June 16, 2015

‘Any obstacle is worth overcoming’ – Honoring Ceremony 2015

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Employees, Events, New Horizons Educational Program, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach, Workforce Development Program tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:22 pm by Lund

Today is your day,” said Executive Director of Lund, Barbara Rachelson to the students of the New Horizons Education Program. “I know the path you took to get here today was not always easy or fun, and yet, you endured.  Parenting, pregnancy and being a student, each in their own right presents challenges.  There are lots of ways for you to find to not show up – if your baby is sick, if you didn’t get sleep, if you are having a hard day but you persevered.  I hope that you are glad that you did and you feel proud.  I certainly feel proud for you.”

Six graduates were celebrated for obtaining their high school diplomas at this year’s Honoring Ceremony. Many more students were recognized for academic achievement, college studies, participation in Lund’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach Program, and attendance at Lund’s Workforce Development Program.  It was a joyful and very proud occasion.   New Horizons is Lund’s licensed education program for pregnant and parenting young women but it is so much more than just a school.  It is a place where students find acceptance, support and a community of peers and teachers committed to helping them be successful students and parents.    On a normal school day you are likely to find a teacher holding a baby while explaining how ions are made, students discussing how often their babies use pacifiers over lunchtime or a teacher helping a student follow up with a potential apartment rental during study hall.    Academic achievement and family support are weaved together through every aspect of the program.

Graduates from the Class of 2015 arrive at the Honoring Ceremony

Graduates from the Class of 2015 arrive at the Honoring Ceremony

The Honoring Ceremony is a time when students, family members, staff from NHEP and other Lund programs, community partners, members of the the Lund board, guests and friends come together to celebrate the students’ achievement and progress during the school year.  Babies and toddlers are integral members of the audience and crying (from children and proud adults alike!) is accepted and celebrated.   In addition to Barbara, this year’s ceremony saw speeches from Kim Coe, Director of Residential and Community Treatment Programs at Lund, Ryan Esbjerg from Flex Your Face and Lund Board President Sara Byers.  But the most powerful words came from the students themselves, many of whom stood up to read from speeches they had written.  Excerpts are given below:

“I would like to thank all who have pushed me to accomplish so much.  My daughter is my hope and motivation to get far in life.  Every student here has achieved so much, from doing their best to come to school every day with or without their kids to being able to ask questions when they get frustrated. ” – Brittany, 18, senior.

Mom and daughter addressing the crowd with their words of thanks and congratulation.

Mom and daughter addressing the crowd with their words of thanks and congratulation.

“I like the opportunity Lund gives us for school because it is a better place for us.  We are all teen and young adult moms and regular high school did not work for us.  High school was difficult because we all have kids.  Some of us are single moms and we don’t have people to watch our kids when we need to learn.  NHEP works for us.  When we need to learn, we can bring our kids with us.” – Fatumo, graduate.

“Three years ago I was supposed to graduate, but I put it aside.  I got pregnant and high school was no longer a priority.  With the help of Lund and my teachers I returned to school to finish my education.  They continued to push me to achieve greatness.  I have learned that any obstacle is worth overcoming.”   – Natalie, graduate.

“Every day I come to school and I’m surrounded with amazing and strong women who have struggled and been hurt but they are here choosing to change their life for themselves and for their children.  When you’re here you aren’t judged, you’re accepted and welcomed.  This program has changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Because of this program, I can watch my daughter grow into an amazing and smart girl while working hard to build our future.  Coming here was one of the best choices I have made for my daughter and myself.   I can finish school and still follow my dreams so when my daughter is older she can finish hers. ”  – Grace.  Student at NHEP since January.

The ceremony was followed by cake, photos and hugs and congratulations at every turn.  “It’s pretty much the best day of the year,” said Courtney Farrell, Assistant Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services, who couldn’t stop smiling all day.  Her feelings were shared by all, especially those students who left the ceremony with high school diplomas in their hands.

