Every time I talk about Kurn Hattin, it is with the utmost respect and love for this one-of-a-kind place. Kurn Hattin gave me so many experiences and valuable lessons I could not have come into ownership of otherwise, and many more fond memories. My start at Kurn Hattin was my start in the core of who I am and what makes me, me. And that’s music. My mom had sent my sister and me here, when I was about 11 years old and she 10. We were experiencing some financial issues that affected our home situation. We were these little mixed city kids, and I mean real city kids, straight out of Brooklyn, New York. I remember feeling extremely nervous but also strongly curious and excited for what this place and rural life had to offer us.
It wasn’t always easy being so far from home all the time, but Kurn Hattin became a home away from home, and it was so cool for my sister and me to get lucky enough to experience two different worlds at different paces. I’m glad my mom found this place when she did, as it felt like optimal timing. The teachers did such an amazing job making me fall in love with learning, and as I grew intellectually they geared their curriculum to aid that expansion. They are those teachers you see in the wholesome TV shows or movies who go the extra mile for their students because they truly care. They knew the value in creating a prosperous and attentive learning environment for young minds. I learned how to play sports here and really got into them too. The first shot I ever made in basketball was for the other team! It was hilarious, I was so excited and my teammates and coach just laughed it off with me after I realized what I had done.
I could talk about so many good moments and funny stories, but the most valuable thing I took away from this place was my passion for music. Mrs. Bianconi got gears rolling in me to a machine I didn’t really know existed. I remember my very first time singing here. My sister had thrown her hand in the air after Mrs. Bianconi asked all us kids in music class about doing a solo. I thought she was volunteering herself but it turned out she was volunteering my voice! She yelled, “My sister sings! She can sing! You should make her do the solo!” I looked at her with shock, as if she betrayed my secret, but man have I been ever grateful to her for forcing my hand. From that moment my soul was sold to music! I was in jazz band and played multiple instruments, the alto sax being my strongest. I sang in choir and participated in the music festivals and sang in everything. When I graduated here I did so with the award in music and left the stage with a brand new beautiful saxophone. The amount of encouragement and complete support I received here was unlike any other. I had an entire community behind me.
I got to go to Vermont Academy for high school and continue my education and journey in music. I was part of the vocal ensemble, jazz band, auditioned and got accepted into the music district festivals with perfect scores for my alto sax and vocals. I even got into theater and performed in a musical. Senior year, I went back to New York and I took my love for music and what I’d gained here with me. My choir had been selected to compete in a competition at Disney and although we didn’t win, that was just another way music opened up doors for me. In college, I chose psychology as my major and for a bit I strayed away from music, dealing with depression and other inconveniences. Then I joined the theater club and auditioned for the musical and that passion came flowing back in. It pulled me out of this dark fog I let myself get swallowed up in. Music has always helped me find my way.
Today I’m pursuing music once again, writing and creating my own songs and albums with friends and on my own. I’ve taught myself to play piano and the ukulele, I even decided to get a vocal coach for a little while to help me develop my voice, since I believe there’s always room for improvement. I’m doing this all while juggling work and my psych degree and whatever life throws at me. I know no matter how far down the road I get, I’m always going to look back and remember where everything really started for me, and that was right here, at Kurn Hattin Homes.
~ Aaliyah Olmo, Class of 2010