• "Kurn Hattin provided advice, support, and encouragement to pursue my dreams. The most important lesson I learned was to be humble, kind, and help those who were less fortunate. Because of Kurn Hattin, I have found my voice, my purpose in life, and my passion to help those who are in need.”

    ~Heather Kampfer, Class of 2001, Alumni Association President

  • "Kurn Hattin gave me guidance and structure when I needed it most. Kurn Hattin was the most perfect support my parents could have asked for. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. Kurn Hattin is that village”

    ~Gizenia Boyd, Class of 2005

  • "I love Kurn Hattin and miss it like crazy.  Kristi Lisai, thank you for being the BEST English teacher ever, being so easy to talk to, and teaching me how to be such a good writer!  Richard M. Long, thank you for never giving up on me when I would do so badly in social studies.  And to all of the other teachers and staff, just thank you for being my ... AWESOME TEACHERS!"

    ~ Chelsea Candello, Class of 2012

  • "The lessons of life that I still carry today were taught to me at Kurn Hattin 50 plus years ago. Although many of my teachers who stood at the ‘fork in the road’ are gone, I carry on their legacy. And now I stand at the fork in the road to point the way for those who follow.”

    ~Jerry L. Bardwell, Class of 1973, Trustee

  • "I still remember walking into Kurn Hattin. The scared little girl I was. Seeing myself grow over the years has been a blessing. But I never could have done it without the backbone of my forever home. Thank you, all of you. I really did it. I graduated high school!"

    ~ Makiah Curtis, Class of 2012

  • "I can’t help reiterating my admiration and thanks to a wonderful haven for needy children and one which has provided guidance, education and encouragement to many, many children, who have gone on to lead meaningful adulthood lives, some who have become leaders in society.”

    ~James Barschdorf, Class of 1944

  • "I didn’t know how to make friends. I had a lot of problems. I felt like I was stuck in quicksand. Then I came to Kurn Hattin. It was a slow process, but I was given a lot of structure and I needed and responded to that structure.“

    ~Christiana Mylott, Class of 2018

  • “Kurn Hattin was the best choice my family ever made for me. When I was in the 8th grade I didn’t want to leave.”

    ~Kristen McDaniel, Class of 1991

  • "The area I came from wasn’t the best environment. Though I didn’t want to be here at first, I’d say my mom did the right thing. The houseparents are like family. They changed my life. I matured in all aspects from being a little kid to growing into a man.”

    ~Jacob Edwards, Class of 2018

  • “Best years of my life. I’m now 36 married and have 3 beautiful daughters. Just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for everything this school did for me. Kurn Hattin definitely made me the man I am today.”

    ~Tom Adkins, Class of 1995

  • "I was so proud of my girl, getting up on stage and singing her heart out. Kurn Hattin is building her up with so much confidence. I will be forever grateful for what you are doing for my little girl."

    ~ Brenda Boisjolie Arce, Mother

  • "Born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth. It’s a phrase I associate with my upbringing at Kurn Hattin. I attended Kurn Hattin from 3rd to 8th grade and was given security, consistency, guidance, and direction. The girls, boys, teachers, and houseparents became my forever family.”

    ~Kim (Sherrick) Dawson, Class of 1982

  • “I’m so proud to have been at Kurn Hattin. It turned my life around and put me on the right track. I’m not sure where I would have been otherwise. And I believe I was the only boy who made ‘Eagle Scout’ at that time.”

    ~ Peter Stavrou, Class of 1951

  • "Discipline, respect, loyalty, and love are what I learned from the houseparents. I have 3 older brothers and we all went there. Thanks Kurn Hattin–Always the place I call home."

    ~Stephen Smith, Class of 1994

  • "I’m grateful to have had the experience at Kurn Hattin Homes, which was my and my brother’s ‘village’ that made such a positive mark on our lives.”

    ~Rhonda (Gaudreau) Nolan, Class of 1977, Incorporator

  • "I support Kurn Hattin partly for sentimental reasons and as a teacher, I know the needs of children who no longer can live at home. I like their philosophy—to return the children home to their families. The families are given time to strengthen and heal. The children are given every chance to succeed and find their own niche whether it is with music, sports, writing, or animals."

    ~ Carol Howe, Friend & Supporter

  • "My son has since graduated from high school and just turned 18! He’s an accomplished jazz musician and artist. Thank you Kurn Hattin for all you do for children.” 

    ~Chantal Paulino, Mother

Brattleboro Reformer: Kurn Hattin celebrates 125 years

May 13, 2019

By Susan Smallheer, Brattleboro Reformer

Lyssa Jackson was 8 years old when she heard about Kurn Hattin Homes and started her personal campaign to come to the private Westminster school for kids from troubled families.

