Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Laraway School Awards Diplomas to Graduating Seniors

     "It is not enough to be busy.  So are the ants.  The question is:  What are you busy about?"
Henry David Thoreau

     Laraway School concluded another successful academic year.  Two seniors graduated, earning their high school diplomas.  Students in our K-12 school advanced to their next grade level with some  with plans to return to their public schools.
    Students and staff celebrated academic and social achievements alike.  Students were recognized for meeting academic requirements in math, literary arts, science, art and the social sciences.  Teachers also recognized students for personal growth in areas of cooperation, collaboration and real-world problem-solving.  James, a math teacher pointed out that a particularly math-savvy pupil kept him "on his toes" during a unit on Budgeting!
     Laraway School is a "busy" place?  What are we busy about?  Academics.  Social Skills.  Employment Skills.  Learning to "be" in the world in a positive way.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Nanci Lepsic Joins Laraway Board of Trustees

     Nanci Lepsic has worked as an educator, administrator, occupational therapist and ski instructor.  She and her husband Tom also raised four children adopted from the Vermont Department for Children, Youth and Families.  The youngest, a ski racer, just graduated from Rice Memorial High School with plans to attend St. Michael’s College.
     Nanci grew up in a Polish-American family in Buffalo, New York.  Her father didn’t have the opportunity to attend college, but he made sure his daughters did.  Nancy earned a degree in Occupational Therapy from SUNY-Buffalo in 1983.  She went on to earn her MBA while working as an administrator in the healthcare industry.  She taught college-level courses in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
     “I started my career working in a program in the Adirondacks for clients with developmental disabilities,” Nanci said.  The experience offered valuable learning experiences and chance encounters with all sorts of wildlife, including a black bear.
    Nanci loves to ski.  She began teaching in an adaptive skiing program at Kissing Bridge when she was 17.   Moving on to positions at Big Tupper and Whiteface, she then realized her dream of being a Ski Bum, teaching at a United States Army Recreation Base in Germany.  An interesting historical fact is that the military’s ski lodge was a farm during the Third Reich frequented by Adolf Hitler and his entourage. 
    Nanci retired at 40 to have more time and energy to address the special needs of her children. One of them was a client of Backpack,---Laraway’s public school based behavioral intervention program---during middle school.  She has helped these promising young people gain a strong foothold in building positive futures for themselves.  They are now 26, 21, 20 and 18 years of age and, as of this month, all have graduated from high school and are employed.
    “I was looking for what to do next when Greg (Stefanski) called,” Nanci said.
     We are so glad Nanci answered the call to join our Board!

Rhonda Lehoullier Joins Laraway's Board of Trustees

     Rhonda Lehoullier is a new member of Laraway’s Board of Trustees.  Rhonda grew up in
Lamoille County.  She’s held a variety of jobs over the years and takes pride in her skills as a seamstress.  She learned to stitch and sew from her Grandmother Jo.
     “I wanted to serve on Laraway’s Board of Trustees because, to me, it would mean serving the children.  It’s very important to me to be able to help,” said Rhonda.
     Laraway is fortunate to have so many dedicated Board volunteers who are genuinely committed to insuring we provide the best  services available to those we serve. 
     Thank you, Rhonda!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Laraway Goes to Town for Green Up Day...Literally!

By Carla Occaso

Laraway School Teacher

  Laraway School student P.B. coordinated our Green Up Day effort this year. He broke up the school into groups and gave each group a stretch of road in our hometown of Johnson. I went with G.R., E.W., S.L., and L.W. to clean up a section of Hogback Road. We scrambled down muddy hillsides and brooks to
recover six bags full of bottles, cans, cups, and miscellany. G.R. fished a flip flop out of a brook while S.L. found a downed road sign. It was raining most of the time, but we expected it and dressed for the occasion. P.B. supplied us with gloves and bags.
“We filled over 80 bags of trash. I was impressed with the participation, given the rain,” P.B. said.
Awards were given to each school group: Explorers, Most (Trash collected) Overall; Grizzlies, Teamwork; Tetons, Biggest Individual Item; and Dreamscopes, Most Unique Item.
Green Up Day brought lots of excitement to those who participated. It is a hallowed tradition to Vermonters. Vermont's first Green Up Day was held April 18, 1970, during the administration of Governor Deane C. Davis.
Laraway students like to do their part to keep Johnson CLEAN and GREEN!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Laraway Hosts Transition Fair

We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are.

