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Vermont Youth Development Corps AmeriCorps State Program

Spring 2012

VYDC Quarterly

Inside this issue: Hannah Mueller 2 Sam Lederfine Paskal

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Marley Balasco 3 Jessica Southard 4 Karyn Norwood 4 Allison Baldowski 5

Confident VYDC members pose during April training in Montpelier, VT. Greetings from the VYDC office in Montpelier, VT We are pleased to provide you with the Spring 2012 edition of the VYDC Quarterly. In this issue, our 16 VYDC AmeriCorps State members reflect on and describe an activity they have implemented that encourages and increases youth participation in healthy, active lifestyles. Members share stories of how they creatively introduced nutritious foods, facilitated conversations about showing respect and building positive relationships, and provided a safe space for youth to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to make healthier personal choices. We are very proud of the VYDC members and the positive impact they are making with Vermont’s youth and in communities. We hope that you enjoy the stories!

Margaret Lambert 5 John Powell 6 Mischa Tourin 7 Tyler Farry 8 Lindsay Smith 9 Liz Durfee 9 Heather Simson 10 Molly Walsh 11 Todd Lavigne 12 Kerri MacLaury 13 May Service 14 Project Photos Mid Year 14 Accomplishments

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Addison County’s Farm to School conference is called the Stone Soup Summit, after the folktale about a village that cooks up a healthy meal for itself when every person contributes one ingredient. As part of my service with the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN), I coordinated the thirdannual summit. Stone Soup drew over 100 people from across the county to Vergennes Union HS on April 3rd.

Composting turned out to be the hot topic during the discussion. Everyone agreed that it was a tragedy that so much food waste went from the cafeterias to landfills each day, instead of into the agriculture of the county. Marcy, a Walden Project senior, and Izzy, a student at Mt. Abe High School, had both led trash audits, or “Trash Hannah with a Stone Soup Summit exhibit. on the Lawn” days. They found that their high schools each produced about 70 accept it as normal. Izzy talked about a pounds of food waste per day. Students documentary her Environmental Action The structure of this year’s event Group made to educate the school. Midhighlighted how the “stone soup recipe” works dlebury College students Sam and Eleni Hannah Mueller in our community. Each group of stakeshared their vision to write a grant to supholders—students, parents, foodservice direcport composting at Vergennes High AmeriCorps Member tors, administrators, healthcare professionals, School—later that week, they applied for Willowell Foundation teachers, and farmers—met in small groups and received that $3,000 grant from Midfirst, then shared with each other their contridlebury College! Vergennes, VT butions and goals for Farm to School education. I co-led the students’ affinity group in a I was thrilled to listen and condiscussion about their past involvement in from Vergennes Elementary expressed their tribute to this discussion between a group Farm to School and what projects they wanted desire to see composting restart at their of youth with a wide variety of ages and to work on in the future. school, where it had been in place in classbackgrounds, but a shared vision for rerooms, but ceased due to a lack of constant ducing their schools’ waste stream. On The diversity of the group made for a maintenance. one level, students are just one part of the unique discussion. There were 11 students “stone soup recipe”; at another level, from all three school districts and Middlebury We talked about ways to convince Farm to School is all about youth and College, ages 12 to 21. Some students were students to compost: Damian, a Walden their future. I hope and believe that the nominated for the Farm to School EntrepreProject student who helped me plan the Stone Soup discussion was empowering neur Awards, presented at the end of the Sum- summit, advocated making environmental for them, enabling the students to share mit. They talked in-depth about projects education and service a mandatory part of with each other their vision for a more they’re promoting in their schools, including a the curriculum. Others said that it would be environmentally responsible education, micro-greens business that grows produce for their own job to make composting fun and with closer ties to the land and their food. the cafeteria, and two different high school cool before the rest of the school would composting projects.

Sam Lederfine Paskal AmeriCorps Member Maplehill School Plainfield, VT The students at Maplehill face unique emotional and behavioral challenges that the public school system is not able to accommodate. Because this population has such a diverse range of needs, the activities I implement usually involve one or two students and are very informal. The small student population allows me to get to know each youth very well and learn about their interests. Based on their interests, learning goals, and seasonal farm needs, I have been able to create activities that incorporate healthy lifestyles, workplace readiness, nutrition, and agriculture.

One Healthy Lifestyles activity I did with two of the youth at Maplehill was to create Root View Boxes. A root view box is a modified orange juice carton that is fitted with a plexiglass “window” on one side and filled with soil and seeds. The students made the boxes and sorted through many seed packets to pick out a few different seeds that would have interesting roots to observe as they develop. A Maplehill youth shows off his Root View box.

I had found the activity in the Shelburne Farms Project Seasons book and it looked like a simple, hands-on project that would have a successful outcome. Only a few materials needed to be gathered, orange juice cartons, duct tape, a drill, potting soil, and seeds. And, the plexiglass was kindly donated from the Plainfield Hardware’s scrap pile. Building the root boxes went well as the students were challenged to create them and decide on which seeds to plant. Each student completed the project and was engaged in observing them as the seeds grew. Unfortunately, one of the boxes was not watered sufficiently and the plants died. However, the other one has beautiful Love Lies Bleeding Flowers and a watermelon seedling growing strong. And that student still, weeks later, will show off his plants to everyone he can find.


