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Understanding At-Risk Youth: Meeting Them Where They're At

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[00:00:03] Social Sessions is a forum for discussing social-emotional wellness and safety issues in education.

 

[00:00:10] Gary this is awesome. I feel like I'm with royalty. This year you flatter me out a lot. No, Adam is red.

 

[00:00:19] We are more than excited that you agree to spend some time with us. So we want to spread of course between your TED talk and moth. We're probably not getting the same reach that you did in those, but I'd like to tell you that we want to spread your goodness to thousands of schools across the country. And what we're doing. I love it. I think that all kidding aside, I think thank god there people like you and thank God for you to be doing what you're doing. Thanks for saying that. And really remote work. And you've had a lifetime of this work.

 

[00:00:51] Yes. Thirty-eight years. Believe I know I don't look that argument you were 10. Something like I'm spinning I won't see to it this close to it you know.

 

[00:00:59] And you didn't start in that we were just talking to be gonna kill you. Bucolic hills of Vermont you were in the city, so I guess so let's start where. Yeah. Yeah. Most place you start waxing instead.

 

[00:01:10] First of all, what's the most interesting thing about you that people might not know but want to know.

 

[00:01:17] Wow. The most interesting thing you think.

 

[00:01:19] I mean like you know well what do you think that's so funny.

 

[00:01:22] So I have. Most people don't know like you know. You know I had a teenage son who's 60 now. But then I have a son who's 32 years old too.

 

[00:01:30] Well 16 32 wait is they want to save money for college. That's what it is. All right now two different marriages.

 

[00:01:38] My oldest son he's 32 he broke grew up in Brooklyn. You know I lived in Brooklyn at one point, and he just went back. He worked a deal with dot com when he got out of college, so he came north to be with that and then to be up here, and he was married got married, and then he changed careers in two years ago he went back to school to become a nurse. So he just got his registered nursing degree concurrently. Yeah. From New Hampshire tech and he's got a job waiting for me starts next my great career very very happy for why doesn't it surprise me that your son would have gone through the whole thing like it's a DNA thing.

 

[00:02:09] But I remember when he was like eight, he said to me I don't want to do what you do dad you work too hard.

 

[00:02:15] And here he is. So at some point, you're going to see him or talked to him after a long shift, and you're gonna go. Of that hard work. Yeah. When you think of that.

 

[00:02:23] That's my other sort of 16 he's going to UVM this summer. They have Dune Road Yeah. And he's doing health and medicine. So he thinks he may want to be a doctor or nurse or a P.A. or something.

 

[00:02:34] You know what. It's well done. Thank you. It sounds like the family is engrossed in what's the very word is in the helping professions, and I think I think that's pretty good.

 

[00:02:45] And my wife she just was elected to the legislature last November. So she's a new legislator, and she got ordained as an interfaith minister about a month ago in Riverside Church in New York.

 

[00:02:56] So it really. So all this stuff's going on happening right now. That's so real. Does not grow on the Redmond road is how that gets stuff dry. We're busy. Meantime we can walk out the door. I said, Do you know the law. You go everything you know. Yeah, I know someone asked what do you do this week, and I said I mow the lawn I watch the floors.

 

[00:03:17] I did some home repairs. That's what you do. But that's what I'm supposed to do right. That's how life is. Right. You. So now you're in a place where you can model one, but you didn't start in Vermont you actually started in in the in as I said before the heyday of New York City Times Square. Right. Can you tell us a little bit about where it all began?

 

[00:03:36] Sure. So I actually was working in the business world. I had a business degree. Right. And I landed this great job on Madison Avenue. And I had heard about Covenant House which was in Times Square. And a friend told me about it. So I would go there one afternoon one night a week after work I'd take a different subway. And as my brother said Times Square recently back then, you ran through Times Square Rolling Stone called it in 1981 the sleaziest block in America. And it was bad right. Porn to prostitution it drives weapons.

 

[00:04:09] So I got this image of a younger version of you just ducking and bobbing and weaving running through time seeing it all the under now the tunnels and the subways and then I'd pop out and coming out, and I'd change into sneakers and jeans and give out snacks and play basketball with the kids. And I thought well this is you know this is a fun thing to do.

 

[00:04:28] Tuesday nights instead of whatever hanging out in the Upper East Side where I lived in an apartment or from Park Avenue and I began to realize that that was real I began to look forward to that. And I began to realize that's really what I wanted to do and felt the calling right. I did feel a calling. I remember going to a meeting at my trillion-dollar company and the senior vice president saying our assets are now what.

 

[00:04:51] I don't know what they said. I drove in. And by the end of the decade, we got to be at four trillion, and that's where you all have to work. That's the goal everybody needs to work to that goal. And you were like yeah not. And I'm like You know I'm not saying that's bad. I'm not saying it's evil not.