Jackson, who spent four years at Kurn Hattin, graduating in 2008, was a determined young girl seeking a solution to her troubled family life in Rochester, N.H. 

"I have two mentally ill parents," said Jackson, who credits her four years at Kurn Hattin from 2004 to 2008, Grades 5 through 8, as life-saving.

As the school marks its 125th anniversary, Stephen Harrison, executive director for the private residential school, said Jackson is a great example of a Kurn Hattin success story.

"She's a real go-getter," he said of Jackson, noting her next career goal is to earn a master's degree in business administration from Harvard.

Jackson's mother was suffering from schizophrenia and her 

medications made her extremely paranoid, her daughter said. As a result, her mother kept her out of school a lot, Jackson said, and her grades suffered.

"I didn't learn basic math skills. I was really suffering academically, even though I was really smart," she said.

A neighbor of theirs in Rochester, N.H., had a daughter who went to Kurn Hattin, and to Jackson, it sounded like heaven.

"She told us about this place in Vermont, it was beautiful with horses and hills," she said. 

Jackson said the minute she heard "horses" she was determined to go there. 

"Plus they fed you," she said, noting that having regular food was not a regular thing at home. 

But getting her mother to agree for her to go to a school in Vermont wasn't simple, and Jackson had to turn to her grandmother to become her guardian and agree for her to apply and go to Kurn Hattin. Her mother got into trouble with the law, "and that allowed my grandmother to get custody of me," she said.

"She was the most amazing woman," Jackson said of her grandmother, who passed away a few years ago.

At 8 years old, the determined Jackson went to Kurn Hattin's website and applied.

"My 8-year-old self heard 'horses.' I was just at that age I was starting to understand that things were not right," said Jackson, who now works as a life coach and corporate teacher after a stint as an executive team leader with merchandising giant Target.

"Kurn Hattin just symbolized being fed three meals a day," she said, adding that her experience went far beyond that security. "I did the summer programs and absolutely loved it. I didn't have expectations of who I would become," said Jackson, who went on to win a full scholarship to The Putney School and then Skidmore College. 

"I think it was just beyond what I could imagine — the opportunities," she said.

'Adult-sized problems'

It's helping children like Jackson that makes his job so rewarding, Harrison, who is in his fourth year as executive director, said in a recent interview on the campus.

"Our kids are normal kids," he said, "with adult-sized problems." 

Most have seen some level of trauma in their young lives. 

"They come from tough family situations," he said, whether it is a financial crisis, a parent going into prison, or drug activity in the family.

He said that 35 to 40 children apply each year, and the school accepts 30 children a year. They do not accept students for eighth grade, he said, since the staff believe it would be too much of an adjustment before graduation.

Harrison was the first "outsider" to be hired to lead the school; all its previous leaders had worked up through the ranks. Harrison said the school is staying with its original mission established by Rev. Charles Dickinson in 1894, which Harrison explained was part of the historic social gospel movement. 

The school will hold its 32rd annual Kurn Hattin Day for alumni on May 18, and there are other activities planned for the year. Earlier this spring, the Kurn Hattin Select Choir went on a Heritage Tour where the choir visited Washington, D.C., and other historic sites, creating great memories for the young musicians. 

The first children to come to Kurn Hattin Homes for Children arrived 125 years ago, the year was 1894. There was no opioid epidemic, no social media, no child sex abuse scandals. The problems that led the Rev. Dickinson to found the small independent school are timeless — families in crisis and unable to care for their children. Since 1894, Kurn Hattin, as it is universally known, has helped thousands of children navigate and excel. The school's core values remain "perseverance, nurturance, hope, compassion and self worth," Harrison said. 

The goal is to offer children from difficult home situations a home — away from home.

"The reasons are across the gamut," he said, of a student's decision to come to Kurn Hattin. "There's been some difficulty in the family dynamic."

Despite the difficult background, Kurn Hattin does not offer special education for students. "None of our kids have an IEP," he said, referring to the individual education plan required for some students. Students who have a background of what he called "significant violence" are also not admitted. The school offers a 10-week summer program, and half of its students stay in Westminster for the summer. The school admits 100 to 110 students on average, although this year the school had to reduce the number of students because it couldn't find staffing for one of its residential cottages. Harrison said the school is addressing pay issues for not just staff but its teaching staff.

Tuition is roughly $50,000 a year, and the school operates on a $5.5 million budget, with very little state or federal funding. 

"We do a lot of fundraising," he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.

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Stephen Harrison, the executive director of Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster.

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Kurn Hattin graduate Lyssa Jackson, middle, with KHH Trustee and mentor Janet Wilson, left, and Jackson's grandmother.