Monday, September 18, 2017

Celebrate the Harvest: Laraway Hosts Lamoille Chamber of Commerce Mixer October 10th

 

     George Swanson, Laraway's Land Steward, has been busy planting, tending and harvesting produce from our large and bountiful garden.  Food items were carefully planned with our cafeteria staff to insure high nutritional impact and value.  Laraway youth are also involved in the planning and planting although they seem to like harvesting the best!
     Why does this matter?  It matters because over 90% of the children and youth Laraway serves qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch per federal guidelines.  Providing nutritional breakfasts and lunches during both the academic year and summer programming insure kids' are well-fueled for classroom learning and educational adventures alike.
     Laraway is delighted to partner with the Lamoille Chamber of Commerce to host a "Celebrate the Harvest" Mixer on Thursday, October 10th from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  Visitors will sample foods showcasing items grown on site, view a harvest-themed photo exhibit, participate in an optional scavenger hunt, and mingle with area business leaders.
     For more information and/or to RSVP, please contact Katherine Stamper at (802) 635-2805, x 106 Kstamper@Laraway.org

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lessons Learned in Backpack's Talent Show

   
"Thank you for everything.  Thank you for being there," a Backpack Program camper expressed to Josh, one of Laraway's exployees who is leaving to pursue continued studies.
     The heartfelt speech came near the end of Backpack's Talent Show, a staple of summer programming at Laraway.  The teen worked with Josh over the last few years.  His words showed the value---a positive effect---of staff  connections to the youth we serve.
     The Talent Show featured card tricks and mind-reading magic tricks.  There were cart wheels, sprints and a few fancy flips.  One youth drew laughter with his "Am I (acting) Annoying?" routine.  Songs and a hastily choreographed dance number by "Sara and the Alyssas (and Tom)" rounded out the performances in the shade of a large, white tent on Laraway's campus.  Homemade maple lemonade kept performers healthy and hydrated for their on-stage antics.
     It's worth noting that a card trick didn't go well...the first time.  Audience applause and encouragement found the youth---under the supportive gaze of the audience---TRY AGAIN and SUCCEED. 
     Expressing gratitude.  Standing in front of a crowd and performing.  Sharing your voice, humor, dance moves and, yes, your capacity to be "annoying" are all valuable lessons.  Persevering when the magic LIFE requires isn't working and trying again...this, too, is an important life lesson.
     Thank you Backpack Campers and Backpack Staff for another awesome summer program!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

CLiF presenter Simon Brooks tells tantalizing tales at Book Give-away at Laraway

   
   
  "If you like dark and scary and weird and twisted...then Roald Dahl is for you!"
     This is how CLiF presenter and masterful storyteller Simon Brooks introduced one of the books available for students to take home...to keep.  And then, he started to tell stories, amazing stories of fishing trips gone awry and other adventures, punctuated by all manner of sound effects and dramatic gestures.  The kids laughed.  The adults laughed.  We were hooked.
     Each student, from kindergarten to high school, was allowed to choose two books thanks to a CLiF Summer Readers Grant.  Selections were made from fiction and non-fiction tomes as kids returned to their seats to read or be read to.
     The Children's Literacy Foundation puts books in the hands of children to encourage a love of reading.  Laraway students benefit greatly from this program.  For more information about CLiF, please visit Clifonline.org

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Summer Program at Lararway Begins

     Driving along Route 15 in Johnson, you might notice activity afoot at Laraway Youth & Family Services. Gardens are tended with the promise of fresh vegetables for the cafeteria. Fruit-bearing trees, planted last year, stretch and grow, aiming towards a maturity that will yield apples, plums and nuts. A line of solar trackers gently follows the direction of the sun---like synchronized dancers---harnessing the sun's energy.
     Just as we tend to our landscape, Laraway staff tend even more significant gardens, the gardens of our youth. Founded in 1972, Laraway addresses the needs of at-risk youth who experience social, behavioral, mental health and learning challenges. Laraway provides these services in a community setting.
     Passersby will see children and youth from our school, foster care and public-school-based programs playing basketball, engaging in outdoor art projects, and tending flowers and vegetables in this fertile parch of Vermont soil. A walking trail leads to the Lamoille River, a great spot to dip down fishing rods on a warm, sunny morning.
     Laraway staff and youth will settle in for our summer program, which includes components of service, learning and creative activities to enhance self-confidence. Let the summer fun---and learning---begin!
   

