Wednesday, May 9, 2018

I knew I wanted to enter a field where I could really help people



      Achilles is a Trojan War hero in Homer’s The Iliad whose mighty strength is compromised by one weakness, his Achilles’ heel. Achilles serves as a metaphor for vulnerability.
    Joseph Achilles, a Laraway staffer since 2015, helps young people in our program work to overcome vulnerabilities and find their personal strength. 
    Raised in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Joseph loved school and attended the prestigious St. Johnsbury Academy. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in psychology at Franklin Pierce University. Joseph joined Laraway as a Behavioral Interventionist (BI) in Backpack, Laraway’s public-school-based, behavioral intervention program in 2015.
     “I knew I wanted to enter a field where I could really help people. I loved getting to spend time with kids, one-on-one, seeing their incremental improvements. It was great to see them try new skills and to witness the impact of the work we do,” Joseph said. “I especially enjoyed being outside at recess and engaging the kids during breaks when a student earned an incentive.”
     Joseph left Laraway in 2017 to join a public school system. He returned to work in Backpack’s Summer Program, “just for the summer,” but decided to stay.
     “Summer is my favorite time of the year,” Joseph observed. “We get to spend time with the kids outside, fishing and swimming. You see them really develop their social skills in a group setting and make new friends.”
     Joseph’s return to Laraway coincided with his enrollment in his last year of graduate school. He was promoted to the role of Backpack Case Manager. His role shifted to working more closely with families, assessing their broader needs and helping them access services while also supervising and supporting BIs. Helping families garner support via Lamoille County Mental Health Services, Lamoille Restorative Center, Vermont Vocational Rehabilitation and others agencies promoted stability at home.
    “Something I really appreciate about working at Laraway is the group of people I work with and that there is room for growth within the agency. You are able to move up.  It’s been wonderful to see Laraway promote from within.” Joseph said.  “Seeing others promoted sends the message, ‘If you work hard, it could be you one day.’ ”
     Joseph is quick to credit staff who have mentored him. “Lisa Burt-Parkhurst (Backpack’s Tier 3 Program Manager), is wonderful. She’s very supportive and always there when you need something. She helped me learn to perform many of the functions of my current role.”
    Joseph completes his Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Johnson State College this month. Laraway supported his internship requirement, under the supervision of Rich Farrell, LICSW, Backpack Program Clinician.
     “Rich has been really supportive throughout the whole process,” Joseph said. “He helped me learn and grow as a clinician. He’s a great supervisor, always supportive and understanding.”
     Time will tell where Joseph’s career takes him.  One could call him an Achilles Healer J.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Owly" the Raffle Owl hits the road to sell tickets for a scholarship


      "Owly" the Owl is about to make personal appearances in and around Lamoille County.  Strapped into the front passenger seat of Laraway Executive Director Greg Stefanski's car, "Owly" is being raffled to raise money for scholarships awarded to Laraway youth transitioning to college.
      Jake Swan, owner of Art of the Carve, donated the approximately owl, made of white pine, for the drawing.  Swanson, a 2016 graduate of North Country Union High School in Newport, is ranked among the Top 25 Carvers in the United States.
     The drawing is Tuesday, May 22nd at 4:00 p.m. at Laraway.  Ticket holders do not have to be present to win.  Tickets are 1 for $5 and 3 for $10 and can be purchased by contacting Katherine at 802-635-2805 x 106 or Kstamper@Laraway.org.
     Follow Laraway on Facebook to catch photos from "Owly's" adventures on the road!
Details:  Estimated Height:  30", Estimated Value:  $350, Wood:  Vermont White Pine




Monday, March 5, 2018

David Prescott, LICSW, speaks about Motivational Interviewing at Annual Training


     David Prescott will deliver the keynote address at Laraway's agency wide training on Friday, March 23rd.  His topic will be Motivational Interviewing, a client-centered, goal-oriented counseling approach fostering behavior change by helping clients explore and, ultimately, resolve ambivalence.  Development of the practice is attributed, in part, to psychologists William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick.
     David brings 32 years of experience in a variety of settings in assessing, understanding, and treating trauma.  Recent activities include rolling out the Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC) Model across participating programs and co-editing Current Perspectives in Neurobiology:  Working with Young Persons who are Victims and Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse, published by NEARI Press.  He's co-authored two studies addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) among males and females who have sexually abused.  
     David is a Fellow and Past President of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, the largest professional organization of its kind in the world.  He is also the 2014 recipient of that organization's Distinguished Contribution Award.  He was awarded the 2007 Bright Lights Award from the National Adolescent Perpetration Network.  He is a Certified Trainer for the International Center for Clinical Excellence and a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers.
     