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Marley Balasco AmeriCorps Operation: Military Kids Burlington, VT

A youth receives a Hero Pack

On Saturday, April 14th, student-athletes of Norwich University and AmeriCorps members and alumni gathered on Disney Field in support of Vermont’s military youth. The event was intended to promote healthy lifestyles by getting the kids moving and playing games with some of the best models of this behavior - student athletes and ROTC participants.

models. These kids were so genuine and grateful for their new gifts and friends.

Lunch was provided by the Student-Athlete Fundraising Committee. Ben & Jerry’s donated some ice cream - which, by the way, is not too unhealthy for individuals who were burning a lot of calories all morning. During the group lunch, a trivia game based on sport and movement based questions took place. Once the trivia game was finished, the athletes and ROTC volunteers took a moment to recognize our military youth for their sacrifices and acknowledge April as the Month of the Military Child. The kids were presented Hero Packs by our volunteers, who had become their newfound role

young Cadet. Because it clearly had an impact on both our military youth and University volunteers, Norwich is working with Operation: Military Kids to make this an annual event at the University. It is wonderful that these military youth will have the opportunity, at least once a year, to get outside, play and interact with others from all over the state!

After the presentation of the Hero Packs, one of the girls approached an AmeriCorps member to say that the letter written to her by a youth in the local community was her “favorite part of the Hero Pack.” This particular youth attended with her two brothers, all of whom are homeschooled due to a problem the young In order to create a “team” atmosphere, the girl was having with bullies in the public school. Their University volunteers and our military youth all remother indicated the following day in an email that it ceived purple tie-dye shirts; purple represents all had meant the world to her kids that they could interact branches of our military. Together, the group of 14 with such a fantastic group of individuals. She said that it volunteers and 9 youth participated in some energizer was the first time, in a long time, that her kids had ever games - the Captain is Coming, for example - to been so exhausted and had something to laugh and smile build some group camaraderie; everyone was beam- about, even after the event had concluded. That feeding from ear to ear, enjoying the great company. back was beyond anything we could have possibly exEveryone spent hour upon hour running around, pected. hula-hooping, playing Frisbee, even dancing the Cha As for our volunteers, they could not be more -Cha Slide! There is a video of the group dancing excited to participate at one of our events again. One too, but a fee should be charged for anyone interROTC student-athlete even connected with a military ested in watching it - it’s pretty entertaining. spouse whose husband can serve as a mentor for this

(Hero Packs serve as a tangible expression of support for Military Families from their communities and OMK Partners. Hero Packs are filled by non-military youth and community organizations with mementos and items designed to help keep military kids connected with their deployed parent. )

OMK CHALLENGE!: Norwich University student-athletes and military youth participate in fun activities to honor The Month of the Military Child in April.


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The youth I serve at Youth Services often come from intergenerational poverty and trauma. One of the challenges we often see our youth face is in their personal relationships. This only makes sense; if one has never experienced healthy relationships in their life, it is virtually impossible to not recreate the unhealthy patterns one has learned. Of course, dating violence is a problem faced by youth across the board, regardless of class, race, or region. Statistics show that nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year, and one in three adolescents in the U.S., is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. In my previous work at the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, I helped create a curriculum for youth about

I spent three after school program sessions at Swanton Elementary School this year. My goal was to make math fun for forty to sixty 2nd to 4th grade students once a week. A daunting task for an individual who has never actually had too much fun with math herself! I was given a space and materials to work with, such as computers, tangrams, cards, and math bingo, but from the beginning I knew I wanted to work outside the box, when possible. My quest for fun and interactive group activities in math commenced. Some of the great successes I had with my students were the simplest of games. For example, we played a game, throughout the whole year, that I intro-

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healthy relationships. I decided to implement that curriculum at Drop In in Bellows Falls. Aware of how difficult it can be to get the youth we serve to sit through a group, I got gift certificates donated from local businesses to incentivize the group. Also, our peer outreach workers (youth we employ in the community) got the word out about group through outreach and putting up posters. The group ran for six weeks at Drop In, and each week focused on a different aspect of healthy relationships: identifying healthy and unhealthy relationships; boundaries; communication; asking for help;, consent versus coercion; and ending a relationship. We had 23 youth participate, and since the group was at Drop In, it was a diverse group of youth. Everyone brought their own unique experiences to the table and we all learned from each other.

Karyn Norwood AmeriCorps Member Franklin Grand Isle Bookmobile Swanton, VT

Jessica Southard AmeriCorps Member Youth Services, Inc. Bellows Falls, VT One of the young women in group realized in our discussion about consensual sex that she was in a coercive relationship with a sexual partner. After group that night, she made her partner read our handout about coercion and said she would no longer have sex with that person. Empowering youth with the knowledge about healthy relationships leads them to advocate for themselves. This young woman made a huge step forward that day by standing up for herself and taking ownership of her sexual choices. This topic is not always easy to talk to youth about, but it is so incredibly important. Our group resulted in youth taking positive steps towards healthy relationships, and for that I feel very blessed.