Thursday, June 15, 2017

First Trailblazer and College Scholarships Awarded!


SCHOLARSHIP:  A sum of money or other aid granted to a student because of merit, need, etc.

     Three Laraway youth are graduating from high school and continuing their studies.  One will attend college in Vermont.  One will attend college in New York City.  One will attend a technical training program at a college in New Hampshire.  Each has received a $500 scholarship to aid with college expenses.
     Scholarships are like "Pennies from Heaven" for students trying to figure out how to pay for college.  The rising cost of education can impede a young person's view of whether or not continuing their educations is even a possibility.  Youth at Laraway, many of whom lack traditional family supports, may be the first in their family to pursue a degree...a great opportunity and a great challenge!  Stick-with-it-ness counts for much on this journey.
     It was just over a year ago that Fr. Rick Swanson and Tim Heath-Swanson approached Laraway about creating a scholarship fund by hiking the Long Trail and asking friends, family and community members to make financial gifts.  Through their efforts---and l-o-n-g walk on the trail---they met and exceeded their $10,000 goal, creating the Trailblazer Scholarship for Laraway Youth pursuing education in the trades and/or IT fields.
     The Trailblazers inspired an effort to create another scholarship for Laraway youths attending college.  Jake Swanson, award-winning owner of Art of the Carve, donated one of his wood carvings which was raffled off, raising $1,000.
     These funds were not easy to raise.  Board members, staff members and many community friends chipped in.  Members of St. John's in the Mountains Episcopal Church and the 2nd Congregational Church of Hyde Park also stepped up to support the scholarships.  Laraway's directors, teachers and administrative support staff bought tickets and made outright donations to help us realize our fundraising goals.
     And now, we have three students leaving Laraway to pursue their educations, with scholarships and warm wishes for their continued studies.
     Thank you to EVERYONE who supported the creation of these scholarships!

   
     
     

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On track to graduate


DC is on track.  He’s graduating from Hazen Union High School in June, having successfully completed one year in the construction program at the Green Mountain Technical and Career Center (GMTCC).  His is hopeful that his part-time job at All Metals Recycling in Hardwick becomes full-time upon graduation. He’s a certified boxing trainer.  He comes from a family with a military background and plans to enlist in the coming year.
            At nineteen, DC stands 5’9” and 200 pounds.  “I like picking up heavy things,” he says with a hint of a laugh."  DC sorts and grades different metals at his job and prepares them for shipment.  “I’m a hands-on sort of guy.”
            DC’s participation in boxing seems a logical extension of his kinesthetic strengths.  He trains for and participates in bouts sponsored by the Northern New England Golden Gloves of Vermont.  He’s completed certification to be a trainer.  He’s presently training a 50-year-old man eager to learn the sport.
            DC speaks with fondness for his own trainer, Armand Geleno.  “He’s 89 and he has more heart than anyone I know.”
            School wasn’t always a positive experience for DC.  After encountering some difficulties, he was assigned a Behavioral Interventionist (BI) from Laraway’s Backpack Program to work with him in 7th grade at his public school. 
            “At first, I wasn’t too happy having someone with me at school,” he said.  “He did help me knuckle down and do my work.  It’s a really good support system, helping me to focus on my goals and what I need to do to achieve them.”
            Incentives are woven into the Backpack program.  Students who meet their goals during the week choose a fun activity to engage in with their BI.  DC particularly enjoyed ice fishing.  He remains an avid fisherman, fishing all the time.  Asked if he preferred a particular catch, he said, “Anything I can fry up” and then volunteered that brook trout sautéed with a bit of butter is especially good!
            As he reflects on his high school experience, DC is particularly proud of a project he worked on at GMTCC.  Students built a double-wide modular home.  He worked on the roofing, flooring and walls.
            “The building got done,” he said.  “Someone is currently living in it.”
            After graduation, DC plans to work full-time for a year and then enlist in the military.  He has family members who’ve served in the Army.
            “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” DC said.  “It’s a chance to learn, to gain discipline.  It’s a good opportunity to give back.”
            "DC has been a pleasure to be able to work with and watch grow into a strong, funny, witty and charismatic young man," said Brittany Rogers, a Laraway Behavior Consultant.  "He has worked very hard in the past two years to prepare himself for this upcoming transition into independence.  I wish him the best and look forward to hearing about his successes when I see him in the future."
              "Since starting to work with DC, he has continued to show growth and demonstrate responsibility," said Laraway Case Manager Elysa Daily.  "Having been able to get connected with a job through Pathways at his school has really helped him to meet his goals and strive to be better!  We will all be sad to see DC transition out, but wish him the best of luck after he graduates!"

