Suzie Wagner of VT Department of Labor joins board of Youth Services

Suzie Wagner joined board.

Suzie Wagner, the Regional Manager for the Vermont Department of Labor’s Career Resource Centers in Springfield and Brattleboro, recently joined 18 other community members in serving on Youth Services’ board of directors.

Through nineteen programs ranging from restorative justice, to outreach, mentoring, workforce development, transitional living and case management, the nonprofit agency helps Windham County young people and families thrive.

A certified Rehabilitation Counselor who specializes in career counseling for teens and young adults with disabilities, Wagner brings insights and background in workforce development efforts to the Youth Services board, according to Rachel Selsky, board president, who said they are fortunate to have the vast experience of Wagner when they are developing strategic plans for the future of the organization. “Suzie’s deep understanding of the employment challenges facing Windham County young adults will be a tremendous asset to the board,” Selsky predicted.

Wagner first became connected with the nonprofit through her work with VocRehab Vermont in 2007.  Since that time, she has provided a strong partnership with the many programs at Youth Services adding a workforce development component to their collaborative work.

Suzie stated, “I have always been impressed with the level of support given to clients and the creative thinking that comes from the Youth Services’ team.  I’m excited to contribute further to the organization’s mission and dive into a deeper level of commitment to the critical work at Youth Services.”

Wagner holds a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Assumption College and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic.

Suzie Wagner resides in Brattleboro with her husband Isaac and their children.

To learn how you can get involved with Youth Services workforce development or to refer a young person for services, visit wwwyouthservicesinc.org or call 802-257-0361.

 

Clinical Program at Youth Services Provides Substance Abuse Treatment and Counseling

In response to the opioid epidemic, Youth Services has added substance abuse treatment and counseling to its 19 other Windham County programs serving young people and families earlier this year, with appointments given at either its Bellows Falls or Brattleboro facility. Recognizing that substance use disorders can be chronic problems, with both common and unique challenges for each person, is key to the approach of Heather Smith, the agency’s new Director of Clinical Services.

Heather Smith, Youth Services Director of Clinical Services

“We focus on the belief that each individual is a person of worth and dignity and is capable of recovery,” Smith stated emphatically. “Realistic hope is central to our treatment philosophy. By increasing our client’s awareness of risks associated with substances we can support positive and sustainable change in their lives,” she explained.

Smith described some of the young people who come through Youth Services’ doors as knowing what it’s like to live in a family where a parent struggles with addiction. Or they know the peer pressure of friends experimenting with alcohol or prescription pills who ask them to join in. In other scenarios she’s seen in her career, individuals may be struggling with anxiety or depression and turn to various substances to self-medicate instead of seeking counseling and support. These individual are then at risk of development a substance use disorder in addition to the original anxiety or depression, she explained. “Regardless of where someone is on their journey, we can met them where they are and work with them to achieve their goals,” Smith said.

Nearly half of all Youth Services clients—whether they are in Youth Services’ court diversion, our shelter housing, or receiving services as they age out of the foster care system — have substance abuse issues to varying degrees, according to agency intake data. Most of the individuals Smith sees are referred internally by Youth Services case managers but that is expanding now to include referrals from community partners, such as West River Valley Thrives and Turning Point, Smith said, reflecting the shortage of out-patient substance abuse treatment options in the region.

Engaging youth out in the community rather than depending on them finding Smith, is also part of the programs’ strategy, according to Youth Services’ Executive Director, Russell Bradbury-Carlin.

He described Heather Smith’s hiring, made possible by a combination of grant funding and donations from concerned community members, as allowing Youth Services to provide consultation and clinical services designed to decrease hazardous use, promote abstinence, assist in recovery and problem resolution, improve functioning and help the young people they serve develop a healthier lifestyle overall.

“I can’t tell you how fortunate we are to attract such a skilled counselor with experience not only with the runaway and transitional youth populations we work but also with youth in the foster care and justice system!” Bradbury-Carlin stated. “Heather’s five years working in Corrections also gives her many insights she employs in her substance abuse treatment and counseling,” he noted.

In the AIR program (Assessment, Intervention, Recovery), one of the clinical programs offered, Smith works with clients who present a variety of struggles including: alcohol and other drug use, misuse, abuse, dependency, recovery, relapse or family/relationship/peer concerns. Other clients seeking services not related to substance use, misuse or abuse are seen as well.

