Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"It keeps me from playing video games..."

        "It keeps me from playing video games..." is how one youth in Laraway's Backpack Program explained his desire to attend a summer field trip to the Pump House Water Park at Jay Peak.  Backpack coordinates a 5-week, multidisciplinary summer program encompassing academics, volunteerism and good old-fashioned fun in the sun activities.  The trip to the water park has become a staple, a much-anticipated highlight of summer.
     The trip is funded by a small fund allowing each and every youth at Laraway to apply for a $75 grant.  The fund in generated by gifts from Laraway's generous donors.  The grants most commonly cover recreational activities that help youth grow as individuals.  Some youth apply for grants for basic needs such as clothing for a new job or outerwear when the weather chills.
     It's a bit of  a tradition for Backpack youth to apply for a grant for the water park trip en masse --- all together ---- and to take the day trip together, accompanied by Laraway staff.
     A quick review of the youthful applications reveals the former "reasons" stated for their water park requests.  One of our younger Backpackers opted to draw a picture (see above) to make her case for the grant.
  • "Going to Jay Peak helps me be part of the group"
  • "I like the bus ride because I can sit with friends"
  • "This will help me by meeting new people and making new friends"
  • "It's a good place to go to get away from the stresses in my life"
  • "It will help me try new things"
  • "It will give memories of having fun"
  • "I don't really get out of the house a lot, except when I'm with Laraway" 
     Teaching young people to ask for what they want is important as is teaching them to work for what they receive.  We are grateful to Laraway's donors for the gifts they give which, in this case, allows a group of Backpackers a fun-filled day splashing about while also building social skills

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Duncan McDougall of Children's Literacy Foundation is Graduation Speaker

     Duncan McDougall left the business world 18 years ago to start a nonprofit organization that, most fundamentally, gets kids excited about reading and writing.  The Children's Literacy Foundation (CLiF) has since provided inspiring literacy presentations by authors, illustrators, poets, and others, and delivered more than $4 million in new books into the hands of 180,000 children in over 400 towns.
     Laraway has been a beneficiary of a CLiF Year of the Book Grant during the past year.  Our youth have benefited greatly from guest author visits and readings as well as book giveaways which send them home with brand-new books to read...and keep.
     "Books can take you anywhere you want to go," McDougall said to an audience of Laraway students, staff, families and community friends gathered for graduation ceremonies.  As folks sat under the blue sky, McDougall recounted his own childhood adventures plowing through titles including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; and The Hobbit, among others.  He aptly pointed out to students---some of whom are challenged by reading---that listening to books on CD is also a great option.
     Reflecting on his childhood reading, McDougall said, "These friends got me through the hard times.  They opened me up to new worlds."
     Duncan's engaging speech was an appropriate precursor to youth awards and issuing of diplomas.
Awards included Independent Reader, Homework Taskmaster, Conversationalist and Most Improved in the Session.  One of our elementary students received the coveted Golden Pencil Award.
     Laraway Board Chair David Bergh assisted School Director Julie Landry and Laraway Executive Director Greg Stefanski in presenting diplomas to our four graduates.  The ceremony ended and all proceeded to the cafeteria for a wonderful meal of barbecued chicken, salad, corn on the cob and festive chocolate cupcakes.  Let summer begin!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Laraway Receives Youth Justice Award

     Laraway's therapeutic foster care program, Substitute Care, was recently recognized with the David Jacques' Memorial Award for Excellence in Youth Justice.  Jacques was a highly-regarded youth advocate who dedicated much of his career to helping at-risk youth.
     Erin Longchamp of the Morrisville Department for Children and Families, said this in her nomination:
     "I nominate the Laraway program, Substitute Care, in particular, for the Youth Justice Summit Award.  In my experience working with Laraway staff, they have gone above and beyond to support the youth in their programs and maintain a youth focused approach.  I have personally been involved in many re-entry meetings that focus on where the youth is at and how to support them in moving forward.  In one particular case, Case Manager Katrina Lawrence held a restorative circle where the youth listened to the impact her behavior had on her care provider and then the youth was able to reflect upon what she heard before decisions were made about what needed to happen to repair the relationship and hold the youth accountable (she had stolen a piece of expensive jewelry).  I felt that as a result of this process the victim was heard, the youth was held accountable, and charges were not filed.  The youth and care provider/victim were able to continue their relationship as well, which was something that was a challenge for this particular youth who had experienced many disrupted placements with caretakers.  Providing these types of interventions are a welcome change and are having success for youth as well as the adults in their lives, schools, communities, peers, etc."
     Thank you, Katrina!.  Thank you, Substitute Care staff!