This week the Maxine’s Cafe Team cooked and served a create-your-own pasta dish with either marinara or alfredo sauce.
Do you want to join us for the next Maxine’s Cafe? Email us to reserve your spot! firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more from Maxine’s Cafe February 2019
IMPACT drives lasting change
We seek to make lasting change in the lives of those we work with by providing services that are durable, measurable, and sustainable. We will maximize our impact by investing in staff and board development. Feedback gathered from our entire community will enhance and strengthen our programs and their outcomes.
Breana Gretsky is an exceptional teacher at the Strawbridge School. She has been a role model for her peers and has learned to create a trauma-informed classroom environment that enables our youth to thrive. Breana recently received a new student that was having a hard time transitioning into the program. Breana’s eagerness to provide the appropriate trauma-informed support played a significant role in stabilizing the youth and encouraging more positive behaviors. She understands the needs of our youth and her passion for education has allowed her to help elevate the elementary school program to a new level of expertise.
Breana, we are proud to have a teacher that is focused on making sure that our youth receive the proper support to be successful in their school environment. These daily interactions make a difference in the lives of our students here at BCC. Breana, we appreciate your hard work. Congratulations and thank you for striving to make an impact at BCC!
Congratulations Breana Gretsky! Thank you for being BCC’s exemplary ambassador of our core value: Impact!Read more from Core Value Award Winner: Breana Gretsky!
Matthew Howard: An Alumni Who Gives Back Every Day
As most anyone on campus knows, Matthew Howard is a well-respected and hard-working member of the Board of Child Care staff. After only two years as head of the on-campus mechanic shop, he has found ways to save thousands in unnecessary charges and updated operations in numerous ways. What’s less well-known is that he’s also an alumnus of Strawbridge School. That’s not surprising since, as he says, he did not fit the profile of a “typical” student.
“Not everyone who attends Strawbridge School comes from adverse homes,” says Matthew. “My family life is actually pretty solid. I was lucky for that, compared to a lot of the other kids here. I have a lot of support from both of my parents.”
Yet the school proved to be the right fit for him, in so many ways. More important, the transformation that he experienced during the three years he attended was textbook. Matthew admits he never felt comfortable in any school, and the middle school years were particularly difficult for him. “I had a lot of challenges [in 7th and 8th grade], a lot of anxiety and social problems,” he says. “I was super-antisocial and had a really hard time in large groups of kids. So I just wound up leaving school to go hang out in the woods for 6 hours. I just needed to be by myself.”
The public school system tends to be intolerant of such behavior, and eventually, after receiving some counseling and being transferred to several different schools, Matthew wound up as a day student at Strawbridge. As it turned out, it was what he needed most. “In public school, it was like you were up to something if you didn’t want to go to class or anything like that,” he says. “Their answer is always ‘no.’ here [at Strawbridge], it was more like, ‘how can we help you get back into class at some point?’ There is just a strong level of support here for any problems I had, which was really helpful.”
Matthew says Strawbridge’s focus on the individual student’s need, along with small classrooms guided by education specialists, were key to his ability to grow and eventually thrive. “Coming here felt more comforting, it just seemed different. Here, they were accepting of the type of person I was,” says Matthew, who graduated in 2001. “They don’t try to ‘fix’ you, they just try to help you understand that it’s OK if you’re different. A lot of it is just helping you accept and understand who you are.”
One of the things that helped him cope and find a pathway forward, he says, was the school’s flexible curriculum. “I had a lot of electives and I was given more ways to express myself,” he says, adding that he spent a lot of time in the wood shop during senior year, which allowed him to find inspiration and discover something he liked to do. In fact, he originally intended to pursue a career in carpentry after graduation.
Eventually, his desire to work with his hands — and to work indoors on solid ground, rather than up on a roof in bad weather — led him to join his father’s auto mechanic shop. He worked there for a decade and gained experience, know-how and increased responsibility.
In 2015, when offered the opportunity to come back to BCC to run the on-campus mechanic operations, Matthew couldn’t resist. “It felt like it would be cool to come back and work here and give something back,” he says. “I am happy to be back here. It feels like home.” Giving back includes mentoring and teaching: “I have kids who work with me from time to time, and if any are willing to learn, I am more than happy to teach them.”
And not just about maintaining and repairing vehicles, either.