treasure: chocolate, of course! With our successes came challenges. For example, many students only ever wanted to play computer math games. I decided to divide my class time for each group as such: 15 minutes of group games, 15 minutes of "free time" to play what you wanted. That way kids got the benefit of the interactive group games, duced in one of the first class, called “Time Bomb.� In this, kids were in a circle and had but could also have the opportunity to just to count by 2's, 4's, backwards, forwards, etc., do what they felt like playing. until they reached a certain number. The child It was a wonderful opportunity who had that last number had to sit down. I to teach the students at Swanton Elementhought for sure the kids would be bored by tary. They are a wonderful, excited, and it after a while, but up until our last day of curious group of students. It was lovely to class kids were still requesting the game. have them come in and request games we Other games that went really well had played in previous classes and to be included a competition to make the highest genuinely eager about math. Our time Lego towers, a measuring scavenger hunt spent playing math games was great fun, (where kids had to measure and find things and I must confess, an opportunity for me around the library), and a life-size board game to fall in love with math! called "Treasure Island," where the kids got to make their own giant board and be the Note: 55% of the youth in Swanton Elemenpieces. They had to avoid sharks, desert islands, and shipwrecks by solving math prob- tary School are low-income, and the graduation lems to move ahead on the game board. The rate in Swanton is lower than the state average.


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Allison Baldowski AmeriCorps Member UVM Extension: Afterschool Middlebury, VT

confidence. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.

When the next week arrived and we were left snow-less again, I planned on taking the youth on a hike in search of animal tracks. On this particular day every inch of grass around the school was covered in a thick sheet of ice. I began to think that we would be forced to stay inside for the day to avoid any accidents. After much debate, the students and I carefully inched our way to the woods nearby. Much to my As soon as I found out that I was being given the opportunity to plan and facilitate an outdoor excursions class, I surprise, the students were able to find a few animal tracks in the ice. couldn’t wait to share my love of the outdoors with the youth. The boys insisted they belonged to a bobcat or a coyote, but I assured I immediately began to plan fun activities such as snowshoeing the girls it was just a dog to ease their nerves. and cross-country skiing. My goal The next 5 weeks lacked even the tiniest was to promote ways to keep the bit of snow. Instead of trekking across the fields youth active during the winter in snowshoes, we identified trees, made pinmonths. This was my first winter in wheels to observe the wind, talked about differVermont and everyone kept warning ent birds and how they eat during the winter, me about the amount of snow we played games to emphasize the importance of would be getting. As the days passed recycling and composting, and played fun tag and the start of the class neared, games to keep the youth moving. there was not an inch of snow in sight. My home state of New Jersey This class may not have gone exactly as had gotten more snow than we had I had planned it, but in the end it turned out in Vermont! I was worried that my great! The youth spent 2 hours outside with me class would be a disaster without once a week and were encouraged to move inThe landscape of a typical Vermont winter snow. I couldn’t take the youth stead of sitting in a classroom. Some of my stusnowshoeing on piles of leaves or cross-country ski across the dents even took out books about trees from the library and insisted on grass. I was left to fill 7 weeks with activities in the abnormal identifying trees during recess instead of swinging on the swings. These Vermont weather. 7 weeks taught me to be flexible and always have a back up plan. I also The first week of class was without snow so I taught the youth how to use compasses and we went on a treasure hunt. My students loved it and I immediately got a boost of

Last week during CityScape’s spring break vacation we brought 15 students on a day long field trip of Montpelier. Our first stop was at the Vermont State History Museum where the students completed a scavenger hunt which required them to make their way through the ages of Vermont history and glean information from the displays. Some of the highlights of the museum was the working telegraph machine, blackand-white footage from the 1927 flooding, and a life-size wigwam we could walk into made by a native Abenaki man. The students in my group were very intent on completing the scavenger hunt. The feedback I got from the group was that 45 minutes was not long enough to really soak in the museum. Students would have liked to stay later so that they could go through the museum once more without having to focus on the scavenger hunt. I found this very positive feedback because it lets me know that the students were enjoying themselves while

realized that you can spend a ton of time planning programs so they go perfectly, but sometimes there are factors that are out of your control, such as weather, and sometimes the best way to deal with it is to relax and go with the flow.

learning. After we left the history museum, we made our way to the Vermont State House where we were given a tour by a volunteer. The State House was bustling because the House and Senate were still in session. CityScape students got to meet a page, who is a teenager who works passing messages from one senator to another during sessions. It was exciting for them to see someone their age working in the State House. Our tour guide took us into the oval senate room and explained how a bill becomes a law. The CityScape students were in awe of the gilded decor all around them. One girl exclaimed, “Wow it’s just like on the Titanic.” Our students, being from Barre were proud when they learned that their State House was made out of Barre grey granite. The rest of our day in Montpelier took us up to Hubbard Park for lunch and outdoor games before heading to the Savoy

Theater to watch a movie in the downstairs lounge. In questioning students on the ride back to the school I found out that the Vermont State History Museum had been a bigger hit than I imagined. I was happy to see at the end of the day that the CityScape students were still excited and happy to be together and were walking away having learned something. Note: CityScape Afterschool Program is based

at the Barre City Elementary and Middle School;. BCEMS is a Title 1 School and is in a 5-year corrective action plan as it did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress in both reading and math; 62% of the students are low-income.