    Youth aging out of foster care...Youth experiencing mental health challenges pursuing continuing education...Youth encountering learning disabilities endeavoring to find a job to support themselves.  In an age of "Helicopter" and "Snowplow" parenting, many of the youth Laraway serves lack traditional family supports.  These young people---with their own hopes and dreams---require extra supports at the stepping off point to adulthood.
     Laraway's Transition Team has been working diligently to research best practices and evidence-based programming to supporting youth in transition.  This intra-agency team represents staff from our foster care, educational, clinical and behavioral intervention programs.  They're working on a laundry list of deliverables to promote positive outcomes for youth leaving our programs.
    Our Transition Team is hosting Laraway's first-ever Transition Fair on Thursday, May 16th from 1:15 p.m.-4:00 p.m.  This event, for Laraway staff, youth, and our youth's caregivers, will offer information on accessing Health, Housing, Education, Employment and Community-Building opportunities.  Representatives from the Vermont Department of Labor, Vocational Rehabilitation and the local federally-designated health center will be among those represented.  We've integrated incentives for youth at approach vendors to ask question to learn information while ALSO practicing social skills.  The event features the debut of our free, online Transition Portal, a resource for Laraway client families and the broader community.
     For more information, please contact Katherine at or (802) 635-2805 x 106.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Jeff Lamkins: A Teacher's View

I can’t wait to find out!
By Jeff Lamkins, Social Studies Teacher, Laraway School Individualized Program

In February 2018, I was new to Vermont and looking for a job similar to what I have done in the past, which was teaching high school and middle school. I came across an ad that seemed to be tailor-made for me. Shortly after applying for the Social Studies position at Laraway Youth and Family Services, I was lucky enough to hear back, and they asked me to come in for a visit to see the campus, and get to meet some students and staff. I was very excited and looking forward to coming in.
My first day at Laraway was quite memorable, as it was the day we were holding Laralympics! The students and staff piled into what seemed like a convoy of vans, and headed to a nearby snow-covered series of hills. Teams sporting different countries’ flags competed in a variety of events such as bobsledding, skiing, and other winter sports. I looked a little out of place wearing my long black leather coat, looking more like a city slicker than an outdoorsman. Regardless, all of the students and staff made me feel like a part of the family. I would be tempted to say that they went out of their way to make me feel welcome, but in fact they were all just being themselves.
“This is who they are,” I thought to myself. They are genuinely warm and loving people who bond together to help the students reach their full potential. Yup, this is the place I need to be!
Fast forward to the present day: I am approaching my first full year here at Laraway, and I can honestly say that this is the most rewarding job I have ever had. I am here to teach students, and I try to do that to the best of my ability, but I learn as much from them (maybe more) then I teach them. The students at Laraway have shown me how to overcome obstacles, pressing on toward their goals of building themselves through academic success, even though they have moments when that may be the last thing they want to do. But they do it anyway, and they do it well!
In the short year I have been here, I have seen tremendous growth in students. Some make unbelievable advances in their social skills and interactions with others. Some serve the local community in charitable work. Some have jobs out in the community, and some have moved on to public school settings using Laraway as the launching pad to the rest of their lives. But ALL, and I mean ALL of the students at Laraway are better today than they were yesterday, and tomorrow that will happen again.
They are strong, very strong, always moving forward toward their personal goals. And although they will have struggles, their struggles will not have them. There is power in that, real personal power. And that lesson that they have taught me is more valuable than anything I could ever teach them. How many schools can say that about their teenagers?
My grandfather once said to me, “If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your whole life.” I know what he means now. Thank you, Laraway. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being a member of your family. What wonderful discoveries will I see at this amazing place in my second year? I can’t wait to find out!

Kandi Marlow: Celebrating Professional Social Worker Month

March is National Professional Social Work Month. Please enjoy this blog posting from Kandi Marlow, MSW, a Program Manager at Laraway Youth & Family Services.

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain 
Until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”
~Jane Addams

I chose this quote because Social Work is the most flexible practice you can choose if you wish to inspire and make change within the world. Jane Addams was an original Pioneer for Social Work.  She remains one of the most famous and decorated female Social Workers. Jane Addams inspired and created the practice in which I get to work. When asked what I value and enjoy about this work, I would reply with the gratitude I feel for all the great work done by strong women before me. They created the path on which I am privileged to walk in this field of Social Work.  
Social Work month is not only about recognizing individual Social Workers but, also, about recognizing the field of practice and the invaluable contributions of the profession. Every day, over 680,000 social workers across the United States, serve some of the most vulnerable in our society by empowering and elevating them. I believe Social Workers are superheroes who use their superpowers to create not only change but, also, to give voice to the voiceless.