Heather Smith is a licensed clinical mental health counselor with 10 years of experience working with young people in various settings including residential care, rehabilitation, corrections and college and community care. Most recently she was employed four years as a Behavioral Health Specialist for The Community Health Team. She also spent two years working as part of the HCRS Crisis Team. Prior to that Smith was a Substance Abuse Therapist for students at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.  Her Masters in Counseling Psychology, with a specialization in Substance Abuse is from Antioch New England Graduate School in Keene, NH.

To make a donation to Youth Services to stop the epidemic or for more information on substance abuse treatment and counseling, call Heather Smith (802) 257-0361.

Executive Director shares wisdom at national ‘Youth Think Tank’

Youth Services Executive Director Contributing to National Think Tank

Washington, DC—Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services’ Executive Director was invited to a think tank Sept 26-27 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.

Russell Bradbury-Carlin

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 appreciate 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 will 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 this opportunity,” he stated.

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

Workforce Development is expanding with youth-led business launch

Emilie Kornheiser

Youth Services recently appointed Emilie Kornheiser to the position of Director of Workforce Development.  In this new role Kornheiser will oversee and expand existing programs for clients and community partners. She will begin this summer by launching a youth-led screen printing business that will incorporate mentoring and a work-skills training program.

“All Youth Services workforce initiatives are based in a mentoring model,” explained Kornheiser. “We partner employers, entrepreneurs and artists with young people to build trust first and skills second,” she stated. “This essential first step of supported connection will simplify the challenges of navigating complex class, trauma, and educational issues in our employment services,” Kornheiser predicted.

Emilie brings her experience starting a Brattleboro business, the Weathervane Gallery and Performing Arts Café, brokering international public private partnerships, and her background with disenfranchised young people to this position, supporting connection and commitment between communities and youth, explained Russell Bradbury-Carlin, executive director of Youth Services.  He was also impressed with Kornheiser’s state-wide successes in poverty prevention roles with Building Bright Futures and Promise Communities as well as her employment history in Brattleboro as a Reach Up case manager with Early Education Services, where she supported employment for parents of young children receiving state assistance.

“Emilie’s past roles requiring deep cross-class dialogue, motivational interviewing, strengths based/appreciative inquiry frameworks and an ability to continually translate between system and individuals, individuals and system, much as she will need to do in this position with Youth Services,” Bradbury-Carlin stated. “Already in her first weeks on the job she has done an excellent job reaching out across organizational boundaries to build collaborations and create a network of services for our clients that also meet the needs of Windham County communities,” he said.

Workforce Development at Youth Services in the coming months is expected to offer a spectrum of employment services with a low barrier to entry and serve young people from ages 12 to 24 in stipended and paid roles, according to Kornheiser. She explained that individuals will find support with short-term as well as long-term work, employment training, internships, and develop closer ties with their community.

Kornheiser was a graduate last year from the Vermont Leadership Institute at the Snelling Center for Government and attended the University of Vermont for a Master’s program in Community Development and Applied Economics. She is a candidate to represent Brattleboro District 1 in the Vermont House of Representatives. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology and Developmental Psychology from Marlboro College.

 

For more information about Workforce Development at Youth Services, call (802) 257-0361 or visit youthservicesinc.org

Staff shares restorative justice experiences with researchers, policymakers and fellow practioners

Youth Services’ staff member Sarah Ballou, attended a conference on International Restorative Justice, “Global Unity and Healing: Building Communities with a Restorative Approach, held at the University of Vermont at the end of June. Organized by Vermont Law School, the conference brought together researchers, policy-makers and practitioner, like Ballou to share the difference a restorative approach makes and consider its potential to reveal and address the complex and relational nature of some of our greatest problems and challenges: environmental justice, addressing harm and conflict and building safe, healthy and inclusive communities.

Craig Miskovich and Johanna Lengfellner join Youth Services Board

Craig Miskovich and Johana Lengfellner, of Brattleboro and Dummerston respectively, recently joined 15 other community members in serving on Youth Services’ board of directors. Through 19 programs ranging from Court Diversion to mentoring, workforce development and case management, the nonprofit agency helps Windham County young people and families thrive.

Miskovich serves in a similar capacities in the region, as President of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) where he contributes to providing greater economic opportunity to area families by helping attract employers that provide well-paying jobs. Johana Lengfellner is relatively new to the area having moved here several years ago from upstate New York where she was raised and attended college.

Craig Miskovich

A lawyer with Downs Rachlin Martin’s Health Law Practice Group, Miskovich advises hospitals, nursing facilities and other healthcare providers in Vermont and New Hampshire. He has also been a member of DRM’s Business Law Group and has represented a variety of clients in commercial finance and development transactions, including buyers, sellers, borrowers and lenders.