Margaret Lambert AmeriCorps Member CityScape Afterschool Program Montpelier/Barre, VT


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Johnny Powell AmeriCorps Member Essex CHIPS Essex, VT

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an outstanding student.) The idea was to positively reinforce his conscious efforts to fit in, but among the others the result was defaced pictures of the kid, anger that he The Essex Teen Center is in one One youth who attends regularly is was picked, and more bullying. way at a disadvantage. We are located on the a sixth grader with Autism. As the only one second floor of an historical building situWe generally have great kids, so I at the Teen Center with this diagnosis, he ated at a busy intersection, knighted “Five stands out due to his sometimes erratic be- pulled them aside. “What is going on?” With Corners,” with massive amounts of traffic. havior, difficulty with change, and difficulty the four most mature and respected stuTo the other side, we have parking lots. recognizing social cues, (such as to be quiet dents, I began a discussion on their issues The only green is on the building’s front before snack when announcements are being with the current Student of the Month, lawn, which we are not allowed to use, per read). While he’s a great kid, it is difficult to which led into me sharing what I knew laws pertaining to the historical nature of the work with him property. Therefore, it’s hard to get outside sometimes, as when we need to. There’s no basketball there are clearly court and no real area even to play four methods unique square or use chalk, as it’s all parking lot, to engaging Auwith cars coming in and out. tistic kids. The Yet, the kids that attend the Teen Center have in other ways an advantageliving in a tight knit community where voices are heard for a strong movement toward sustainability, connectedness, and improving walkability of the village center. Therefore, these kids are pretty good at speaking their minds- and not just that, but articulating their thoughts. I recently learned that one of the two middle schools we serve doesn’t have recess. Flabbergasted, I still have not recovered from learning this. If there’s one thing kids need, it’s to run around, and as much as we wanted to provide it for the hormonal preteens with pent-up energy showing up each day, we don’t have the space. Yet, learning about this anti-recess regime helped us understand why those kids were in such disarray.

lovely Civic Discussion that happened regarding No Child Left Behind, Autism, and the state of modern public schools.

other youth, who, remember, are coming in screaming for playtime (and the older ones suffering from pubescent sexual, pituitary confusion), did not get along Teens hang out at the Essex CHIPS Teen Center. with this one guy for many reasons: it is hard to interact with him about Autism, its effect on the individual, its because he blurts out honest and yet rude observations; he is younger than most so he effect on others, and how difficulty recognizing social cues was a major challenge at is not thinking about the same things they are; and he has very different priorities. This the Teen Center. He didn’t pick up on sarresulted in several verbal bouts among some casm; he didn’t understand All In Good Fun. They didn’t know why. of the kids, several breakdowns from this one student, and overall stress on the side of They were interested: What is Authe staff. tism? How do you treat it? How many peo-

Many talks with the child in quesWe made the decision to improve tion resulted in him trying his hardest to fit the communication between the staff and in, and noticing this, we made him our StuTeen Center attendees, which brings me to a dent of the Month (awarded each month to

ple have Autism? This led to questions about the increased one-on-one help many students receive in public schools. How is it fair that the kid that misbehaves the most Continued on page 8...


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ago. There is no cure and not a lot of funding for research. More than that, however, students are not taught how to deal with peers with learning disabilities. They are not taught what the disabilities are, and keepSince that discussion, everyone has gotten ing them in ignorance is not helping them underalong better and I continue to educate them and stand the challenges they make them aware when we are dealing with these issues. That discussion helped the students recognize will face in a world with increased diagnoses. new aspects of their community and sub-school This was one discussion community that they didn’t know beforehand. As April is National Autism Awareness Month, it seems I was surprised I needed to have. Knowing and appropriate to share this story. One in 88 kids is diagnosed with Autism, nearly double than a decade understanding is half the battle.

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gets a one-on-one aid to fill out his test for him while he goes to the gym to shoot hoops?I explained No Child Left Behind and Integrated Schools. We talked trends and changes in public schools, budget cuts, and the role parents play in many of the changes happening in schools that may negatively impact the “Average Kid.” It was a surreally “adult” conversation, and I was impressed by their insights.

VYDC member Mischa Tourin and the

Above the Influence Group at Essex CHIPS.

Mischa Tourin AmeriCorps Member Essex CHIPS Essex, VT One of the main Healthy Futures activities that AmeriCorps member Mischa Tourin has led, has been the Essex Above the Influence Group. This group of 11 Essex teens has undertaken a variety of activities to spread their peerto-peer message of staying above the influence of drugs and alcohol and making healthy choices in their lives. Activities this year include: 1) Sticker Shock, which is a campaign to promote awareness in adults about the consequences of buying alcohol for minors; 2) An all school assembly at the local middle school; 3) A day long lock-in supported and filmed by MTV at the Essex fairgrounds; 4) A Red Carpet Premiere to celebrate the airing of the MTV footage; and much more. Essex can expect many more great things out of these teens as a group and as individuals! Left: This collage represents the Above the Influence group and its message of making healthy lifestyle decisions


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Eating a healthy, balanced diet is very important, particularly for youth who are still growing. Every Friday, the Basement Teen Center offers a healthy, balanced meal for youth. When I became the AmeriCorps State member at the Basement Teen Center, I was put in charge of coordinating all the food, which includes supplying the Basement with daily snacks, planning, and usually making, the Friday night dinner, and tending the garden, among other things.

moved to the top of my soup list.