“I tell them to embrace this place,” he says. “This place has a lot of support and a lot to offer, and I think it’s important that they acknowledge that.”
Learn more about our graduates at Behind the Tassel.
Read more from Behind the Tassel – Matthew
Charlie Parker, the pioneering jazz saxophonist, once mentioned to one of his bandmates that he really liked country music. Puzzled, the band mate asked why. Parker responded “The stories, man. The stories.” The stories are the best part of graduation. The weeks leading up to graduation are full of events celebrating the successes of students. Today, we invite you to follow Charlie Parker’s example and listen to the stories of BCC graduates. Enjoy!
FUTURE VET TECHRead more from Behind the Tassle – Aaron
Celebrations held in Baltimore, Denton & Martinsburg
Graduation season is afoot and the Board of Child Care had much to celebrate in June!
In total, BCC congratulated 20 seniors across its Maryland and West Virginia residential programs and from its Baltimore-based Strawbridge school.
The festivities kicked off in Martinsburg, WV. Just down the street from the residential campus are three of BCC’s group homes called Campolina Way. BCC’s staff honored Sabrina L., who graduated with honors from the local Spring Mills High School.
Sabrina has been involved in the Work Exploration program for the last two years and looks forward to obtaining full time employment this summer. When she leaves BCC she will be transitioning to a semi-independent living group home.
In Baltimore, back-to-back ceremonies provided plenty of cheer and smiles. On June 8, Baltimore residential program graduates celebrated with staff, family and friends. A variety of scholarships and awards were distributed to the 11 seniors, three of which graduated from the Strawbridge School on campus while the remainder received their diplomas from the local public school they attended.
The celebration included a visit from the Mathis family and Rear Admiral (retired) William Mathis, the brother of former BCC Board Member, Jim Mathis. Both brothers are alumni from the United Methodist Strawbridge orphanage (which would later merge with two other orphanages to form the Board of Child Care).
Tim H., who attended Smithsburg More School and gave the class address, and Robert R., a Strawbridge student, won the James and Lois Mathis Award for Community Service. The Alice G. Seymour Award for Academic Achievement, presented by Rear Admiral (retired) William Mathis, went to Tim H. and Dejon L., who earned his GED on his own while living on the Baltimore campus.
Justin B., a Strawbridge graduate, earned the $1,000 Chase United Methodist Church Award, while Jason L., a graduate from Randallstown High School, and Meaghan S. from Pikesville High School, each won a $250 award of the same name. Many thanks go to Chase United Methodist Church (Middle River, MD) and to their pastor, Rev. Cynthia Burkert, for their incredible partnership and support of our graduates and their future educational plans.
Blaine A., a Strawbridge School graduate, won the Board of Child Care Award for best representing the values of BCC.
The next evening, commencement exercises for Strawbridge School recognized its nine graduating seniors. Laurie Anne Spagnola, BCC’s President and CEO, told the Strawbridge graduates that life is not to be stressed over but rather to be enjoyed and savored.
“Be kind, be silly and most of all, be honest,” Spagnola said in explaining why striking a balance between being too serious or not serious enough is important to success in life.
The annual highlight of the Strawbridge ceremony is the rose presentation. Each graduate singles out someone within the assembly who was significant to their success, walks down off the stage and hands them a single, white rose in an emotional, heartfelt thank you. Recipients this year included foster care brothers, grandmothers, extended family, BCC social workers, and Strawbridge teachers.
The star of 2016’s class was Miranda Webb, a Baltimore County resident student who attended Strawbridge and was one of 70 students statewide awarded the Michael Cardin scholarship from the Maryland Association of Nonpublic Special Education Facilities (MANSEF).
During her address to classmates, she said, “My success is because you gave me the support and encouragement to become the person I am today.” Webb will be using her scholarship for tuition to attend the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) to obtain a nursing certificate.
BCC’s final graduation celebration was at our Denton, MD campus. Jacob C. graduated from North Caroline High School, celebrated in a small ceremony June 15 on the Eastern Shore campus.
Karen McGee, Director of Operations in Denton, called Jacob, “one of the most socially conscious residents we’ve ever had – he was so concerned about the environment he started a cottage composting station for other residents and staff.”
Jacob is busy with driver’s education classes, seeking a summer job and exploring classes to take at Chesapeake Community College in the fall. Jacob is known on the Denton Campus as an avid gardener and an animal lover.