 

[00:05:07] But it's not what I want to know. So I quit my job I gave up the apartment on Park Avenue gave the suits to Goodwill gave the car to my brother and I moved into this tiny room with no cockroaches rats in the basement across from a crack house and a strip club in Times Square.

 

[00:05:25] And I started working with homeless teenagers. So that's how that was outside unbelievable. Yeah. And so I never looked back. You know if I could. Yes. We're interviewing, and I'm asking all kinds of questions. Yes. Did you reach your wife? So I was married once before, and that was somebody who was also a volunteer at Covenant House. But the marriage didn't work out, so we divorced.

 

[00:05:46] And then you've got a son to be a nurse. So that part of the work that's why is great. And you know my ex-wife, and I are in very good terms, and she remarried I remarried, and then I was single for six years.

 

[00:05:57] And then one day my brother he's six years younger than me. He called me and said Hey I ran into my old high school prom date who I went to my prom with 20 years ago.

 

[00:06:08] She's a TV reporter in Connecticut. And I said I remember I remember you when your puffy shirt and your tuxedo and our dad's Cadillac you know. And I said I'd like to meet her. And next thing you know there were people here.

 

[00:06:21] It took a year till I had the courage to reach out or we got engaged shortly after that. So it was my brother's old brown high school prom day. Perfect.

 

[00:06:28] And we got married and then so I had hoped to start the first charter school in Stamford, Connecticut for low-income kids. And I'd done that. We got married she was pregnant, and I called this woman who was part of the New England network of it was a network of all nonprofits that dealt with teenagers and our kids. And I remember calling saying what's in New England anything any opportunities in New England you know because I felt I was ready to be an executive director New Hampshire, Maine, anywhere. That is a rumor. This place in Burlington Vermont called Spectrum may be looking for a new executive more than rumor apparently.

 

[00:07:04] So she said I'll let you know she e-mailed me a few weeks later and said it's true this guy's stepping down. Here's where you send your resume. So I blindly sent a resume. And you've got the job. Thirty-six candidates, including some board members some internal people we're in. And then I got it. I got the job. Well, we're good for us. It was minus 33 degrees.

 

[00:07:25] It's the day we moved up. Why don't you get it and our son was three months old. I had that experience with many people who come here the winter, and we try not to interview people from away in the winter here because I want to. So. So that's great.

 

[00:07:39] Well I think that's a natural segway into what spectrum.

 

[00:07:43] Yes. So Spectrum has been around. It's our fiftieth anniversary next year. It was started by a bunch of ministers being Burlington ecumenical area ministers. Awesome. Who saw the need to help homeless teenagers back in 1978 and women of the cloth do the right thing. I know cots was started by a bunch and not I mean there's a lot of places I could run the program, and now that was started with some religious you know absolute background. So we're not as we're non-sectarian now.

 

[00:08:09] You know regular nonprofit and it just started very humbly, and then it grew over the years, and we really work with kids as young as 13 all the way up to 24 who are homeless runaways at risk of being homeless in the criminal justice system in the foster care system. The children's mental health system addicted to drugs and alcohol — gang members kids mom human trafficking. And as I tell people inevitably some combination right. So it's all overlapping. RYAN It is it is so could be a young person who's leaving foster care and as you know addiction problems or somebody was a runaway who also deals with mental health issues or sometimes four or five six seven of those that.

 

[00:08:51] So one of the services that spectrum was providing to this community you talk to the community that you serve.

 

[00:08:57] Right. So there's what we call basic need. So we have a drop-in center. If you go there right now, you're probably getting ready for dinner. You can come in any day of the week opens at 10:00 a.m. free hot lunch free hot dinner tons of donated clothesline. Line of Credit outdoor gear exchange for winter boots in the winter take a shower do your laundry use the computers to look for jobs look for an apartment. We don't need your Medicaid. No, we don't need this, you know. Come on in. And that's a good entry point to spectrum a health clinic right next door. Community Health Center has a satellite health clinic right in our building. So free health care for kids doctors nurses there's a lab in there. Upstairs we have eight beds shelter beds so kids can come in at 5 p.m. get off the street and then if they do well they're the average stay there are about 90 days they can move to the front of the building which is eight apartment units that we have. OK so now they're going to pay one-third of their income on rent. We're going to help them start a bank account. We're going to tell them what the FAFSA is where CCTV is how to get your high school diploma and then the last two winners. We added ten more beds. I went to Bishop coin because I'm a Catholic.

 

[00:10:06] I said you have two churches downtown and in the winter we're full all the time. So he's letting us use a church hall and from November to March we to put ten more beds in there too. So in the wintertime at least I have someplace, so nobody freezes to death. You know you're full we're full it's Santa. You know it's good we're folk, but it's sad that there are that many kids who literally are on the streets and have nowhere to go who needs somebody else cared. So we can go as young in terms of housing we go as young as 16 17. I think our sweet spot is that 18 to 21 a lot of things ended 18. A kid can opt-out of forced to carried 18 a lot of kids graduate from the children's mental health system. So they have had an emotional diagnosis that allowed and went away until they turned 18.

