Youth Services celebrates Vermont Youth of The Year awardee

Bellows Falls, VT–Alexis Harris, 21, of Bellows Falls has been awarded the Youth of the Year Award by the Vermont Youth Development Program and the Vermont Coalition of Runaway & Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP), two state entities that work with community organizations such as Youth Services that serve young people in the state. The award was given this year to five young people in Vermont who have transformed their life in a positive way and has given back to their community while demonstrating resilience.

According to Michelle Sacco, Alexis Harris’ case manager at Youth Services, her client has gone in five years from an angry 16-year-old homeless teenager who had very little support in her life from anyone to being a 21-year-old woman with a 3-year-old daughter who works every day to help others in need.

“If someone needs help, Alexis is the first one to drop everything to be there for them, including employers,” stated Sacco who nominated Harris for the award. “Alexis was working two jobs, 6 days a week, often 12-14 hour days because she is not only a reliable, responsible and committee employee,” explained Sacco, “but she wants to take care of herself and her daughter without any assistance!”

In Bellows Falls, Harris performed a myriad of jobs to help those who come to the Drop In Center: looking for assistance with applying for housing, childcare, Reach UP, transportation, and Medicaid, in addition to filling the food shelves. According to Sacco, Harris started there as a volunteer and was recruited to fill a staff position because of her compassion and commitment to the people she serves.

In her nomination, Sacco recalled last year when Harris became a court-appointed guardian to a 17-year old girl who was facing serious drug charges. Harris took this girl in, gave her a home, made sure she made her court appointments, went to school, met with DCF and probation, got a job, had food and clothing and necessities, and stayed away from drugs and alcohol, according to Sacco.

Sacco marveled that Harris was so mature and responsible and focused that she could not only care for herself and her young daughter, but also this 17-year-old who needed a lot of support and supervision. And yet Harris did this and did it well. “This now 18-year-old is successful in large part from the love and care and commitment of a remarkable young woman who selflessly gave up her home, her time and often her sanity to be sure this young woman could be successful and safe,” testified Sacco.

“In my work with Bellows Falls young people I do see resilience, I do see potential, I do see love and courage,” Sacco explained, “but when I see on top of all that someone give up their time, their home, their independence, and their finances to help a young person in need and do so selflessly and with love and unending patience, I have to step back and smile and marvel and give thanks that I have been fortunate enough to not only know this person, but to have them as part of my life and my community,” enthused Sacco.

This winter Harris came full circle, said Sacco, serving as a Resident Advisor for Youth Services’ Shelter in Bellows Falls, in an unpaid, live-in position that deals with emergencies and day-to -day issues which arise with the shelter’s population of homeless youth.

Youth Services’ Bellows Falls office provides case management for youth ages 16-22; Independent Living Skills support, Shelter and Host Homes, JUMP: Just Us Moms Program, Personal Responsibility Education Program. A Runaway and homeless youth Hotline; Juvenile Diversion, Balance and Restorative Justice; RAMP Career-Focused Mentoring; and the Diaper Bank Collaborative.

For more information, contact Youth Services at (802) 460-0398, visit www.youthservicesinc.org or stop in at 22 Bridge St. in Bellows Falls, VT.

 

Youth Services’ Golf Tournament seeks golfers and sponsors for July 26

Youth Services invites area golfers to participate in its annual golf tournament at Brattleboro Country Club on Wednesday, July 26. This is the 32nd year that Youth Services has organized this tournament to support the safety net for youth.

Registration opens at 11 and the shotgun start for the Scrambles format tournament will take place at 12:00 p.m. sharp.  Free bag lunch is provided. Following the tournament there will be a banquet, sponsored by G.S. Precision.

The all-inclusive registration fee for the tournament is $130 per individual or $520 per foursome. The fee covers greens fees and cart, a bag lunch, and dinner following the tournament.  Dinner-only tickets may also be purchased for $35 each.  Early registration encouraged on-line at www.youthservicesinc.org/golf or call (802) 257-0361. To buy a golf ball for the helicopter drop, visit www.youthservicesinc.org/ball-drop.

