first time, a new study suggests it’s possible to predict within the first year of life if a child will develop autism.

Researchers say they were able to identify with more than 90 percent accuracy which babies would go on to be diagnosed with the developmental disorder by age 2.

The findings published Wednesday could be a game changer, pointing to the possibility of identifying children on the spectrum at far younger ages and before behavioral symptoms become apparent, researchers said.

“The results of this study are a real breakthrough for early diagnosis of autism,” said Robert T. Schultz who directs the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and worked on the study published in the journal Nature. “While we have known for some time that autism emerges in subtle, gradual ways over the first few years of life, this study offers the first firm evidence before a child’s first birthday predicting whether certain high-risk children are likely to be diagnosed with autism.”

Currently autism can reliably be diagnosed as early as age 2, but most kids aren’t flagged until after age 4, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research suggests that autism intervention is most successful the earlier it begins, so scientists are eager to find reliable methods of spotting the disorder at younger ages.

The study looked at 106 infants considered to be at high risk for autism because they had an older sibling with the developmental disorder and 42 low-risk infants. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans were conducted on each child at 6, 12 and 24 months of age.

In children who ultimately developed autism, growth of the brain’s surface area was significantly more rapid between ages 6 and 12 months as compared to other kids, the study found. What’s more, the overall size of affected children’s brains grew at a faster rate between ages 12 and 24 months.

Among babies at high risk, the brain differences between ages 6 and 12 months alone could predict whether a child would have autism with 80 percent accuracy, researchers said.

However, by considering other factors as well including additional brain measurements and the child’s sex, the researchers used a statistical approach known as machine learning to assess with near perfect accuracy who would develop autism.

“If we are able to replicate these results in further studies, these findings promise to change how we approach infant and toddler screening for autism, making it possible to identify infants who will later develop autism before the behavioral symptoms of autism become apparent,” Schultz said.

The findings could point to opportunities for new treatments and the potential to intervene before brain differences progress substantially, researchers said.

“We haven’t had a way to detect the biomarkers of autism before the condition sets in and symptoms develop,” said the study’s senior author, Joseph Piven of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. “Now we have very promising leads that suggest this may in fact be possible.”

Our Fundraising Efforts Continue

We are so grateful to each donor who has so graciously given to the Union EDGE Program. We are pleased to announce that we have raised our $123,525 that is required to be a self-sustaining program. All funds raised from this point forward will be totally dedicated to special projects and student scholarships. If you would like to be a part of our Benefactor List, you may donate in one of two ways.  You may mail your donation to the attention of Jennifer Graves, The Union EDGE Program, 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, Tennessee  38305, or you may donate online at  We thank you for your gifts.

About Our Program

The Union EDGE Program is accepting applications for the 2017-2018 year. We will accept applications for the 2017-2018 school year until February 28, 2017.  EDGE will accept ten students into its third cohort. Each semester, students will audit two regular college courses with traditionally enrolled students. In addition, students will be enrolled in two EDGE Life Skills courses that will concentrate on employability, technology, and independent living skills. Students will participate in on-campus internships during year one, and year two will feature off-campus internships.

These students will each pay $15,500 intuition. As the only residential PSE program in the state, Union EDGE students may also incur additional room and board fees. Students will have the option to live on campus or with their families.

If you know of families that might be interested in the Union EDGE program, please invite them to visit our website at Prospective families will find a printable application as well as a great deal of information about our program. Interested parties may also contact Jennifer Graves, program director, at 731.661.5382 or by emailing

The Union EDGE Program
School of Education  |  Union University
1050 Union University Drive  |  Jackson, Tennessee 38305  |  731.661.5382  |

Copyright © 2017 EDGE Program at Union University, All rights reserved.

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