 

[00:10:53] Right. That's really sad. What we do in America not just Vermont we say Oh you're a teen now. So the diagnosis you had that allowed you to get help and Howard center or layaway. That's not going to work. You know he or your IQ may be too high.

 

[00:11:08] OK. Your IQ is 72. Sorry. So those kids end up on the street. So we have a lot of those kids. And then there are a million different reasons young people end up homeless. So and when they're there with us, it's not just how housing is important food's important, but we have our own job developers on staff who are linked to all area employers in Burlington. So we'll help you find a job — mental health counselors on staff addiction counselors on staff. We even started two years ago our own business we started a car detailing business. That's no. 3 see cooperation on Avenue scene Williston to hire our own kids because our kids were pretty good at finding jobs. They're terrible at holding on to jobs. Why is that? Because when I went to my staff, not even half make it to 90 days of employment they don't know how to call in sick. They don't know how to speak to a boss they don't know how to work with anyone or any of those. They didn't grow up in families like that. They grew up in poverty most, so they bomb out. So we said well what if we're the boss. What if we start a business and we don't use fire. But we really work with them and coach them. So we've gone from 41 percent of our kids staying in the job 90 days, which is the federal standard. Now we're at 91 percent at what's called detail works, and we're following them after they leave us, and they're keeping those jobs or going to college, or we could go into welding school. So that's the latest thing we've done. So we even have that you know in addition to all the other services we provide, not you.

 

[00:12:41] I'm just I think spectrum is an incredible organization. And I have a million more questions about. Yeah. In the twelve hours, we have together today right. I think if not for you in Spectrum if not for spectrum yeah what would this look like.

 

[00:13:00] You'd see probably a lot more kids living out in the woods or in the camps, and I'm almost certain you'd see a lot more kids ending up in corrections.

 

[00:13:08] It would feed into the correctional, so it would feed into the correctional system doesn't the criminal justice system applies a 1 1 solution fixes every problem, and that's just not the way.

 

[00:13:19] Yes well this is interesting.

 

[00:13:20] So what I used to work in that I know you're very familiar. Appreciate that.

 

[00:13:25] When I interviewed here in 2002 for the job I remember in the interview they kept saying to me we've got to get these kids ready by 18. God. I said I finally said what do you do with them, because of foster care in Vermont at that point ended at 18 on your 18th birthday if you were living in foster home or group you're out. And I said listen; I hope you hate me for this job. But even if you don't need a job. My son is 17. He's an honor student at a Jesuit High School in New York City. If I said to him Hey Aiden today's your 18th birthday you have to leave my home and support yourself. He would not make it, but we're talking about kids without a high school diploma no support no.

 

[00:14:03] Well, you know support and support networks that are all no job skills. So they did hire me, and I did the research. Thirty-six percent of all Vermont prisoners at that time had been in the foster care system so it time four years but there is a picture in my office of Governor Douglas signing a bill, and we moved the age up to 22.

 

[00:14:24] So now when you turn 18 it's just another birthday you know because I really said to legislators we think we're saving money cutting more for a team we're not because they're ending up in your prison system and the cost for a woman. I think a woman now is like seventy-nine thousand dollars a year or something to how somebody in a correctional facility and public safety and just the morality of cutting somebody off at the knees at 18. So that was one of the things I'm really proud that we do say to kids at 18 Happy birthday. And if you want to stay with your foster parents or in your group home, you can stay now up until your 20 seconds. In effect, I've made efforts to try and extend it past there because we have kids in the middle of college, you know.

 

[00:15:08] So I'm trying to not have time to. That is my home time to pull the rug out from underneath. Right.

 

[00:15:15] I think this is it. There are so many issues that intersect at the points that your organization touches them right. So what is you know one of the things we've had and some of the conversations we've been we've been looking at or we've been having is you know how the end. I mean we've touched upon the laws how the personal experience is indicative of the systemic problems. Right. So I get the sense that there may not be many places better than spectrum where there's just the individual experience, and problem highlights the systemic. Right. So how is me you mentioned health care? I mean, I have good friends that have been counselors working for you over the years because you provide the mental health. Yeah, you've got the intellectual the emotional and physical support going on. You've given one example of how you know the foster care was an issue that systemically needed to be what else is happening around this that makes you know wake at night staring at the ceiling and crying out loud.

 

[00:16:20] Can I raise two million dollars this year. Know you're a nonprofit. You're not all profit. When I started here we've been 98 percent funded by some government source either a federal grant a stay what is owned by Medicaid we're down to 48 percent, but the overall budget stays the same that first year we raised forty-nine thousand dollars last year we raised to two million dollars. So you have to go on. So I'm like a college president.

 

[00:16:44] Let's say you're not raising money.

 

[00:16:46] I'm out convincing people that means like what are kids matter and what we do works and therefore you should contribute to it. You know in the sleep out as a number a lot of employees have done that you know. So we've really done a good job getting the word out as to what we're doing.