“Craig’s legal mindset and his deep community roots, having spent much of his adult life as a resident and parent in Windham County, will be a tremendous asset to the Youth Services board,” said Rachel Selsky, Youth Services’ board president.

Johana Lengfellner is a Senior Financial Analyst for New Chapter in Brattleboro, Vermont where she has been employed for the last year. She collects, develops, and analyzes reports to identify trends in the sale of New Chapter dietary supplements.  Before that Lengfellner performed a combination of finance and information technology work in the healthcare field.

Johana Lengfellner

“Johana will be an important addition to our finance committee which works to ensure strong fiscal health for Youth Services while trying to predict and budget for all of the services provided in Windham County,” stated Selsky.  “We’re also looking forward to her connections with a younger demographic of potential donors.”

To learn how you can get involved with Youth Services or to refer a youth for assistance, visit wwwyouthservicesinc.org or call 802-257-0361.

 

Restorative Justice Volunteer Marilyn Buhlmann inducted into Hall of Fame

A glance around Marilyn Buhlmann’s Brattleboro home tells you without a doubt two things that drive her passion: creativity and commitment to her adopted community.

Marilyn Buhlmann joins other illustrious volunteers on Youth Services’ Hall of Fame wall.

She will be leaving Brattleboro in October, splitting her time between Florida and Colorado to be closer to family. Boxes are packed with paintings, her ceramic bowls and the ‘Wise Ones”, shamanic two-foot tall ceramic figures she hand-built.

Piles of file folders must be gone through before her move; they represent the many community organizations she has impacted as a volunteer leader; three years of organizing the River Gallery School auctions while a board member; serving over 10 years on the Board of the Women’s Crisis Center (4 years as chair), where she coordinated the Women’s Film Festival for 3 years, and volunteering as a bereavement counselor for Brattleboro Area Hospice for 13 years.

“I love the act of giving, being able to share myself and my resources with this wonderful community that I have made my home for the past 50 years,” Buhlmann said.

Her longest commitment, serving as a restorative justice volunteer on a Youth Services’ Diversion Board, concluded last month after 22 years, culminating with her induction into Youth Services’ Hall of Fame, the organization’s top award for its volunteers.

Buhlmann’s monthly meeting as a panelist focused on repairing the harm caused by the community member. “Diversion holds those who violated the law accountable in a manner that promotes responsibility to individuals, community and relationships,” she explained. “Also, when appropriate, we addressed underlying needs or issues that led to the offense.”

In her family of origin, not unlike many Youth Services clients, Buhlmann experienced trauma and violence and extreme poverty.  “My life experiences have given me a lot of insight in all of the volunteer work I have done,” she explained.

She knows from her own childhood that often young people just need nurturing and guidance to help them succeed and realize their full potential. “I had a couple of teachers who told me I could go far in the world, despite my limitations.  Their belief in me stayed deep inside me like a candle flame even in my darkest times,” Buhlmann testified.

In her 30’s Buhlmann was finally able to go to college, propelled by the tiny flame sparked years before. “As a Diversion board member I try to light the same flame in others,” she explained. “It is rewarding to have a part in what is often a transformation,” Buhlmann said.

Like many transplants, Buhlmann first came to Vermont in 1972 to ski, discovering instantly that “she belonged here” and made it her home over the next five decades. Buhlmann worked many years as a waitress, running a hotel desk and performing other administrative jobs before she was finally able to go to college in her ‘30s to study to be a dietician.

Marilyn Buhlmann will leave big shoes to fill, according to Patrick Fleming, the Youth Services Diversion Case Manager who coordinates six restorative justice panels of community members each week. He described Buhlmann as “a natural” at this work, unusually compassionate and someone who could instinctually alleviate the defensiveness of the most challenging clients.

Before the term became widely used, Buhlmann’s approach was trauma-informed, according to Fleming. “We could trust her with the most complex cases and know she would understand on a cellular-level what was important and what wasn’t. She also inspired our clients to look at and address the issues that led to their offense,” explained Fleming.

Buhlmann is being inducted into Youth Services’ Hall of Fame as the agency’s first-ever recipient of the Restorative Justice Advocate Award.  Her portrait will join Liz Richards and Ben Underhill, two other champions of Youth Services who devoted decades to the young people of Windham County, in the hallway of Youth Services.

