The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Kurn Hattin Homes for Children’s School Principal, Scott Tabachnick, recently wrote an op-ed piece for the local paper, the Brattleboro Reformer (published Friday, November 8), to share a few of the reasons why he feels thankful to be a part of the Kurn Hattin community. In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we thought we’d share Scott’s letter with you!
Kurn Hattin Homes for Children: Getting it Right for Kids
by Scott Tabachnick
This time of year highlights some of the many reasons why I feel privileged to work at Kurn Hattin Homes for Children. All throughout the year, the entire staff here—administrators, teachers, counselors, and houseparents—work seamlessly as a team toward the same primary goals: keeping at-risk children safe, and empowering them to lead happy, healthy lives. To achieve these aims for every one of the 105 children in our care requires commitment, constant open communication and consistency, with all of us on the same page. As a small, close-knit community, we are very fortunate to have all of the above.
Every fall as part of our theme-based health curriculum, Kurn Hattin takes part in national Red Ribbon Week, focusing on issues of wellness and creating safe, healthy schools. In addition to focusing on drug and alcohol awareness and prevention, Kurn Hattin has expanded the Red Ribbon curriculum to include other critical issues now affecting schools around the country and the world, such as bullying, harassment, and Internet safety, including cyberbullying.
It requires unique skills and sensitivity to tackle issues of verbal, physical, and substance abuse with some of the children, who may have witnessed or experienced it in their own lives. The teachers, counselors, and residential staff at Kurn Hattin pull off this task with great compassion and dexterity. Over the course of the week, they integrate Red Ribbon activities into their regular curricula and daily life, giving students opportunities to process their own experiences, develop empathy, and explore appropriate responses. Each teacher skillfully adapts the content as necessary for our younger and older children, making the week both fun and impactful for students.
The week’s activities are designed to empower young people to make healthy choices, keep focused on their goals and dreams, remain in school, and stay on track in life. Older students participate in role plays and case-study discussions, write essays and poetry, and watch the powerful documentary film, Bully, directed by Lee Hirsch. Younger children play games, engage in physical movement activities, and make posters related to the themes of the week. Each day, students are awarded prizes for outstanding work and accomplishments. The program also includes practical, hands-on presentations by guest visitors. Deputy Ian Tuttle from the Windham County Sherriff’s Department talks to students about car and seatbelt safety and cybercrime, as well as the role of law enforcement in the community, and Kristen Mullins of the University of Vermont Extension, provides an interactive presentation on identifying and avoiding hazards around the farm. In addition, this year, the week culminated with Kurn Hattin students performing with the Windham Orchestra on Friday night-a moving experience for all involved.
While the goal of Red Ribbon Week is to enhance the sense of community pride already at Kurn Hattin, and to create a safe and healthy school environment, it also ties in with the overarching aim and purpose of all of Kurn Hattin’s programming: to break the generational cycles of poverty and abuse—be it verbal, physical, or substance abuse—that may hit all too close to home for some students.
The impact of our Red Ribbon activities can most easily be gleaned from students’ work during the week. Here is one example from Hayley LeBrecque and Susanna Compare, middle schoolers in Kristie Lisai’s Literacy through Photography class, from their team-authored poem entitled Footsteps.
I have the ability to see my own way
Feel what I want to feel
Love what I want to love
And hate the demons in my past
Now before you judge what you see
Think about the footsteps that I have taken
and how those have made me
My hope in writing and sharing this is that those who may be unfamiliar with Kurn Hattin Homes for Children, what we do, and who our students are, will gain a deeper understanding, and will want to learn more.
Red Ribbon Week is just one example of how Kurn Hattin is getting it right for kids.