 

[00:17:05] You But I'm just giving a foundation it's our foundation associated with you.

 

[00:17:08] There's not a foundation we do having enough nails. We have an endowment, which is great. So when the board hired me, they said listen the police hate us the merchants on Church Street want to close this down to my kids just murdered a drug dealer on Pine Street. Right. And we owe money to.

 

[00:17:24] Can you start right. Do the job, so we all have my first year was running around getting second mortgages and more lines of credit.

 

[00:17:32] Just so we can keep moving. Well, how long's it been now. So it's 16 years that I've been there. Clearly, you know that. So we have, but it's still a year's stress. Can't you just have to live with it if you're going to live with it? It's just right. I am going to meet with one of the commissioners in two weeks to now to say listen you've level-funded us for like eight years in a row for this program we love doing it but like our costs. I mean, look at health insurance next year right. We already know it's own employees. So we've got about 50 full-time employees probably another 20 part. And you already sizable budget for. It's yeah it's like a 4.2 million dollar budget for you. You know I've got to raise half of it. I got to raise half of it every year and every year our fiscal year begins October 1st.

 

[00:18:16] So September 30th we have big bar the next day. We're starting from zero. Right. So. But it's funny my son said Dad you like your job and I said I really enjoy convincing wealthy people to help us to help kids most of whom come from poverty.

 

[00:18:32] And is it safe to say that at least in that in Vermont the wealthy people that you talk to understand and get it. I mean Vermont's is small; it's a small community. It's also a community that is you know we don't have high rises and Bentleys, and you know where you know that's not us. Right. So there's a connection to the community from that's not us.

 

[00:18:55] But let me tell you. So when I got here, I could say this story you like this. So when I got here I read in the free press I was only about nine months. Somebody donated 50 million dollars to Middlebury College followed by 10 million dollar donation. Now I'd just been down there with my son who was in high school. They have like a golf course and like ski thing, and they've got like the the the cafeteria looks like the nicest restaurant. So I wrote. I just I don't even know one the Free Press I wrote this column and I just sent it the free saying if you had that much money to give you know their endowment then was 800 million you know.

 

[00:19:34] And I said here we are working with low-income kids you know like barely scraping. Tell me could I get anything out of that. So yes. So Rich Tarrant God bless them. Read the article. He may even know me from Adam sent me an e-mail and donated twenty-five thousand dollars, which at the time was the largest gift we had ever gotten. So everywhere I went I was like a rock star welcome — you for that.

 

[00:19:58] And so listen to this. So my wife said you really hit a nerve. So I went to board member there was a board is on track street then I went to the business section, and U.S. News of Forbes Ford just pulled them all Jasmine and Barron's was the bookstore across the street.

 

[00:20:12] I think Oh right or right or down the way and so.

 

[00:20:15] So I pull these magazines out and I look I said to Forbes it's got like this weekly or month of whatever it is you know guest column to go back to my desk forms dot com contact us pasted in the article, and their editor called me the next day.

 

[00:20:30] So we're going to run this in our next issue. Did it work?

 

[00:20:32] Yes. To this day we had donations this mannered Connecticut whose sense is 15 20 thousand. Paris Hilton's grandfather sent its money from California. A guy in Florida. I mean that has helped us so much.

 

[00:20:48] You know because I think it really did strike a nerve — you nothing. Listen, Middlebury is a great school. It's not about that. Yeah, it's not about money or if it's about.

 

[00:20:57] It's about recognizing that the community has to step up to support those in need in the community. And that's people of all means right. And right in that case people who have more means than others right inexact. And almost to a person I've met, that had that kind of means in their life gifts, and they give yes.

 

[00:21:17] Yeah. He's got it. Yes. But Ramona is a really really really generous if you know. So it's a nice thing we read so we keep plugging along. In fact, we've expanded you know I mean even in the midst of losing this grand knack. So about five years ago I would go to meetings with you. Maybe I'm sure you know Chief Shirley. Yeah. And he was chief Navy secretary and secretary of commerce.

 

[00:21:40] And Mike would have these meetings with social service providers and he would begin to say listen Vermont has a wonderful reputation for accepting families from other countries you know in fact my wife and I took a Somali family, and we host family may 15 I had the privilege of hiring a number of Somalis at the university when I was working for you.

 

[00:21:59] And so. And Mike said you know some of these kids are doing great. You know in fact the family we took in the girl just graduated from UVM and a full scholarship.

 

[00:22:07] Awesome. But he said some of these kids are struggling you know and they're dropping out of school, and some are getting involved in crime and drugs and all that. And I met with my staff we weren't seeing any of those kids to researchers like him said to me. We interviewed scores of young people, not one kid. Not only was not going to respect them. They didn't even know about Spectrum. So I had one person on staff part-time from who was from Nepali. And I said listen we have to drop in said we. And he said to me I'm going to go. They see that as the place for homeless white addicted kids. So I said, how do we workspace for them.