 

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County expanding statewide

Brattleboro, VT -In the interest of serving more children in Vermont with mentors, Youth Services is transitioning its successful Big Brothers Big Sisters program into a statewide organization.

“Presently there are 70 community and school-based Big Brothers Big Sisters matches in Windham County with more than triple the number anticipating being served state-wide by the new structure,” explained Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services’ Executive Director.

“In this move to serve more Vermont young people living in difficult circumstances we are making every effort to ensure that quality mentoring services continue to be delivered in Windham County,” said Bradbury-Carlin, who described a year-long process they have undergone, with milestones, guided by a transition committee made up of Youth Services board members and BBBS Advisory Board members.

The new entity serving the Green Mountain state will be named Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermont and Youth Services’ current Director of Mentoring, Kimberley Diemond, will be its Executive Director.

Bradbury-Carlin stated, “I have every faith that Kimberley will be a great leader and I have full confidence that the transition will be seamless for the Bigs, Littles and the many community organizations that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County partners with.”

Bradbury-Carlin said that mentoring is an essential part of all Youth Services programs, from its transitional living program to court diversion. Staff or volunteers often work one-on-one with young people living under difficult circumstances, or in small groups. He expects his organization to maintain a close working relationship with the new entity, especially in regard to its Windham County matches.

“One of the strengths of Youth Services has always been the wide range of prevention, intervention and development programs we bring to the families and young people we serve. We expect to continue to refer at-risk children who could benefit from a mentor to apply to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermont as well as continuing to innovate with our proprietary programs,” Bradbury-Carlin stated.

Part of a national organization, there are over 350 Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the country, approximately 50 of which operate with the assistance of a sponsoring agency, which best describes the mentoring program’s long and successful relationship with Youth Services.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County was one of the first programs that Youth Services launched after it was founded in 1972 as a community nonprofit. Over its more than 40 year history together, there have been close to 2000 matches made, some lasting a few years and others a lifetime. Their newest program is Bigs in Blue, a school-based program that pairs elementary students with local police officers.

National research demonstrates that “mentoring”—pairing a caring adult volunteer with a young person for a mutually rewarding friendship—is an effective method of addressing all sorts of youth-related issues, from combating drug and alcohol use and violence to getting along better with their families and peers. Youth mentored by the program are 46% less likely to use drugs and 27% less likely to use alcohol than their non-mentored peers.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County presently offers several flexible options for volunteers who want to mentor a child between the ages of 6 and 18.  In the school-based program volunteers visit with a child during lunch and recess period once a week.  In the community-based program, volunteers meet with a child during their own time and play sports, take a walk or just hang out for at least 4 hours a month. The site-based plus program combines the structure of meeting regularly at school with the option of spending time in the community on weekends and during school vacations.

For information on volunteering, call Big Brothers Big Sisters at (802) 257-0361, email info@bbbsvt.org or visit www.bbbsvt.org.

 

 

Youth Services tackles truancy in Windham County schools

Jocelyn York, BARJ Coordinator at Youth Services

Brattleboro—Youth Services has officially hired Jocelyn York as its Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) Coordinator for the organization, a position she has fulfilled on a temporary basis since last year.  In this program, Youth Services works with youth ages 13 through 22 who have been adjudicated in Family Court, are on probation, are at risk of a truancy filing, have Youthful Offender Status, or require additional support.

According to Youth Services’ Executive Director, Russell Bradbury-Carlin, the agency’s BARJ program recognizes that many young people entering the criminal justice system have underlying factors that might lead to the criminal misconduct.

“Early intervention is key to addressing the reasons that kids aren’t showing up for school or have started to get in trouble with the law.  With early intervention we can reduce the likelihood of future involvement in the justice system.  Sometimes, by offering individual or group coaching in conflict resolution, anger management, and other skills, we can help the young person and their parents turn around the situation,” Bradbury-Carlin explained.

