Outdoor Adventures

Students from Mount Prospect Academy at Warren enjoyed a camping experience like no other in the great north woods of New Hampshire. The overnight trip was facilitated by the Upper Valley Stewardship Center. The trip was designed to be social, educational, and therapeutic for the students. Under the guidance of their instructors, MPA students learned outdoor survival skills throughout the trip. The trip encouraged students to make safe and responsible choices for themselves and the group throughout the activity.



Before heading into the woods, a pre-trip briefing took place that included: winter camping safety instructions, behavioral expectations, the gear acquisition process, and the packing of essential items.






The students were educated on outdoor survival skills, including setting up a tent/ hammock, tricks for maximizing heat retention, building a fire, filling and using a gravity water filter, using a camping stove to boil water, cooking MRE meals, and using knowledge of the weather to maintain gear functionality.


The evening consisted of stories about wild animal encounters, some burnt but delicious marshmallows, and the bonding that happens while sitting around a fireside with friends.










One aspect of the mission of Mount Prospect Academy is to provide opportunities for our students to grow and acquire skills that promote their ability to self-regulate and to gain self-confidence. Like other Adventure Therapy Programming activities at MPA, an overnight trip into the cold woods of New Hampshire seems to have fit the bill.



No matter the preparation, MPA students were challenged to move beyond their comfort zones and to adapt to what can sometimes be unexpected situations and circumstances that occur during a camping trip.


Throughout the trip, students were educated on the importance of responsible camping and to be conscious of their potential environmental impact. Instructors emphasized that “leaving the site better than we found it” was also a part of their duties.



During the post-trip debrief, when students were asked if they would do another trip- attached to a longer more challenging canoeing experience- the response from one student was simply, “Don’t even ask. Just sign me up!”



Thank you to the MPA Faculty, and the crew at Upper Valley Stewardship Center for this activity and the amazing work they do with MPA students.




A Stellar Event

At a quiet, hand-picked lookout post on the edge of Ewell Pond in the Green Mountains of Vermont students and Faculty from Mount Prospect Academy shared a moment with countless others across the nation to watch a natural phenomenon that will not reoccur for 20 years- the Solar Eclipse of April 2024. A two-day Science lesson had preceded the adventure and laid the groundwork for the trip. Yet, the long drive through winding backroads to the viewing location, coupled with the one-hour wait time until totality had seemed to slightly dull the student’s interest.

Predictably however, as the mid-day sun disappeared leaving the corona, and a still darkness rolled over the area the temperature dropped. Amid the peak of Eclipse Totality, the students were both ecstatic and captivated. According to MPA Faculty members, Chris Mohan and Dewitt Lightsey the students “never looked away”. Like us all, they were consumed by the strange mix of light and darkness together at the same moment. (photos by Chris Mohan)

photo by Chris Mohan

photo by Chris Mohan

student artwork at Mount Prospect Academy

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Students in MPA’s Hampton Art Program have long expressed themselves using the hallway walls. The great value in using art as a form of expression to communicate one’s thoughts, emotions, and ideas creatively. For MPA students, art allows them to explore their imagination, develop their skills, and express themselves in unique ways. It can be a powerful therapeutic tool for self-discovery and personal growth.

student artwork at Mount Prospect Academy



Students are provided a “space” on the wall to work together or as individuals to produce a work of art of their choosing. Guided by MPA Faculty, the activity and the artwork are continually evolving. New students and current students alike have found a “place and  space” of their own on the walls of the Hampton residence.



student artwork at Mount Prospect Academy



The artwork on the walls is conceived and designed by the students themselves. Artistic skills or abilities are not required to contribute to the walls – here there are no judgements, no measurements, no comparisons, no criticisms. Like all displayed artwork, decorating the walls is a process that requires a person to share a bit of themselves and their lives with others.




student artwork at Mount Prospect Academy



Whether the work invokes a past remembered, a future imagined, a thought to be shared,  or an inspiration for the moment.



student artwork at Mount Prospect Academy



As a viewer of the work, we are reminded that a person’s contribution calls for respect, and a recognition of the unique experiences and journeys that have brought that each student to Mount Prospect Academy.


student artwork at Mount Prospect Academy




Like the cat in this painting, the MPA students in residence walk their halls each day and can see, for a moment, the world through another’s eyes.

quilt project at Mount Prospect Academy

We Are All Woven Together

“Fun-Fridays” at Mount Prospect Academy are designed to offer students a chance to engage in learning activities that serve a clinical and educational purpose. Last month, students at Mount Prospect Academy’s Ashuelot Valley Academy Day School began what was initially designed as a hands-on project that used a multi-disciplinary approach to learning about people and topics relating to Black History Month.

History, biography, ELA, and mathematics were brought together as students learned a life lesson – as they noted on their wall- “We Are All Woven Together.” Using what is known as “hexagonal thinking” the projects provide a way for MPA students to enhance their social and emotional abilities as well. Students chose their own topics, in this case important people, and were asked to connect their individual topic to the larger group’s topics however they chose. To create those connections between the people, topics, and ideas requires interaction verbally amongst themselves and with Faculty. While producing the physical pieces of the “hexagon” allows for individuality and creativity embedded in the educational process, the “wall” of connections is a team effort. Only after the “team” had established those commonalities could the “wall” of hexagons be created. The connections to others, the respect for each person’s point of view, and the need for accountability to the group are the clinical hallmarks that created this wonderful exhibition.

quilt project at Mount Prospect Academy quilt project at Mount Prospect Academy

MPA Faculty Gail Hummel and Jenn Burr among others explained what happened next. “The hexagon wall became the starting point for something we hadn’t thought of- something that simply took on a life of its own.”

The “wall” became a “quilt”.