 

[00:22:43] They didn't seem that organization that was reflective of them right where they could.

 

[00:22:49] Exactly. So he said and the two research he said you need to hire staff from that demographic. Right.

 

[00:22:56] So we started no money.

 

[00:22:58] We want to diversify our organization you hire diverse you. You hired diversity into the organization and attract diversity. Yes. Right.

 

[00:23:06] So now we have we got it. We bought a building in the Old North End where a lot of these families live. And we have staff who speak six different languages now including Somali Mai Mai Sudanese. So we have staff from all different racial groups and ethnic groups. And I said to them. Your job is not to sit here and wait in our building. It's to get out into this community. So they're in Burlington High School Lorraine Hunt middle school. We knew she begged us a year ago. Please put your staff at our school. Essex High School e-mailed me today. Mark, we're seeing more and more new American families in our school children.

 

[00:23:40] So once you're now you know through us talking, and I'll wave at them to thousands of school administrators leaders and the like all across the country.

 

[00:23:53] What do you want us to understand about these kids that we may not either understand and that we may have stereotypes around what. Yeah. What do you? Because you've you work with people your whole life. You worked with this incredible group of people in need of services. Right. And then there are folks. Like me, you know in spite of my experience in the criminal justice system in terms of working and such don't understand necessarily right. What do you want us to know about this population?

 

[00:24:21] It's such a good question. So in Burlington High School came to us, they said it was a couple of teachers. We're trying to teach. We're trying to teach all these different subjects, and we're watching these kids fall by the road. A lot of times most of the time it's not because they're lazy or a bit. It's like it's family problems. There are pressures at home. They need to earn money to help support their family. You know so Spectrum Can you come in and have your staff work with these kids and find out this kid needs this. This kid needs a job. This kid could use a mentor. You know this kid might need counseling for addiction. Can you help us with that, so we're able to teach? So that's really has been a great success. And now when you ski when they heard you were doing it then one and thing and now Essex High School so that saying hey I think about an experience I had many years ago I was working with a school that was serving impoverished kids.

 

[00:25:13] And I spent some time with some focused groups of these of these kids of these youth and I came home to my wife, and she was the day I said you know I did these focus groups and these kids are really smart. And my wife said to me they're poor they're not dumb.

 

[00:25:30] That is so true. And I sat there I looked over, and I got nothing because you're right. That's absolutely right.

 

[00:25:36] Right. And why did I think that they weren't very smart because they were very poor. And whether I thought it consciously. Why was I surprised that they were brilliant in the conversations? Right. I think that is one of the important barriers to kind of push through when it comes to these at-risk youth. Right. That they're there. They're good. They're good people they are problems great people have problems. Yeah.

 

[00:26:00] You know, and sometimes their families are overwhelmed. You know so like the Somali family my wife and I took, and she mentioned the oldest girl you know and really helped her along the way to graduate from high school and then what college to go to and then we went to the first day of when you know transfer students at UVM. And her mom was working. She works at Kmart. You know she isn't a tumble and us, when we were able to sit with the person assigned, don't take this course it's gonna be to stress, you know. So you need that kind of guidance so Specter now we have one hundred and ten different mentors. I love the mentoring thing because that's you know we ask you to do that kind of thing you know can you help that person. I'm mentoring this young boy he's young from Somali originally, and I go to the parent-teacher conferences you know because schools are hard they're hard to negotiate, but the schools' industry reverses their bureaucracies where else. Right. And I fight for my own kid when I go to the parent-teacher conference. Is he getting the right courses? You need someone to go in there who's who are fighting for your kid even if the school is a great school and well-intentioned everyone needs an advocate. You said everyone needs a nap.

 

[00:27:07] We often do it for this was our conversation earlier with Amanda from all right. Yes. Who's like your organization. I just yeah I'm blown away. She's wonderful. Yeah, unbelievable. This idea that I and I and it dovetail with something I get asked. Coming from a security perspective, you know, and it ties into what we do here is also setting well this idea of you know what what what our schools need to be safe. You know that when I look at the school connection on this and you know I mean I jokingly said many times on the people listening and watching the signal you know either roll their eyes your life could be heard a thousand times me or otherwise. You know it's not that we need more alligators and moats and you know you need more armed guards all this stuff. We may need that every young person needs to know there is an adult who cares about that right, a place where they a person they can turn to. Yes. And in terms of what we do in Sentinel, it's us identifying those cries for help through the week to be out the outpouring of the comment probably on our digital platforms. I get the sense that it soon was the same thing for Amanda and outright wanting to know every LGBTQ youth knew they had someone to connect to That's right. It sounds to me like again that theme, and the hallmark of what Spectrum's doing is bright. Those kids need young people to need to know that there's someone they can turn to when they need help.