The Hall of Fame is a way for Youth Services’ board to recognize community members like Buhlmann who make outstanding and sustained contributions to youth development and the agency’s outreach. “Marilyn went out of her way to champion Youth Services and restorative justice at every opportunity,” Fleming recalled.

Like the “Wise Ones” figurines that Buhlmann fashioned from a lump of clay into something with meaning, Buhlmann’s decades of empathic listening and questioning on Youth Services’ Diversion Board has helped close to 3000 Windham County community members transform their mistakes into life lessons that help them choose a better path going forward.

To find out how to join in this important work with our community members, please call Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org.

Spring Gala & Dance Show at SIT featured local “celebrity” dancers

Our gala was your chance to witness local “celebrities” showcasing their dance skills while supporting a great cause!

If you like Dancing With the Stars-you didn’t want to miss this show!

On Saturday evening, April 28, Youth Services held its Annual Gala & Silent Auction at SIT’s International Center from 5 to 10 pm. New to the much anticipated event is a twist on television’s hit reality show, Dancing with the Stars. Billed as Can Windham County Dance? tickets were $85 per person ($55 of which is tax deductible).

 

  MUSIC SPONSOR:                        MEDIA SPONSOR:

The festive evening of food and drink sponsored by SIT started with a silent auction and cash bar from 5-6 p.m..  Click here to see highlights of auction items. Beginning at 6 p.m. wait staff served Chef Christopher Chadwick’s entrees of grilled sliced flank steak with salsa verde, oven poached salmon with thyme, dill and Vermouth or springtime pasta with freshly grated Parmesan and cracked pink pepper. The side dishes were chard with scallions, ginger and chili oil, tomato rice followed by cheesecake with assorted fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Dinner was followed by the Can Windham County Dance? show featuring local “celebrity” dancers ranging from Steve Perrin, Brattleboro High School principal, who is training for the first time with a dance professional  to Scott Phillips, a former professional ballet dancer in Canada, the US and Europe.  Top prize was awarded to the dancer who raisedthe most donations to support Youth Services critical safety net for area young people: Bert and Bill Knorrs.

Following the performances, DJ music from numerous eras livened the dance floor for all attendees.

SIT was the gala’s Presenting Corporate Sponsor as well as its host. Youth Services Pacesetter Sponsors were The Richards Group, G.S. Precision and Brattleboro Subaru. Many thanks to all who attended and those who sponsored celebrity dancers!

Ben Underhill voted board emeritus at Youth Services

Ben Underhill, owner of Putnam Insurance of Brattleboro, was voted Board Emeritus by Youth Services’ board of directors at the June board meeting on which Underhill “served with distinction” for over three decades. Two other board members have received the board emeritus status in Youth Services’ 46-year history: the late attorney Jesse Corum IV and Larry Cassidy, who continues to be a key advisor. Continue reading Ben Underhill voted board emeritus at Youth Services

Human Rights for local youth advocated by case manager Justin Bibee

Human rights in Brattleboro got a special nod on Sunday, Dec. 10, thanks to a Youth Services staff member, Justin Bibee.

“I figured if there ever was a time for serious reflection in our state and community, it’s now,” Justin Bibee, formerly a student at SIT Graduate Institute who brought the proposal to recognize Human Rights Day to the Select Board, told the Reformer.

 

The Select Board received applause after members voted unanimously to approve the proclamation, which recognizes Dec. 10 as Human Rights Day. That day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Bibee is finishing up his master’s degree in peace building and conflict transformation, with plans to graduate in May. He is currently working as a case manager for homeless youth and youth at risk for homelessness at Youth Services. He grew up in Rhode Island but hopes to continue living in Windham County and work at Youth Services once he completes school.

The political divisiveness in the United States right now and his job inspired him to bring the proclamation to the board.

“Every day I feel I’m on the front line fighting for my clients’ right to food, right to health, their human rights,” he told the Reformer. “I’m just fighting for an adequate standard of living, right to non-discrimination. It kills me. The people I work with every day, they have anxiety and pessimism. And that usually prevails over optimism.”

Bibee hopes the recognition of Human Rights Day locally will inspire activities and greater awareness around related issues through events and advocacy. The proclamation encourages citizens in town to take part in these things and “to strive to actualize a greater awareness of the importance of human rights.” It also mentions the United Nations Association of Vermont, which is a new chapter Bibee just started after a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

Bibee had spent time in Tanzanian refugee camps from January to June before taking the job at Youth Services. His goal there was to connect refugees to formal financial institutions in their country.

This story by Chris Mays appeared Dec. 7, 2017 in the Brattleboro Reformer. Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter
and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.