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.