 

[00:28:30] It's really true. It's really true. We just took a young woman in this is said this young woman you know kind of homeless in our family. She's 18. She's going to community college. She was leasing an apartment. She suddenly saw it in the person who somebody sings for wasn't giving the money to the landlord. Well, that's a problem. That's a problem. So landlord walks in there one day and says hey out I haven't got any money from you. So this young woman going to school working a job. She was living in a storage unit. She rented storage she was sleeping there when the owner of the storage unit found out he made her leave to tend to sleep in a gas station bathrooms. OK.

 

[00:29:05] Still going to college still working goes to get food stamps. And they say to her you're making too much money. So we kick. Right. She's living in the gas stations, but they say hey there's this place called Spectrum. You should go there. So she wrote this beautiful statement about she walks in she's scared to death and the first person she meets welcomes her. Hi. Have you eaten today? Have you had lunch? Great. We have lunch right here for you. You know where you stand tonight you don't have anywhere let me walk you over to the church hall. You know we have room in our warming Show, and The Great Energy GPA for all this is a 3.8. I am sorry. Is it true you got a 3.8 GPA in college while you were living in gas station bathrooms? It's true sir. She's been living with us for like six months now, and it's just unfortunate. But when you listen, it was that part you know that somebody was nice to her when she walked in the door.

 

[00:29:56] So can I ask you. And I ask this of Amanda, and I just have to ask you Have you.

 

[00:30:02] You see. People at times young people who haven't had you know years of experience.

 

[00:30:10] They're young they're trying to figure this out at what one could argue is some of the worst moments in their lives seemingly maybe not. Maybe you'd argue that with me I hope and pray on that.

 

[00:30:22] How do you and the staff.

 

[00:30:24] Inoculate yourself. Oh, it's not from that version.

 

[00:30:28] Maybe you don't. Maybe. Maybe it's just not part of the equip maybe the part of the equation is you feel it because feeling it motivates me. How does that work?

 

[00:30:37] I think you feel it. I've been on the front lines like I ran a shelter for homeless teens in Brooklyn for years I ran residents of treatment center Westchester County for years. It can burn you out. There are times I've been burned down at one point for four years I lived on the grounds of a place, and that'll fry you pretty quickly because you need a break right.

 

[00:30:56] So we really try to insist that people take time off you know and things like that. We do a lot of training and just have good supervision so they have someone they can connect with and if it's bad stuff happened.

 

[00:31:10] Well it does. You know I think I ask the question more along the lines of you know vicarious trauma or things that right. And you know because I think you got to take care of the caregivers as well as the so you know and especially in an organization that's serving the way. Do you have any of your youth come back to work for spectrum or had long term relationships after they've moved on or gotten there?

 

[00:31:35] So we've had a couple of young people you know a young woman who I remember she tried to take her life and we sent her up to the hospital and they pumped her stomach and she made it and she came back did really well left us got her degree, and she worked for us. It's great. It's one of the best counsels we had. She. Same thing with the young man. He had overdosed several times, and he came and worked for us, you know, and now we have people it. I'm very proud of our board of directors is one of the founders of dealer dot.com. The president of the seventh generation the president of P.S. construction somebody who was living in a refugee camp in Kenya ten years ago a young woman who was living in our shelter eight years ago and a young man who was couch surfing and a teenage father at Essex High school seven years ago and now he's a red you know so it's.

 

[00:32:19] And when we have our board meetings the president of P.S. construction is on the same plane as the president who was homeless eight years I know all the folks you Ray you probably know, and they're all great people, so they are great people for you for having so so we really structure our board in that way.

 

[00:32:36] So it's not all high flyers, and you know former House speaker is on our board because it's people that lived and when they speak about an issue like people listen those people who've been there who were homeless who were living in refugee camps.

 

[00:32:49] So I'm going to ask you the same question I asked Elie Wiesel that first setup wow he just passed away like two days ago. He just died and allows us to spend time with Wow.

 

[00:33:02] My question for you is why why why why do I to I do. Why. So I'm a pretty religious person you know. So for me personally, I do believe this is the path you know that God has.

 

[00:33:16] I do believe in God. So I believe this is my path. You know this is my calling. So that's a big piece of it for me.

 

[00:33:22] And faith you know but again there are plenty people who do this kind of work who don't have a religious. And you know I know you're a practicing Catholic yes. So if this follows you know in many ways as I listen to what you do it didn't follow the word in the path of Christ I mean it's kind of right that's how I look.

 

[00:33:39] It's kind of right. That's pretty, and that's not bad from someone who's Jewish actually. Right. Right. That's right. Right.

 

[00:33:45] It is supposed to be about you know are you visiting the prisoner and feeding the hungry. You know to me there people have different but that to me it's an extension of how I live out my particular you know calling so I think that has a lot to do with it. And I just enjoy the work I feel passionate about the work. I'm an optimist by nature. I know a lot of kids who haven't succeeded or in prison or committed suicide. But then I know, and a lot of having really happy lives and I hear from them, and I get letters from them and e-mails this day in isn't it. Yeah, it does.