     

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Photo Voice Project Depicts Impact of Substance Use



     Have you wondered how our community is impacted by substance abuse?  Two teens in Laraway's therapeutic foster care program are exploring that very question and producing a Photo Voice project to document their work.
     What is Photo Voice?  Photo Voice is an artistic endeavor for the purpose of fostering social awareness and social change.  The concept calls for distributing cameras to individuals impacted by a negative social condition.  With cameras in hand, participants document the impact of the social condition on their lives, creating a visual narrative.
     Who are the youth?  The two teenagers involved in the project are Vermont high school students enrolled in Laraway's foster care program.  Both have been personally impacted by family members' substance use.  Both have been taking photos to "tell the story" of their experiences witnessing the fallout from substance use, legal and illegal.
     Join us for an Opening Reception of our Photo Voice Project on Tuesday, March 13th, 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Laraway Youth & Family Services' Gallery Space (Admin Building, 2nd Floor), 275 VT Route 15W, Johnson, Vermont.   
     To learn more about the project and/or to RSVP, contact Katherine Stamper at kstamper@Laraway.org or Jessica Bickford at Jessica@HealthyLamoilleValley.org
     This project is underwritten by a grant from Healthy Lamoille Valley.

Photo Credit:  GD

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Laraway Program Seeking Mentors

     Are you interested in mentoring a Laraway youth?  We received a grant from Mobius Mentoring to launch an after school mentoring program.  We are seeking at least six volunteer mentors.
Mentors should be over the age of 18 and able to pass a background check.
     We are looking for people to commit to an entire school year, one day a week, on Thursday afternoons from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The program will be held at our Laraway School campus in Johnson, with support and training from our staff.
     Mentoring is a wonderful opportunity for our students, many of whom don't participate in other after school programming. Mentoring provides positive experiences and social time, which is extremely healthy and important for all of us, but especially our students who experience significant challenges. Mentors can look forward to engaging in games, music, snacks, cooking, outdoor adventures, arts and, most importantly, building relationships with great kids.
     For more information, contact Jessica McCoy, Laraway's Mentoring Coordinator at Jmccoy@Laraway.org or (802) 635-2805.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Home Cooking for the Holidays

     

     Alyssa Richard, Operations Coordinator, for Laraway's Backpack Program had an idea.  She asked staff to share some of their favorite recipes and she created a recipe book for client families.  Her colleagues answered the call and Backpack's first cookbook is being sent home to families along with Holiday Baskets chock full of holiday treats, gift certificates and hats, gloves and mittens.  Backpack staff solicit donations for these baskets each year from area businesses.  Thank you donors!  Thank you staff!  Thank you, Alyssa, for your really cool idea!
      We share two of the recipes below:
Baked Chicken Nuggets
Prep 20 m        Cook 20 m      Ready In 40 m
Ingredients
·         3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
·         1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
·         1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon dried thyme
·         1 tablespoon dried basil
·         1/2 cup butter, melted
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Cut chicken breasts into 1 1/2-inch sized pieces. In a medium bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, salt, thyme and basil. Mix well. Put melted butter in a bowl or dish for dipping.
  3. Dip chicken pieces into the melted butter first, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Place the well-coated chicken pieces on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a single layer, and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Easy Sausage Gravy and Biscuits
Prep 5 m          Cook 10 m      Ready In 15 m
Ingredients
·         1 (16 ounce) can refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits
·         1 (9.6 ounce) package Jimmy Dean(R) Original Hearty Pork Sausage Crumbles
·         1/4 cup flour
·         2 1/2 cups milk
·         Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Bake biscuits according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, cook sausage in large skillet over medium heat 5-6 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk; cook until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Split biscuits in half. Place 2 halves on each of 8 plates; top with about 1/3 cup gravy.
*Backpack is a public-school-based, behavioral intervention support program.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gifts for the Season and Beyond




     It’s often said this is “the most wonderful time of the year!” You can also say this is the most EXPENSIVE time of the year! Between gifts and travel and increased costs for heating and electricity, we can find ourselves looking for ways to save a buck or two. To help you with your holiday budgets, I have three gifts for you:
      Gift #1- Breathing.  Life can get busy and stressful; sometimes we need help and support from others. Something we can do with and for ourselves is to breathe. Go ahead, take a deep breath. Feels good, huh? Now try a few in a row. Deep breathing has been shown to have a positive impact on your brain, heart, digestive and immune systems--Wow!
      Gift #2- Five Senses. My son has recently introduced me to meditation and yoga practices. We are fortunate to have many options right here in our local communities--Google the name of your town and yoga. Yoga and meditation are wonderful for bringing you into the immediate moment and freeing you from the worries or sadness of the past or future. A simple way to do this on your own is to think about your five senses. Take a moment to focus on what you hear, see, smell, taste or feel. This simple mindfulness activity can go a long way in bringing your stress and anxiety levels down.
      Gift #3- Appreciating and Celebrating. No matter how tough things get, all of us have many things going well in our lives and much for which to be thankful. Friends, family, pets, a favorite sports team, ice cream, doing well at school or work--the list can go on and on. Because life gets so busy, it’s important we take time to appreciate and celebrate those joys and successes. You can do this as part of your own reflection, or even better, involve others. Begin a meal by asking each person to share some good news from the day. Let a co-worker know about something you saw them do really well. There are many ways we can recognize and celebrate each other.

      I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and Holiday Season!!  Please enjoy these gifts and share them with others.  ~By Greg Stefanski