I thought back on my own experience as to what really changed my mind about cabbage and beets. I had had them occasionally as a child, but did not have a definitively positive experience with them until I was in college and decided to try out a Russian restaurant around the corner from my apartment. Something compelled me to try their borscht, perhaps it had been the Russian literature that I had been reading at the time, but in any case, I fell in love with it. It quickly

This success led me to experiment with more soups allowing me to create a popular balanced meal with a success rate that would be hard to match with meals Tyler Farry that have multiple dishes, AmeriCorps Member though I have been able to improve in those The Basement areas, too.

This rich, hearty winter-warming soup, and what a beautiful soup it was, too! A dark magenta, accented by a white dollop of sour cream and a green sprinkling of dill leaves. As I thought more about it, I realized that soup was a common vehicle that opened the door to foods that I might have previously turned up my nose at. I saw success through soup and I was resolute in my plan to bring borscht to the Basement.

I had made borscht for myself before (I was not about to let the absence of Russian restaurants in my hometown prevent me from eating that life-giving food) and it had come out pretty successfully, but I As anyone had never made it in a large quantity. It's a soup that takes a significant amount of time to prepare and cook (it's one of those soups that only who has been responsible for feeding gets better the longer it gets to sit around), so I spent much of the Friday afternoon preparing it. Other than the beets and cabbage, this soup calls a group of teens is sure to tell you, get- for onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes among variety of spices and ting teens to eat new herbs (I won't get into the details here). It is also a soup that can be foods, or foods that vegetarian, but most often is made with either pork or beef. I took a poll they think they don't of teens and reached a solid consensus that meat was desired. I went with pork sausage. like, can be quite difficult. After our While it was simmering on the stove, teens began asking me garden was done last what was for dinner, or “what's on the stove.” When I said “borscht,” I fall, we had a good was almost universally met with confused expressions. When I told one amount of root vegeTyler reads bingo numbers during a teen what was in it he replied, “I don't like any of those things.” tables and cabbage fundraising event. left over. Cabbage I'm not sure if it was their trust in me, the alluring color of the and beets are usually not the easiest of foods to get teens to eat. soup, the universally safe nature of soup, or a combination thereof, but I had tried cabbage as a side with meat and potatoes a it was a major hit. Even the teen who claimed that beets made him throw-up ate some. The teen who had complained earlier that he did not few weeks beforehand, but at the end of the night, the only like any of the vegetables that went into it loved it, remarking, “I don't thing that was left was cabbage, and I didn't catch any teens know how you did it, but this is good and there's all sorts of stuff in here reheating and eating it later either. I did not have much hope that beets would fare any better on their own. I contemplated that I don't like.” For me the true testimony of its success came the folusing them in a roasted root vegetable dish (something I later lowing week when that same teen reheated the leftover two days in a tried with some success), but I still had to figure out something row (and the reheating of leftovers is something that practically never happens voluntarily at the Basement). to do with the cabbage.

Montpelier, VT


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Lindsay Smith AmeriCorps Member Spectrum Burlington, VT

ming for the Hoopapalooza event. This gives us time to make up our routine, pick music, and practice. The biggest challenge I have encountered was getting youth to come to the programming. The first time we held programming for the hula-hooping, no one showed. This was disappointing, but I decided that I needed to talk up the event more while youth was in the space during meal times. I started to post the event on the chalkboard, hulahoop in the space and offer incentives like ice cream for coming to the program. It finally worked! We had a few of our youth show up to the program and got a routine going!

On May 5th the Burlington Rotary Club will be putting on their signature fundraising event “Hoopapalooza.” Their mission is to raise money to assist in the landscaping and beautification of the front yard of Edmunds School on Main Street. If you haven’t already guessed, the event involves competitive hula-hooping. I’m not talking about who can hula-hoop for the longest, but actually performing a team routine with tricks. Spectrum Youth and Family Services has been involved in this event in the past and I am thrilled to During one of the weekly probe a part of it this year being that I have grams I had a friend of mine who is on the my own personal interest in hula-hooping! University of Vermont’s hoop team come to the program and help teach us some new While we have five staff memmoves and help us put together a routine. bers that are committed to performing we The program went really well that day and have been trying to get our youth inthe youth and staff who participated learned some sweet, new moves! Everyone volved. Every week we offer program-

Liz Durfee AmeriCorps Member Spectrum Youth and Family Services Burlington, VT In summer 2011, I started my first backyard garden. I had so many cucumbers coming in that I could barely eat them before they went rotten or grew too big. I was also on a limited budget. Most pickles at the local co-op were 5 or 6 dollars a jar, and I soon learned that I could make my own. Using glass jars, sea salt, vinegar, dill, and garlic I made homemade kosher pickles for a fraction of the cost. When I started my service at the Spectrum DropIn, I wanted to pass this kind of knowl-

definitely seemed to be in good spirits after participating, but there was one youth in particular that I was surprised to see participate and was even more surprised to see how well he did. Putting on a program that provided the youth at my site with a healthy alternative to their VYDC member Lindsay Smith shows off her hula hooping skills during a VYDC training.