 

[00:34:17] There's so many times I was like something terrible happened I was like I'm done I'm going to go back to selling computers or stocks or hedge fund and would be miserable. Oh yeah. And then I made math careers. You would be miserable.

 

[00:34:31] And I got an e-mail out of the blue or a letter from somebody who's doing well you know. And thank you. You know like there's always some magical moments that like it's good right. Yeah well, it definitely helps. It's it definitely helps to get that kind of feedback.

 

[00:34:45] Well you know I think we the team here feels the same when we get that call from a school superintendent or from my university horse trainer who says you know because you were able to give us an insight into you know X Y Z we were able to intervene and you know a better outcome was had I think that mission drive of what we do. I feel that. And I think that it's critical. And I know resident we see we said earlier which is there's nothing wrong with the businesses that we have either trained dollar sureties, and that has to be obvious in the world. Yes.

 

[00:35:17] It's different for those who prefer a mission-based type function in an organization, and so I think that's. That exemplifies. Yeah exactly.

 

[00:35:26] What's so what happened. I mean. Well, actually you know what. Tell me. Tell us to tell us. Yes, you were on The Moth Radio Hour.

 

[00:35:32] So the more I love, the more you do. Oh my gosh.

 

[00:35:37] So what did they say at the end of every moth podcast or radio hour what do they always say. What do they always say? So I guess a group of college students and somebody yells out. They always say have a story worthy week. And I was like damn. They do say that, but that's not what I'm looking for. They say if you have a good story right.

 

[00:35:55] Call 1 800 you do what you did and leave a one many messages.

 

[00:36:00] So I did that and completely forgot about it.

 

[00:36:04] I think I was 2012 and then nine months later I get an email from some producer of The Moth in New York said HS and I we got you on that message. Call me because we're coming to Burlington Vermont in September 2013 and we want to hear your story. We may put you on stage. So I called the woman up, and I said, What did I say again.

 

[00:36:25] I couldn't remember. There were so many good things I do better. I don't know which one I said to you.

 

[00:36:29] So that oh it's about a little girl and her brother and some church they went to and I said Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah. So I said okay.

 

[00:36:35] Yeah. So I tell this story over the phone. So she goes Okay, you're in. I said, What do you mean I'm in. She goes we're gonna have five storytellers we're flying and our best storytellers from New York City Chicago Milwaukee, and you're all gonna be the Vermont storyteller.

 

[00:36:50] OK maybe we'll have one other Vermonter on stage with you. And they did. They had Charles Lindbergh's daughter lives in the north. Shore. So they had her she and I. So you have ten minutes to tell a story and you're on stage and is eight people get it right. So I told my story and then after the reception I said to these regular morons from New York City this year I was like So when our story is gonna be on the podcast and they were like No way or is I've never been on there these things have taken place all over the world now, and you know, but I got lucky a year later they put mine on the radio hour and on the podcast and then they played it again last December. So it's been on twice, and I like it because it's a meaningful story. I think so. Or is connect us and their worries to be told I know.

 

[00:37:41] And I think that's I mean it doesn't surprise me. Yeah, you're calling the passion the what you're what you speak the truth. I mean there's not you know it is what it is. Thank you. What would you want? I think as we as we look at you know before we enter on the next seven hours where you call your wife and Emily him and tell him we're here right. What's the one. What's the one thing that you want. Yeah, we have all these people around the country thousands of educators passionate about helping children succeed. Some you know they work for schools in many ways. They mirror some of the challenges you're facing. So if were in the school systems and trying to help and they don't always have resources like yours in the community they're trying to get it right. What's the one thing the one piece of advice that you would want us to hear from you. You've got years of experience working in this community of at-risk youth and such. What is it that you'd want us to take away.

 

[00:38:37] So I think I've learned a lot in 38 years doing this one thing that's important is different things work for different people. Right. So if someone's struggling with addiction or mental health you know, it might be medication or medically assisted treatment that works for somebody else it might be a 12 step group for somebody else it's motivational you know. So like there's no one thing right. So the more you can kind of vary what your approaches are they helping somebody, especially who's struggling. I think the greater success you're going to have.

 

[00:39:10] So so the advice I got years ago was if you want to be a good cop which is where I started you have to listen to the community meet them where they are.

 

[00:39:18] If you want to be a good educator who is where I was next. Right. You know you have to meet your students where they are right theme here is if you want to be effective at helping this population, you have to meet them where they are. Yes yes.

 

[00:39:30] In fact again we use a lot of motivational what's called motivation literacy, and that's like the very basis of it rather than go into preach and think somewhere they at. Are they ready to make a change? Maybe they're not even ready to make a change yet. You know.

 

[00:39:43] So let's meet them when they're at the end of thing it's so important what you guys do is is is safety you know like one of the best supervisors I ever had when I started running a home for kids who were homeless goes safety is the first thing without it you have no foundation right. You can have Sigmund Freud in here as a counselor if you don't have a safe environment and also safe is physical, emotional well also sees right.