York is an integral part of the School Success Program, a collaboration between Youth Services and Windham Southeast Supervisory Union. The program focuses on truancy intervention for students age 13-18. The program works primarily one-on-one with students, but also includes work with families and other involved community providers.

“Jocelyn works from a different stance that the traditional “Truancy Officer”, Bradbury-Carlin stressed, “acting instead as a supportive helper with a positive, proactive and less punitive approach that builds the necessary skills and understanding needed for student and families to make a long-term commitment to education. She looks at all areas of a student and family’s life that contribute to or can help solve the problem.”

York’s supportive case management focuses on reducing stresses at home that might be related to money or work problems, housing issues, health needs, and/or transportation. She works to identify and develop the skills and interests of the young person.

York explains, “We link youth and their families with other community providers that can meet their needs. By getting my clients involved with other established community supports and activities outside of the school, I can help them reduce their life stressors and focus more clearly on what they need to do to get through school. When necessary, I also may help a student switch to another school or academic program that may better fit their needs than the traditional K-12 system.”

According to Bradbury-Carlin, the outcomes of this collaboration are increased school attendance, improved relationships in family and school, improved life satisfaction and self-esteem, increased parent involvement, and improved access and use of resources.

Before joining Youth Services, York had been a mental health worker on the Brattleboro Retreat’s Adolescent Inpatient Unit, a behavioral interventionist in Barre, Vermont for Washington County Mental Health’s early childhood autism program, and a pre-school teacher in Windsor County. York has bachelor’s degrees in Women’s Studies and Liberal Studies from Sonoma State University in California.

To find out more about Youth Services Restorative Justice programs, call Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org

VT Diaper Bank was launched in 2016 in Bellows Falls

Bellows Falls, VT—Parks Place and Youth Services are collaborating to launch, “Time for a Change”, Vermont’s first diaper bank to meet the needs of families with young children in Windham County who cannot afford diapers.

Various locations throughout the greater Bellows Falls area will have bins starting in November to collect donated diapers and wipes: committed so far are Lisais Market in Bellows Falls, Family Dollar and Discount Foods Warehouse in Walpole and The Rockingham Library. More bin locations throughout Windham County are sought and community groups such as churches and clubs are encouraged to help raise funds or diaper donations.

As part of the bank’s inauguration on November 10, there was what is being coined a  “Diaper Dump” collection at Dairy Joy in Bellows Falls. Organizers hoped to fill an entire dump truck with diaper and wipes donations to launch the diaper bank.

According to national estimates, a typical infant will require an average of 50-60 diaper changes a week. That is approximately 2,600 diapers a year at an annual cost to their family of close to $1000.

A recent Feeding America study found that 32 percent of low-income families surveyed reported reusing disposable diapers, while 48 percent reported delaying changing a diaper to make their supply last longer. Studies show that babies experience increased health issues such as diaper rashes and urinary tract infections from limited diaper changes.

Michelle Sacco, Youth Services’ Greater Falls Transitional Living Program manager, cited the many young mothers she works with as often having to choose between diapers and other basic necessities like electricity, food or heat because they can’t afford all three.  “

Youth Services and Parks Place are spearheading this initiative with community partners, United Way of Windham County, WNESU, Building Bright Futures, Our Place Drop In, SEVCA and others playing important collaborative roles, explained Sacco. The diaper bank will be housed at Parks Place with Youth Services’ Just Us Moms Program (JUMP) helping to distribute the donated items.

For more information, contact parksplacevt.org or info@youthservicesinc.org.

New Substance Abuse Treatment Gets Boost from Governor and Subaru of New England

rosie-at-podium
Pictured here are Governor Peter Shumlin, Ernie Boch Jr, President & CEO of Subaru of New England and Rosie Nevins-Alderfer at the podium representing Youth Services.

STOWE-With the endorsement of Governor Peter Shumlin, Subaru of New England donated $25,000 to Youth Services to help the nonprofit develop an innovative youth counseling program to treat addiction.