day and that allowed me to teach something I really enjoy doing was very rewarding. I hope to continue this program even after Hoopapalooza and hopefully encourage more youth to join!

edge onto others. The idea behind run- together was much easier than getting ning a Pickling Workshop at Drop-In youth interested in coming to the activity. was to show youth how homemade food I did identify a few youth that were exis healthy, affordable and easy to make. cited about coming because they enjoyed First we needed some supplies. Bove’s cooking and also had never made pickles had donated tomato sauce to Spectrum from scratch before. By following this for Drop-In meals, and so each time we energy and promoting the activity to used a jar I kept it for pickling. I acthem I found that there was suddenly quired vinegar, pickling spices, fresh dill more interest in the event. As we got and kosher salt and I found a refrigera- closer to the activity date youth started tor dill pickle recipe online. Using a sharing even more about why they were refrigerator pickling recipe is an easy and interested in coming. Indeed, some had inexpensive way to make pickles because the experience of making recipes from it does not require any canning equipscratch with family members or friends. ment. I spent time sifting through infor- that it is relatively simple to make homemation online about fermentation, dif- made goods. ferent pickling methods, and basic knife Continued on page 10... skills. However, getting these materials


VYDC QUARTERLY I lucked out when it came to planning my civic discussion events so far; they just came together in a way that I was not expecting them too. Queer 101 is an event through Out Right Vermont that the Hub likes to do at least every year if not every six months, due to the regularity of the events the Hub has a relationship already with Outright Vermont. My part of planning the event was to help pick out the date and spread the news. Queer 101 were some of the first posters I made during my service; making sure that the kids knew about the event as well as the community was my part in the planning. A challenge during the planning process for me was that I was still getting used to my service site so that trying to help plan this event and understand what was expected of me was very difficult. The program went really well because many of the kids who went actually paid more attention than I was expecting and asked good questions; it was interesting to hear youth who were interested in learning how not to be offensive to someone. It was an interesting experience for me because I did not know everything that the presenter was talking about. I hope that some of the youth that participated have changed their vocabulary so that they are less offensive to others though I know some have not. Another civic discussion we had

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Heather Simson AmeriCorps Member The Hub Teen Center in Bristol, VT

was led by Miss Vermont, which was also very easy in the planning stage for me. She got in contact with us and asked if she could come into present. Making the planning stage really simple because we just need to pick a date and

The Hub teens share a photo op with Miss Vermont.

part of that had to do with the fact that it was an attractive and articulate woman. Watching the interest in volunteering grow through their participation in the event was refreshing. The fact that they would really like to be more involved in their community through volunteering was reflected in their surveys. It was also nice because I think for many of them they thought of community service as something that is court ordered and thus is not something that is enjoyable; one of the teens learned the fact that he gives free guitar lessons to a neighborhood kid is a form of community service even though he loves it.

time that worked for both The Hub and Miss Vermont. I spread the news about Miss Vermont.

One thing I learned was that the high school does not require a community service requirement for graduation, which I think, is detrimental to the youth. ConsidThe challenge that I faced with ering that they all did not realize that you Miss Vermont was that I was having a very can do community service by raising money difficult time serving during the planning for a program you love, and they all started phase and even when she came to the Hub. brain storming on how to make money for The program itself though went very well and I was actually surprised by the boys that The Hub. The biggest effect of the presentation on me is that I am working on editing participated in the program and how well the video of her presentation so that it can they did with it. The teens that were most engaged with Miss Vermont’s presentation stand on its own or be an excerpt from a larger video. This is helping my editing are a group who don’t like to always be inskills via IMovie a lot. volved. So seeing how well behaved and interested they were was nice, though I think When I heard these stories, I realized that by hosting this workshop we weren’t only passing along knowledge about how to properly cut with a knife or clean a cutting board. We might be reminding someone of a meaningful moment when they learned a secret family recipe or reinforcing the idea that they have the power to make something all their own. The pickling workshop was interesting because it was one part science lesson and one part cooking class. We followed the pickle recipe but youth started to personalize their own by deciding how to cut their cucumbers and how to balance out the flavors in their jar. The youth were really engaged at this point because they were given an opportunity to experiment and add their own creativity to the project. The kitchen training that I integrated into the activity taught important skills that youth could use if they wanted to pursue employment in the food service industry. Moreover, the exercise allowed youth to be inventive with the set of ingredients available and see that it is relatively simple to make homemade goods.

Liz Durfee prepares for a pickling workshop in the Spectrum kitchen.

In the last few weeks I have had youth ask if we will offer the pickling workshop again. I think this is a strong indication that youth enjoyed the activity. The Pickling Workshop was a great way to create a space where we could all exchange knowledge and experiences about food.