 

[00:40:08] That and also order routines and being in the cleanliness. I tried my staff crazy, but that's my job so I'll go around and if I see like a torn couch or something like I'll take a picture of lets you know can you a fireman speaks to.

 

[00:40:24] It's all subconscious the unconscious about this. Yes, we had afoot for many years when I was at the police academy as an administrator.

 

[00:40:32] We had, of course, I can't forget the name of the group, but they were a group probably in the Rutland area that would bring at-risk youth to the police academy for a one-week training program. And I remember the first time they came and I thought to myself, on the one hand, I had a roomful of police cadets with short hair cuts in the saluting and everything else. Then I had this group of of of youth who had no structure had no they kind of. And I remember thinking This is never glad it's not going to work. We're going to be yelling at them to do push-ups and whatever we do, and they're not going to like this, and it's going to be, and you know what we found out. The structure we provided the the the the the kind the structure not the No harshness is right the structure right.

 

[00:41:17] They thrived in having that kind of support right knowing that Okay I made my bed. OK, I'm doing physical therapy training I do right. OK. I'm gonna have a warm meal, OK I'm going to go to class now. OK, I'm gonna. Right.

 

[00:41:32] Right. Huge. Right. So I hear when I hear you say that what I hear is these kids need structure in a way that is nurturing and supportive, but it gives them some boundaries.

 

[00:41:42] I know because most of the kids we were good not all grew up in chaos and discipline in order they may have kids but that they need that you know a 13 14-year-old knows intrinsically then capable. You know, Oh my back. Right. It doesn't have to be, you know super strict but order something. It doesn't have to be the Ritz Carlton, but it's gotta be clean. It's got to be orderly.

 

[00:42:05] You got to know that you're living your plates on the table and you're not throwing them out that the universe is going to be back to you. That needs to get thrown right. It's right. You know this academy seems. I like the way you invite. I like the fact you're cute in the environment as well. So this idea that you know really couches and torn this and that that doesn't speak to it speaks it shines a light on that what the organization you know cares about in terms of how it presents and with the right things.

 

[00:42:30] Right. So while I remember I took over a residential treatment center in Dobbs Ferry New York and we had a school building, and it was gruff it looked like a New York City subway car from the 1970s the entire building was filled with graffiti on the outside. And I remember I said the first thing I'm doing is that's coming down because that sends a sign to every kid here that this place is out of control.

 

[00:42:53] And it's no different than when you were living on the streets and where you're doing elsewhere. Right.

 

[00:42:56] And that the kids are in control, not the staff. And it signals chaos and disorder. So that's the first thing we're going to, and then we'll work from there you know. So again that didn't solve everything we had a ton of work to do.

 

[00:43:07] But it was an outward sign a boy never. Where are you? We're how we look matters. You know I think it is your matter. You know you as the individual youth matters so we're going to provide you a place to live that's nice and clean and orderly where you can feel like you're part of that.

 

[00:43:23] Yes. I've always felt if you provide kids a dump to live in especially kids who grew up big they'll probably make it worse. But if you provide them something nice and clean they will respect it. Of course, you know great that they will respect I destroy.

 

[00:43:36] That's a powerful lesson from from from your 38 years of experience this idea that we need to meet our kids where they are we need to listen to them and what they're telling us. And in that communication and conversation, we can understand what they need. Right and we can give them what they need, not what we think they need. Right. Right. That's powerful.

 

[00:43:57] Yeah it is powerful at the same time, and it's kind of paradoxical. We have to have as adults certain standards like I had a standard that it wasn't acceptable to pull off.

 

[00:44:08] So we need the argument how can we have stood you know standards.

 

[00:44:12] So you're meeting the person where they're at, but we also have certain standards right.

 

[00:44:15] I think this is broken for those who want to get back in touch with you or follow up. I know that W.W. W. Mark Redman mark a red mark.

 

[00:44:24] Nobody else took Martin than a red man died, and there are k. There you go — a red and mowing deal.

 

[00:44:32] Dot.com Zell is on the spectrum this right. Right on the Viti back from Viti org. And yeah as I knew what happened, I finished this podcast review, and now I realize that I need to come work for you in some way shape or form.

 

[00:44:48] So when you can do this came out and say I have it I'm not. I know we had to do it, but I need to do this sniper. Okay. I don't know why I didn't do it last year, but I do.

 

[00:44:59] Well obviously if I get to rehab it here you know you're a gift to the community. Thank you so much. And I just grateful to have you as a leader in the community doing what you do. It's great.

 

[00:45:09] And we love the world social skills support you in any way we can, and we love it you know happy love and active. Awesome. Thanks for having me on today. Thanks. Be good. Was fun. Thanks, everyone. See you.

 

[00:45:18] Thank you for joining us for this episode of social sessions. Subscribe to our channel today and stay tuned for more.