April 9, 2014

A Review of HBO and The Shriver Report’s “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert”

Posted in Commentary, Review tagged , , , , , at 7:18 am by Lund

Katrina Gilbert allowed cameras into her life for a year and the result is a thought provoking and heart wrenching documentary produced by The Shriver Report and HBO intended to show what life is like for one of the 42 million single mothers living in poverty in this country. 42 million women with 28 million children.  Katrina Gilbert is employed, she cares deeply about her kids and their future and she is trying all the time to make her situation better.  But she continually faces agonizing choices and setbacks from a system that at times seems to be actively preventing her from succeeding.  In order to attend her job as a certified nursing assistant she sends her three children to a daycare that is open 24 hours a day and can accommodate her early starts and late nights.  She spends a lot of time in the car, picking up children, dropping off children and running from errand to errand paying bills and picking up groceries.  This is a woman who does not often sit down.  She is exhausted and constantly stressed but she finds the energy to be a steadfast support to the elderly inmates at the care home where she works.  “You’re my buddy,” says one with an anxious quiver of questioning in his voice. “Always,” she replies.  For this physically and emotionally draining work, she is paid $9.49 an hour and after taxes takes home $730 biweekly which is eaten up instantly by rent, daycare fees, phone bills, storage rental.  She cannot afford the medication that she needs and in one sad scene at the beginning of the documentary sells the family puppy for $40 to buy food.   Despite all this work and worry, she is still an engaged and loving mom to her three kids.  She makes them pancakes, takes them to feed the ducks in the local park, brings them to the beach in the summer and helps them overcome their fears when their feet don’t touch the ground.  But she also has to take them with her to do her taxes in an insalubrious neighborhood long after bedtime, drive them for four hours to meet up with their father who is unemployed out of state, drop them off at 6am for a 12 hour stretch at daycare while she looks after the family of other people.  Katrina’s life is hard and she struggles and her kids know it.

One of her biggest struggles is trying to get out this situation.  She applies for college but is denied funding, she moves in a with a boyfriend so that her ex-husband can move into her previous residence and take a job he has secured nearby but the boyfriend’s house promptly floods and large parts of it are unlivable, she gets a raise but it’s only 11c an hour.  The more she works, the more her foodstamps are cut, it is a situation that seems destined to grind her into the ground.  No matter what she tries, she cannot seem to get ahead.  Her life is a serious of tradeoffs and tenuous, temporary situations.  There is no security, no guarantees for the future. It is hard to imagine anything changing.  It is hard to imagine that the life of her kids will be much different from her own.  Yet Kristina is doing all that she can.  The film constantly questions a society where a hard working woman is barely keeping her head above water and does not know from one week to the next how her life is going to be.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel.  This woman is barely surviving.

At the preschool graduation, the speaker promotes time and time again the importance of education.  The preschoolers are lined up in their red and yellow gowns holding their diplomas and you cannot help but wonder for how many of them this will be the only graduation they attend. Katrina’s young daughter, Lydia aged 5, poses with her brother and sister , her messy blond hair falling out from under her graduation cap, and smiles a gap toothed smile for her mom who snaps a picture with her cellphone.  This is a scene played out all over the U.S. but when Lydia walks out of the door of that gymnasium she is already walking a path divergent from many other kids.

The graduation scene is one of the few bright spots of this documentary which in so many ways just leaps from disaster to disaster.  Katrina is the one holding it all together – her life, her kids’ lives, her ex-husband’s life, her new boyfriend’s life, the kittens who have inexplicably shown up on their doorstep their lives too – but she is rapidly become unstuck.  Watch this film and think about this woman and the 41,999,999 others like her.

At Lund we help women to break these cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction with our integrated, family-centered treatment, education, family support and adoption services.  Each of them, like Katrina, has her own story of struggle and hardship to tell.  We are full of hope that when women leave Lund they are leaving with a strong chance to move beyond this paycheck to paycheck existence and to build bright futures for themselves and their children.


July 9, 2012

Lund’s Honoring Ceremony 2012

Posted in Events, New Horizons Educational Program, Residential tagged , , , , at 2:58 pm by Lund

Story & Photos by Cat Cutillo/Lund

Many say that Lund’s Honoring Ceremony is their favorite happening of the year. It’s an event that captures the heart of Lund’s mission and celebrates the triumphs that clients have made and are making.  This June’s Honoring Ceremony was no different, full of smiles, tears and bright futures.

“I think it’s a big deal that we make a big deal out of successes and milestones that these woman have reached in their lives. For somebody to come in and get their high school diploma–to achieve an accomplishment like that is just so deserving of the spotlight,” said Lund’s Case Manager Ann Atkins.

Lund’s New Horizons Educational Program Coordinator Stephanie Rossier kicked off this June’s ceremony with the facts.

“Forty-seven women have walked thru the doors to further their education at New Horizons this year and 12 have either graduated or earned their GED, 9 women have courageously participated in outreach events across the state and 15 women have applied their job skills in a job placement within the community,” said Rossier at the Honoring Ceremony. “All this hard work deserves recognition.”

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