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One of the most amazing aspects of our programming it was extremely difficult tutoring program is the atmosphere of the helping the students for a variety of reaMolly Walsh tutoring room. Even when there are 10 sons. One of the biggest issues that we kids and 3 adults working on 10 different faced was the fact that 90 percent of the AmeriCorps Member youth that we serve are English Language subjects, it never gets tense. Todd (VYDC Winooski Teen Center Learners who have been in the country for member) and I have been extremely dedicated to maintaining positive relationships less than five years and have had little or Winooski, VT no formal education before moving to the with the students and volunteers. This has fostered great communication between United States. adults and youth which has led to much Concepts as simple as the differThe Winooski School District works more effective tutoring than if everyone ence between addition, subtraction, multihard to ensure that its students are academiwas not committed completely. plication and division were lost on many cally successful; however, as with all schools We have helped students with simple of the students that came to us for help. there never seems to be enough time, remath, science, English, and history. We We understood that we were not meeting sources and support to ensure that every stualso work with students over longer peritheir needs effectively and needed addident gets the attention and help that they ods of time on senior projects, college aptional training and understanding to work need and deserve. The Underground Teen plications, resume building, and job effectively with ELL students in order to Center saw an opportunity to support the searching. The teens are growing personsuccessfully serve our population. We school system and community by offering ally and professionally. They are beginning made connections at the school and obacademic tutoring to students of all ages durto push themselves to achieve more than served the ELL teacher tutoring students, ing after school hours. We the minimum. One student, Mostarted a tutoring program in hamed, worked very hard on a the fall semester of 2011. We PowerPoint presentation for his worked with UVM, education health class. students to provide tutoring The teacher told him that two days each week for an what he had was satisfactory and he hour and a half each day. In was getting the most amount of September and October we extra credit possible, yet he still did not see many results from came back the next day to work this effort, only a few students harder because he knew he could would sporadically take advanmake it better. tage of the tutors. By NovemI had a student come in one day ber we were seeing more teens just to talk to someone about all of spending time in the homehis options for higher education. work room and through proAfter discussing what he liked to do motion of the tutoring, we he was amazed at all of the opportuwere able to discover that we nities for him because he had not needed more tutors to meet realized that there were as many the expanding needs of our VYDC member Molly Walsh looks on while a Winooski youth completes his homework.. options as there are. I helped anyouth. other teen update his resume and he had a emailed teachers to ask what supplies and This semester, we have partnered full time job within a month. knowledge we could use to be more effecwith two UVM professors to have college stuAfter tutoring one day, I was walking a tive and worked with a UVM professor to dents tutoring at the teen center three days ninth grade girl home so that her parents obtain the supplies that we needed to be and two evenings every week. We now see would know she had been with an adult, more effective. I also volunteer at the between 15 and 30 students weekly just for she stopped suddenly and said, “I don’t school three days every week so that I homework help. The UVM interns have been know what I would do if you weren’t could see the in school instruction that the a great asset to the teen center and work dilihere.” I asked what she meant by that and kids get so that we can make our tutoring gently with our youth to complete homework. she responded, “My life would be so borprogram complimentary to the goals that Tutoring has been so successful that even on ing. I would have bad grades and I the school is attempting to achieve. nights when the teen center is not open; we wouldn’t be allowed to do anything. I Through my efforts at the school, I have have students coming in for tutoring and staycouldn’t play sports or spend time with my been able to reach kids who wanted help ing until 9 or 10 at night just to do homefriends but since you are here and help me but did not know that it was available, work. expanding the number of youth that we I can do all of that!” When we first started the tutoring serve.


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Todd Lavigne AmeriCorps Member Winooski Teen Center, Winooski, VT All the sites that VYDC members are placed at face their own sets of challenges. Our Teen Center in Winooski is faced with many complicated relationships every day. There are a growing number of new Americans and we see a lot of youth who have been through refugee resettlement programs. The youth who are of high school age when they come here tend to struggle more than those who are elementary age or early middle school age. Armed only with written legacy binders and handfuls of anecdotal evidence from people around the site, my AmeriCorps teammate Molly and I have observed that we have in part created yet another change in the teenage population on any given night at the Teen Center. Lately many more English Language Learning students have been coming to the Teen Center because our hours of operation run later into the night than other homework clubs operated by the school. We will often work with them on their homework assignments many times longer than

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their native English-speaking counterparts, network of reliable adults in their lives an obstacle created by the fact that they are where they are lacking quite a few. The still learning English. The Teen Center has stability we provide was further proved to always been a place where students could me when I showed up to this graduation turn to for homework help, but a new crowd has developed around coming here for that specific purpose. To meet the demands we have been utilizing local college students and local professionals to volunteer their time to be a tutor. This kind of success is noticeable when a student recently asked Molly and me to A Winooski youth proudly displays a recognition award from school. attend her high school graduation ceremony. It is times like these and at least four other students were that you know you are making an impact. equally as excited to see me because they I recently attended a different type had no idea I would be there. The lasting of graduation ceremony for one of our impact we have already had on the youth youth. This was a Boys & Girls Club atten- that we work with is noticeable even if it is dee and I’ve gotten to know him well in difficult to quantify. more recent months. He asked us to attend his graduation from an afterschool program through the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Kids Program. The main reason he asked us to go and support him was because he had no other adult in his life available to do so, and when Molly was going to be busy supervising Boys & Girls Club I opted to go and support him as well as take pictures.

VYDC member Todd Lavigne assists a Winooski student with her homework during the Teen Center’s tutoring session.

It was very telling to me that some of the youth around our site do view us in this positive light. We have become part of a


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Kerri MacLaury AmeriCorps Member The Collaborative Londonderry, VT

It was an unusual season for me from the beginning because I had to sit out due to some joint and muscle problems. I parked myself on a chair in the rink’s warming room and my Broomball nights turned into evenings filled with heart-toheart conversations with teens from my community.

