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Daren Dickson

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Circle is the heart of our experiential learning approach to comprehensive human development.

Valor Circles

Nashville, United States
Circle is a value-based, community development approach for self-understanding and organizational development and is a mechanism to catalyze a commitment to growth.

What are Valor Circles?

What we do?

Valor Circles are a structured, safe way to bring personal growth and connection into the life of all students. The basic Circle format and process was adapted from Valor's Chief Culture Officer, Daren Dickson's, early work as a therapist. While working as a therapist at Seneca Family of Agencies, Daren learned the model from the innovative team at the Family Life Center in Petaluma, CA and then used the model at several residential and school-based programs at Seneca. In his work, Daren watched children and young adults come to life, learn to trust themselves and others, and understand the power of growing within a community. At Valor, Circle is a translation and continuation of this work applied in a public school setting.

Why we do it?

We believe in a comprehensive human development model - where our students and faculty are constantly growing within all dimensions of their being. We also believe that growth happens best in the context of safe relationships and strong community. Circle, as an individual and community development approach, provides opportunities to deepen a sense of self and deepen the strength of relationships. Circles serve as both a public enactment of culture, including values and commitments, as well as a “container” for the community. Circle is also a hierarchy flattening mechanism; school communities consist of members with varying degrees of responsibility and power, however this practice holds everyone to the same expectations regarding ways of being and relating.

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Innovation Overview
5 - 18
Age Group
20 000
Tips for implementation
Implementing strong Circles requires significant training and support, which is why we created Compass Camp. Circle is not a strategy for "fixing" a negative school culture; it's more of a good-to-great strategy for schools looking to move to the next level in terms of relationships and culture.
Contact information
Daren Dickson

See this innovation in action

Sharing Valor's Model with Communities Across the Country
Valor Collegiate and the Power of Circles - Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
The Best Academic Schools in Tennessee Feature the Best Character Program in the Country


Achievements & Awards


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