The Treatment Foster Care department also had a graduate, Brandy H., from the Academy for College and Career Exploration in Baltimore.Read more from Opportunity to walk into new life chapter thrills graduates
Lynette Seay (pronounced ‘see’) has taught reading and writing at Strawbridge School for the past six years. A native of Brooklyn, NY – Seay graduated from Notre Dame of Maryland (undergrad) and Loyola University (master’s degree). She previously worked at Children’s Guild, Kennedy Krieger, Baltimore City’s Lyndhurst Elementary school and was a stay-at-home mom before jumping back into her teaching career. Seay lives in Overlea, MD, with her husband and three children.
Q: Unlike public schools, where tenure most often applies, six years is a good stretch of time at a non-public school. What keeps the fire burning for you at Strawbridge?
A: When you are new to any school, it can be daunting not knowing the kids or staff. As I got to know the students and staff, I saw that the school is the best, most therapeutic place for them. Seeing the achievements of our students and building relationships with my coworkers has made the transition to the non-public arena worth it.
In addition, the energy around the school, the campus setting, and the organization itself under Laurie Anne Spagnola’s leadership make a big difference. While you do sometimes hear teachers talking about not being invigorated or valued within the education industry as a whole, I feel quite the opposite about teaching at Strawbridge.
Q: You said the school invigorates you. What makes Strawbridge different from other schools in public and non-public sectors?
A: We utilize a team concept to every student’s education within our population so we have many different, qualified individuals to lean on. No one teacher carries the entire load. Because we have been in the trenches with each other, we know strengths of every teacher and student.
That is the main reason the school has such an outstanding graduation rate as well as a high retention rate for students and staff. We have kids who travel almost two hours one-way to attend school here – we must be doing something right!
Q: Your role is changing next year – what has you excited about this new position? Does this change your goals as a teacher and for the school?
A: I am joining the staff development team. I will still be in the classrooms, but with a focus of training the teachers more so than the kids.
What excites me about this role is I get to support my peers and ensure consistency within the programs. The school’s Director of Professional Development and Curriculum, and I share this excitement about building the school up, building the resources up, and getting the school to be a more dynamic place to learn and teach.
Raising reading and comprehension levels is always a challenge, but over the last six years, the school has been compiling data focused on these outcomes. This summer we’re taking this collection a step further and plotting our metrics against those of the research-based curriculums we purchased. This is definitely an exciting direction and a project that excites me as an educator.
Q: Reading and writing sound like a basic skill, but you see it as so much more. Can you expand on why this is such an important aspect of teaching to you?
A: Texting and social media have really put some challenges in front of teaching reading and composition. Common Core standards say we are supposed to deliver a student who can communicate effectively with the written word.
Being able to apply for a job, respond to professional communications, and have a chance to succeed in adulthood does matter. However, it is more than learning a useful skill. For the student population, we serve, reading and writing is joyful. It is a coping skill. It is a way to identify with different aspects of themselves as they seek out who they are and what they want to be.
I have a student dealing with some serious transgender issues, and he is asking for books that might adequately reflect who he is and who he is trying to be. These are real issues; to have the ability to read and write – and use reading and writing as an outlet to express their feelings – is important and therapeutic.
Q: You have some serious sports diversity – and intense rivalries – in your family. That must make Thanksgiving interesting! Tell us about that.
A: I grew up in New York City – my mother once met the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson in the subway – but because I went to school in Maryland and raised my family in Maryland I’ve really become more of a Ravens fan than I ever was a Giants fan. Just to make the rivalry even worse my son has become a fan of the Patriots!
However, in the spring it becomes harmonic in our home because we are all big fans of the Orioles. My New York family does not understand how this happened, but I cannot help it – the Ravens are so scrappy! It seems people either love or hate the Ravens…and I love them!
Do you know of someone worth spotlighting at BCC? Email that recommendation to email@example.com.Read more from BCC Spotlight: LYNETTE SEAY, Strawbridge Reading Specialist
Provided by Ferrets and Friends, Kelly and Lina brought snakes, birds, reptiles, and ferrets to let the kids hold. The snakes were particularly popular with the boys. (go figure!)
With 25 animal friends available for educational programs, most animals have been socialized since a young age and enjoy interacting with people, which makes for an engaging and interactive presentation.
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