There was one particular conversation I had that helped me to see this different, newer, longer view of success. I was sitting and talking with a teen whom I served during my first Broomball is, hands down, my favorite activity. Broom- and second terms of AmeriCorps service. She is in college now ball is an awesomely fun physical movement team sport that is and was home for winter break. She showed up that night because similar to hockey. It’s played on ice, with two goals, and the team she gave her younger brother, a freshman in high school, a ride to to get the most goals wins. A few things are different. Broomball is Broomball. played in boots with something that looks like a giant wooden and We talked about her experiences at college, her classes, rubber spatula. Instead of one puck, Broomball has at least two balls going at once. My favorite difference is that we all play to win her friends and what she liked about college. Eventually the conversation turned to the more serious topic of binge drinking. but never keep score. Emily confessed that she had engaged in some binge drinking reDuring my first term of service, Broomball was an idea cently that had really frightened her. She ended up drinking more that another organization had. The woman from that organization than intended and was shocked at her own behavior. We shared arranged for the ice time rental, showed up with her partner, her back and forth on different ways she could ensure avoiding anteenage children and a few of her children’s friends. To advertise, other night like that. they had a simple flyer and it was posted in just a few spots around I give a lot of talks on alcohol and drug abuse, as I am in town. We could all see that Broomball had potential, but it flounrecovery from alcoholism and drug addiction myself, but this was a dered at this early stage. new experience. We sat together, not as AmeriCorps member and During my second term of service, that organization former teen whom I serviced, but as young adult peers, sharing handed Broomball over to my host site, The Collaborative, a sub- and both very glad that the Broomball event exists for the teens in stance abuse prevention coalition, to run with it. Being the Our the community. We were both grateful that safe, substance-free, Voices Xposed, a teen anti-tobacco group, advisor and the Burr & physical movement Burton Academy Students Against Destructive Decisions Chapter Broomball nights advisor, I had two excellent groups of teens to take the Broomball were available to nights and turn them into whatever they wanted. her brother as well as other teens in We started with theme nights such as super heroes or our community. ugly sweater. We had awards for the “best” worst sweater or costume and prize drawing every night. We created appeal around the event, and it has continued to grow in popularity over the years. Promoting the activity started with a flyer and ended with flyers, posters, Facebook events, press releases, assembly announcements, school newsletter submissions, and email blasts.

That evening gave me a good dose of what goes around comes around; you get what you give; you During my first term of service in 2007, a big night at Broomball had eight people. During my second term of service in reap what you sow. My service with 2008, our biggest night was probably twenty teens. In 2009 and AmeriCorps has 2010, other AmeriCorps members serving at The Collaborative rd took Broomball to new heights. And this year, during my 3 term allowed me to give positively, and I see of service, our biggest night was about forty-five teens. We didn’t even have enough sticks to go around but everyone still managed how those seeds of positivity are sown to have a blast! by the next generaOver the years, I’ve measured the success of these Broom- tion. My Ameriball nights in different ways. At first it was how many teens atCorps service has tended. Then it was that plus how much promotion we did and given me great hope A Collaborative poster encourages community members how many volunteers helped. Then it was all that and how many for the future. The to play Broomball with local law enforcement officers. outside groups came to play against the teens. This year, I measyouth of this world ured the success of the season differently. are beautiful human beings regardless of their mistakes.


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May Training Service Project (10 May 2012)

In May, VYDC State members teamed up with VYT A*VISTA and SerVermont A*VISTA members to participate in five service projects in Montpelier, VT. Members wrote honor cards for military service members and families, planted trees at Hubbard Park, and started gardens at National Life and the Basement Teen Center.

During their first six months of service, 16 VYDC members have made significant contributions to Vermont Communities. ◘ Created 39 programs designed to support ◘ Procured more than $154,489 in cash, academic success and job readiness for grants, and in-kind donations. 1,128 participants.   ◘ Facilitated 92 civic engagement discus◘   Led 39 community service projects, such sions that involved 1,707 (1,578 youth) ◘ Planned and implemented 102 programs as garden work days; cleaning a school; participants. and activities promoting a healthy lifestyle regular visits by youth to a senior center; ◘ Built partnerships with 88 community for 5,226 participants; programs included providing food, grown and harvested by stakeholders, including businesses, libraries, nutrition, recreation and sports, agriculture, youth, to low-income families. faith-based organizations, and nonprofit organizations. and substance abuse prevention. ◘  Provided direct services to more than 5,713 individual youth, including at least 97 who have a parent who is active duty military or a veteran. 


Vermont Youth Development Corps Program

P.O. Box 627 / 38 Elm Street Montpelier, VT 05601-0627 Phone: 802-229-9151

Contact us: Program Director: M. Kadie Schaeffer VYT.VYDC@gmail.com Assistant Directors: Meghan Jaird mjaird@wcysb.org Luong Huynh lhuynh@wcysb.org

The opinions expressed in the articles in this newsletter belong to the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the site where the AmeriCorps member serves, Vermont Youth Development Corps, the Washington County Youth Service Bureau, the Boys and Girls Club, SerVermont or CNCS.

VYT members work together to build a tower during a training in resource development.


VYDC Spring 2012 Newsletter