The Homepage - Spring 2011 Newsletter

One Boy's Journey from a Silent World to College Life

The impact of caring adults on a child's ability to overcome obstacles

Bob gets ready to begin his cafe rafting adventure Bob gets ready to begin his cave rafting adventure during ASCL's community service project in Belize this past December.

"Not to have the resources or opportunity to succeed is the most tragic fate anyone could endure." These were the closing words of a speech given by Bob Boisvert, a student at The Home’s Academic Support for College & Life (ASCL) program. He was addressing a Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) function in Boston. But Bob was not talking about himself. In fact, he was there to speak about the many people and programs that helped him to avoid this tragic fate.

Bob began life in a quiet world. At age three he was diagnosed with sensio-neural hearing loss in both ears and fitted with two hearing aids, which he tried to hide in the sandbox! As Bob grew older, he dug himself deeper into silence, using books and his studies to escape. His hearing and speech difficulties made social interaction with peers almost impossible. By middle school, it was clear he was suffering from depression; but nobody, including him, was aware that he was having hallucinations until his freshman year of high school. Bob's mother was "devastated, yet determined to help him."

Throughout many hospital visits, his mother continued to be his strongest advocate, and eventually Bob was connected to a caseworker at DMH and then Solstice, a therapeutic school and residential program in Rowley, MA. He credits the teachers and therapists there with helping him to break free of his hallucinations and learn how to live in the real world. As he became less isolated, his social skills improved and he began to develop friendships. After a year at Solstice, Bob was ready and eager to finish his senior year, but wasn’t sure what would be next...

Then Bob's DMH caseworker told him about ASCL, a college-based program run by The Home in partnership with Bridgewater State University that supports young people transitioning from state systems of care to higher education. Bob had always hoped to go to college and here was a program that would help him get his foot in the door. At first his acceptance to ASCL didn't seem real to him, but the dream became a reality once he arrived on campus.

The key to ASCL's unique program is the daily support it provides to its students, from mental health services to academics and social life. As Bob said, "the program has done an incredible job of guiding me in the right direction." In the nine months he has been at ASCL, Bob has loved the classes he’s taken at Bridgewater State, become friends with his two roommates, and participated in a community service trip to Belize, which he describes as "life-changing." He's already planning his next step: to become an English major at Bridgewater so he can work on his writing skills and "entertain people with words."

Bob has had to overcome many obstacles and work hard to get to where he is today and he acknowledges that he did not do it alone. His inspiring story is a reminder of just how much children can achieve when they are given the resources and opportunity to succeed. It is programs like ASCL that help to make stories like this possible. Thank you for supporting The Home's innovative work and being a part of Bob's journey.

The Home Opens New Community Center for Young Adults

Joe, a former foster child, was facing young adulthood on his own. At the age of 18, he was homeless and did not easily engage with others. Clearly he was in need of both practical and emotional support. Then Joe found The Home's newest program, the Young Adult Resource Network (YARN) and his life began to turn around.

The 'family room' at the Center and a well-equipped studio where aspiring musicians can practice their craft The "family room" at the Center (top); a well-equipped studio where aspiring musicians can practice their craft (bottom).

Since opening in September 2010, YARN has become a place to turn to for many Boston youth who are still involved with the Department of Children and Families. These young people have had difficult childhoods and are even less prepared for adulthood than the average teenager. In most cases, they lack a support system to help them face all the decisions that must be made at that age.

The central “hub” of YARN is the Community Advocacy Center in Dorchester. Life Coaches assist the youth in finding safe, stable housing and gainful employment, and also work on other areas, including overall well-being, education, and community involvement. The Life Coaches also go into the community to provide services in places where the youth gather or reside. At the Center, youth can participate in skill-building workshops, access information and connect with peers, or simply do laundry, take a shower, eat a healthy meal, or relax. Above all, they can feel safe and supported. To date, 74 young people have benefited from this unique program.

And what about Joe, one of the first youth to receive support from YARN? He has found a stable place to live and been promoted at his job. Even more exciting, he has been accepted to Year Up, a one-year intensive training program that will help him achieve educational and professional success.

SMART Boards Make Magic Happen in the Classroom

Jeribeth Sikorski, a teacher at our KCC program, keeps a student engaged by using the SMART Board. Jeribeth Sikorski, a teacher at our Knight Children's Center program, keeps a student engaged in learning a math lesson by using the SMART Board.

The Home recently introduced a new technology into the classrooms at all three of its special education schools. The interactive SMART Board projects information from a computer onto the whiteboard, allowing the teacher and students to use their fingers or a pen to write, draw and interact with content on the surface of the board. This amazing technology is especially powerful for special needs students, enabling them to learn in new and exciting ways that keep them engaged.

Educational development is a primary focus of our new Strategic Plan and investments like these help us to ensure that those in our care have the best possible opportunities to succeed. Purchased with generous donations from various foundations and corporations, the SMART Boards have already had a positive impact on our students, leading to increased motivation and academic achievements.

Recognition for Waltham House

Marc Denofrio and Joan Wallace-Benjamin accept the award. Marc Denofrio, Waltham House Program Director, accepts the award along with The Home's President and CEO, Joan Wallace-Benjamin. (Photo: Cheryl Levine Photography)

The Home’s Waltham House program was honored to receive the 2010 Greater Boston Business Council (GBBC) award for Excellence for an Outstanding Non-Profit Organization at a ceremony on January 7. The GBBC is Boston’s premier Chamber of Commerce serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. Waltham House is a residential group home designed to provide a safe and supportive living environment for up to 12 GLBT youth. It was the first program of its kind in New England, and one of only three in the nation.

With a Little Help From Our Friends

Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial, one of our oldest and most loyal corporate partners, recently built 80 bicycles at a unique competition among its sales teams. The bicycles and a check for $10,000 were presented to The Home at an event in conjunction with the company’s 2011 sales kickoff, which drew more than 500 employees from around the country.

Volunteers from Magic 106.7

The creation of a Family Visitation Wing at the Knight Children’s Center in Jamaica Plain will provide relatives who are visiting their children with a comfortable space to cook meals together in a private kitchen, watch television or play games. Volunteers from Magic 106.7, including Gay Vernon (left), helped transform the space with new kitchenware and interior decorations.

WCVB-TV's Bianca de la Garza

Fifty children from The Home’s programs were treated to Disney on Ice: Toy Story 3 at the TD Garden thanks to some local media celebs! WCVB-TV’S Bianca de la Garza (right) hoola-hooped with Barbie and had to put Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head back together as part of the Toy Box Shuffle Obstacle Course to win tickets for her favorite charities, including The Home.