“Once again I stand here thanking Ernie Boch Jr. and Subaru of New England for a generous donation to tackle an issue here in Vermont,” Gov. Shumlin said, noting that Boch has donated to Irene Recovery efforts, Green Up Day and the Vermont Universal Children’s Higher Education Savings Account Program. It marks his second donation to combating opiate addiction in Vermont, following last year’s commitment to Recovery House Inc. in Rutland.

“Drug abuse is one of the most serious problems facing our state and the nation,” Gov. Shumlin said. “Today’s donation to Youth Services will help us reach kids with counseling and treatment to help them turn their lives around.”

“Opiate addiction is a serious public health problem with terrible consequences. The support and treatment that Youth Services provides for young people in Vermont is crucial and life-saving. On behalf of Subaru of New England, I’m here today with a check for Youth Services for $25,000 dollars to help fight this battle,” stated Ernie Boch Jr.

Youth Services is a private non-profit founded in 1972 to provide prevention, intervention and development programs for young people and families in Windham County communities, regardless of ability to pay.

The organization is launching a new Youth Substance Abuse Treatment Program, which is cited as one of the most pressing needs in Windham County. “We very much appreciate the support of Governor’s Shumlin in facilitating this donation and the generous support of Subaru of New England for helping us launch this critical endeavor,” explained Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services’ Executive Director.

“Young people face a lot of hurdles that prevent them from seeking treatment, including intense peer-pressure and lack of parental support,” said Bradbury-Carlin. He said Youth Services will be hiring a licensed therapist who will spend part of their time out of the office and in the community.

“Our new therapist being able to travel is key because many of the folks we work with struggle with lack of transportation and isolation from other services and connections,” explained Rosie Nevins-Alderfer during her acceptance of the check for Youth Services.

Youth Services has been doing street outreach, case management, and work with court-involved youth for 40+ years—so the youth we already work with are some of the folks that will benefit most greatly from having a clinician dedicated to substance abuse on board, according to Nevins-Alderfer.  “Our peer outreach workers (former clients who are now staff) will be critical in connecting our new addiction and recovery counselor with youth we would not otherwise be able to serve,” Nevins-Alderfer said.

The peer outreach model is evidence-based and has a long history of success in homelessness, housing and addiction support nationwide. “We are excited to employ it here as one of our many strategies to meet youth where they are at,” Nevins-Alderfer explained.

 

 

 

Youth Services provides agricultural employment for at-risk youth in Bellows Falls

Bellows Falls—Youth Services provided a seven-week summer work program for low income youth in the Bellows Falls area from August 1 to Sept 15. According to organizers, twelve youth between the ages of 14-24 benefited from paid summer jobs in agriculture as well as gained important life skills that better prepare them for entering the workforce and living independently. More than two- thirds of the participants had already left high school.

“Thanks to Department of Labor funding, we were pleased to be able to offer this much-needed program for an eighth year,” said Russell Bradbury-Carlin, the Executive Director for Youth Services, noting that employment and job development skills were two of the highest needs of the youth his agency serves.

The participants worked and learned at a variety of sites each morning, shared a nutritious lunch together, and studied life and employment skills afternoons at the Health Center at Bellows Falls under the guidance and support of two adult supervisors and a Youth Services workforce development coordinator. The young adults participated in workshops on occupational safety, financial management, reproductive health, resume writing and job readiness skills.

While the youth learned skills they made important contributions to the area.  Divided into two teams, they did agricultural work at Kurn Hattin Homes, Harlow Farm, Westminster Central School garden and the Hope Roots Farm of Bianca and Mike Zaransky.  They also maintained the gardens at Bellows Falls Union High School until the students returned. All their hosts indicated that they appreciated the contributions of Youth Services’ participants.

“It is an opportunity to give them a taste of the workday world while still providing them with support,” explained Susan Lawson-Kelleher, Youth Services Workforce Development Coordinator. At the completion of the program, over half of the out-of-school participants were offered and accepted full or part-time positions,” Lawson-Kelleher explained. Another accepted a job offer partway through the program.