Monday, May 8, 2017

Alicia Stone, Clinical Intern: Giving youths space, to heal


            Alicia Stone has a crown tattooed on her finger.  It’s serves as a reminder that she, as young woman and aspiring professional, deserves to be treated well.
            Alicia, a student in the Master’s in Clinical Psychology Program at St. Michael’s College, has been interning under the supervision of Matt Sadowsky, Director of Laraway’s Clinical Program.  She earned an undergraduate degree from Johnson State College in 2010 and spent several summers working as a behavioral interventionist at Laraway.  She’s worked with a variety of age groups, but found a special affinity in working with kids.
            Alicia experienced some losses in her adolescence.  “I had some bad experiences with therapists when I was a teenager,” Alicia said.  “I want these kids to know that, whatever they’re facing, you CAN get to the other side.  Adolescents are a vulnerable population, between childhood and adulthood.  Rebellion is part of the process.”
            Alicia’s office is bright and cheerful with an image of a large, red heart on the wall.  There’s a stuffed animal---a brown bear---on her bookshelf and plenty of small manipulative toys to keep youthful hands busy while encouraging free-flowing, spontaneous chatter.
            When kids show up for therapy appointments, she may experience a variety of youthful emotions.  Some arrive ready to chat while engaging her in a game of Pokemon or a romp outside on Laraway’s 39-acre campus.  Others might be quiet, even sullen because of something that happened.  That’s when she gives them space.
            “You’re there for them, to hold their emotion,” she said.  “They don’t always like to let others in to help.”  This is when she might simply let them know she’s there if they want to talk.  Just being there, as a stable, supportive adult, can be helpful.
            Asked what she likes about interning at Laraway, Alicia smiled and said, “Every day is different.  Sometimes kids use you as a punching bag and, then, later, they’ll send some small message---a word or gesture---to let you know your relationship is still intact.”
            Alicia recognizes that therapists must carefully guard against vicarious trauma---becoming negatively impacted by the trauma experienced by their clients.  She takes time for self-care via yoga and a guided meditation app on her phone.  She sees value in her 30-minute commute to and from Laraway each day.  Her cats, Bolt, Callie and G (short for Giovanna) offer unconditional love.
            “Everyone should have some sense of unconditional love in their life,” Alicia said.
            Alicia’s 8-month clinical internship ends of June 5th and she’ll soon have a Master’s Degree in hand.  She’s thoughtfully planning “Termination”—the process of saying goodbye to clients and ending the therapeutic relationship.  Progress, growth and strengths are shared in conversation. There’s also a termination activity, planned with the client, to mark the passage.
            “You have to make an ending a positive experience,” Alicia said. 
            Reflecting on her experience at Laraway, Alicia said, “I highly respect Matt Sadowsky and strive to achieve the blend of both private and public sector work that he role models. He’s been a really great supervisor.  Actually, Matt and Mag (Sladyk-Benoit) have both offered me great insights when I’ve had questions.”
            “Interns like Alicia are the very reason we created Laraway’s Internship Program,” said Matt Sadowsky.  “She is bright, fun, and really interested in learning this craft.  Best of all, the youth that she worked with got to learn from her as she got to learn from them.  That’s one of the benefits of doing this work---we all get to be life-long learners.”
                We will miss Alicia and wish her well.  Her immediate plans are to study for the EPPP for Licensure and acquire full-time employment, working with kids, of course.
            What have the kids at Laraway taught Alicia?
            “PATIENCE,” she say, flashing her broad, beautiful smile.
            Thank you, Alicia, for showing Laraway’s kids that they, too, deserve to be treated well.