For more information about Youth Services programs in the greater Bellows Falls area, contact Case Manager Michelle Sacco at Youth Services’ Parks Place office at (802) 275-7871 or Workforce Development Coordinator, Susan Lawson-Kelleher at (802) 257-0361 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org.

BrattRock Youth Rock Festival a huge success: plans underway for next year

Fourteen area youth rock bands and solo artists took the stage at 118 Elliot in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont on Saturday, October 1 for the first ever Brattleboro Youth Rock Festival (BrattRock 2016). Performances took place on two stages, one indoor and one outdoor, between 5:00 and 10:00 PM. Gates opened at 4:30 PM. Advance tickets were available online via the BrattRock website at www.brattrock.org. Prices were $8 adults/$6 students in advance and $10 adults /$8 students at the door. Proceeds from the event will benefit Youth Services. The public was invited to attend this family-friendly event.

The goal of BrattRock is to provide a venue for youth musicians from Brattleboro and the surrounding region to connect, learn, perform, inspire, and be inspired. Participation is open to solo performers or bands with all members under 20 years of age. Registration will begin again next spring with performers submitting online applications and sample performance videos.

BrattRock’s organizing committee was proud to present the final performer line-up for BrattRock 2016: From Brattleboro and surrounding towns: Impending Exorcism, The Faints, Negative Space Nomad vs.Settler, Oak Grove Blues Band, and Sophie Waters. From Western Massachusetts: Cape Fournier, Cosmic Duct Tape, Felixis Jinx, Kalliope Jones, Raspberry Jam, and Rool Bunk. From Hinsdale, New Hampshire: Zebulon Hildreth. A full bio of each band is available on the BrattRock web page and Facebook page.

In addition to musical performances, the festival featured hands-on music workshops for participating youth musicians, which were offered by area music professionals and educators Wyatt Andrews, Aaron Chesley, Samirah Evans, Matt Hall, June Millington, Kevin Parry, Dan Seiden, and Peter Siegel.

Planning for BrattRock was  underway for the past year. The idea for the event was born after last year’s Youth Services Battle of the Bands in Brattleboro when some parents of participating musicians proposed a similar youth-oriented event minus the competition aspect. Executive Director, Russell Bradbury-Carlin approved the plan for Youth Services to act as BrattRock’s fiscal sponsor, allowing festival organizers to raise funds under Youth Services’ non-profit status.

To date, BrattRock has received grant funding from the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Community Foundation, and sponsors include Guilford Sound, Youth Services, the Brattleboro Music Center, WKVT, C&S Wholesale Grocers, 118 Elliot, Oak Meadow, Hilltop Montessori, the Brattleboro Retreat, and Rouleau-Holley’s Tae Kwon Do.

Co-founder and organizer Jaimie Scanlon said of the event, “We so everyone who came out on October 1 to honor and celebrate the many talented kids that gathered in Brattleboro, as well as to support all the great things that Youth Services does. The bands are all amazing and the kids were all so pumped to perform. The level of entertainment was extreme.”

Executive Director shared wisdom at national ‘Youth Think Tank’

Youth Services Executive Director Contributed to National Think Tank

Washington, DC—Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services’ Executive Director joined a think tank Sept 22-23 in Washington. DC organized by MANY, a national network that engages stakeholders across sectors to strengthen outcomes for youth and young adults at highest risk for victimization and/or delinquency.

According to Megan Blondin, Executive Director of MANY, the purpose of this convening was for the select group of leaders and experts to assess emerging and persistent trends, their impact on the youth services field, and identify effective local and national strategies to strengthen outcomes for youth.

“I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on and share my experiences, observations, concerns and ideas about trends we’re seeing in Windham Country with the young people we serve,” said Youth Services’ Bradbury-Carlin. “I was able to share some of the successes and innovations we’ve had to date and leave with a wealth of new information, ideas and professional contacts. I am honored to have had this opportunity,” he stated.

For more information on Youth Services and its programs, visit youthservicesinc.org or call (802) 257-0361.