What was paper imbued with connectivity and individuality became a living physical entity that expanded student expression and self-identity in a safe communal environment. As the Faculty noted, “The quilt made itself. We did not weave this quilt to make a community. The MPA community at Ashuelot Valley already existed, and the quilt simply showed that reality.

quilt project at Mount Prospect Academy

As we step back to the original lesson plan designed to teach about Black History, the connection is clear.

The author, Deanna Parenti wrote that, “for African Americans quilting gave them a sense of a safe place to gather…quilting helped Black women gain a sense of accomplishment and identity by piecing the fabric together, stitch by stitch, each quilt is an individual like its maker.”

quilt project at Mount Prospect Academy

One look at this quilt and a person can unquestionably see a fabric born of the love, self-awareness, ingenuity, compassion, and teamwork that exists in the MPA community.

3D printed Native American Village

Imagining the Past

Mount Prospect Academy students from Campton, Plymouth, and Rumney proudly displayed their individual projects last week at the campus locations. Students at MPA campuses learn using a variety of traditional and nontraditional modalities to gain academic skills. These projects provide an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge, develop essential skills, and foster creativity. To further MPA’s Mission, student’s academic competencies and sense of connection, the projects presented by students reflected their own interests and subject.  Thematic and processing guidance provided MPA Faculty continuously encouraging students throughout the multi-step and multi-week projects.

One of the key advantages of student school projects at MPA is the hands-on learning experience.

3D printed medieval dragon

Some students used a 3D printer to create an amazingly detailed life-like display of a medieval dragon overwatching a field. Others produced a finely scaled model of a Native American Village.

3D printed Native American Village

Additionally, more traditional backboard displays highlighted the role of African Americans in the Second World War, and the innovative armaments and weapons developed during the war.

weapons used during second world war

When reflecting on the student’s final projects, MPA Faculty members Juliano Bigio, Dewitt Lightsey, and Derek Plichta, among others, explained how the projects served as foundation for additional learning. The students spent the weeks prior researching their topics, reading literature, stories, rulebooks, and character analysis, in addition to the history before moving on to the actual physical displays.

“Getting our students to understand the whole picture of an event, the scene, the people, and characters involved, and the connections between them is critical to the learning process. The therapeutic environment of MPA is a place where we want our students to have the opportunity to grow and acquire the skills needed for life. As such, for our students, the process itself is as equally important to the learning experience.”

The variety of projects was extensive, and it was clear after speaking with the MPA students that completing these school projects had instilled a sense of accomplishment. Their eagerness to discuss their projects and their sense of pride in their effort was evident to all who viewed them.


Pictured, John Mozley of MPA and Pease Library Director Rebecca Whitney

Give a Book, Take a Book

Mount Prospect Academy’s involvement in the Little Free Library movement began as an outgrowth of its Experiential Literature Adventure-based Trauma Informed Treatment program. The concept was simple enough- get students outdoors to explore the beauty, sublimity, and wonder of the New Hampshire woods. Use trail maps, geography, and literature to connect students mentally and physically to nature by challenging their perceptions and behaviors.

According to John Mozely, MPA’s Student Council Advisor, the turn to the “little libraries” was triggered by one student’s interest in exploring more of the literature relating to the NH Woods, particularly poetry.

According to their website, “The mission of the Little Free Library organization (LFL) is to build community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access through a network of volunteer-led book-exchange boxes.” The boxes are “mapped” and registered interactively online- anyone can find one and travel to it using the map. Mozely says he and students in the program began to include the stops on their trail hike days in transit expanding the educational component of the program.

Viola! The idea was born.

Pictured, John Mozley of MPA and Pease Library Director Rebecca Whitney

Pictured, John Mozley of MPA and Pease Library Director Rebecca Whitney

Why not create an exchange box in Plymouth under the stewardship of Mount Prospect Academy?

Paul Guldemond, who leads MPA’s Woodworking Program, together with MPA students, built the exchange box in the shop making the adjustments to match the necessary ordinances.

LFL in PlymouthThe LFL is shared space that brings together people of all ages and creates the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read not limited by time, space, or privilege.

The collaboration between Mount Prospect Academy, the Town of Plymouth, and Pease Public library is “on the map”- ready to serve the wider community, residents, and travelers alike.

Thanksgiving meal at Mount Prospect Academy

Let’s Talk Turkey

In a display of community spirit, the Faculty and students of Mount Prospect Academy gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving Holiday. This year’s Thanksgiving buffet luncheon was not only a feast for the stomach but also a celebration of gratitude and togetherness. The opportunity to share the meal extended to all students. Those able to gather at the Career Development Center (CDC) in Rumney, New Hampshire with Mount Prospect’s leadership team were able to enjoy each other’s company in a safe, supportive, and festive environment. The annual holiday tradition exemplifies the values of belonging, sharing, and teamwork that defines Mount Prospect Academy.

Thanksgiving embodies the spirit of hospitality and as such members of Mount Prospect’s leadership team decorated and served the meals to the Faculty and students for the event.

Jay Marshall, Head of School, who donned a bicycle emblazoned service apron (see below) for the occasion noted, “The immense value of occasions such as this are in the unifying sense of camaraderie and equity the staff, leadership, and students share together- the connection made is critical to our mission.” In his view, “It really reminds us all why we do what we do- and what we want our students to learn while they are with us- service, compassion, and commitment.”

Thanksgiving meal at Mount Prospect Academy

This year’s classic Thanksgiving dinner was prepared by students in Mount Prospect’s Culinary program. If the line for seconds and thirds was any indicator, the thick slices of turkey and whipped mashed potatoes, hearty stuffing and chilled cranberry sauce, and creamy butternut squash all smothered in hot gravy satisfied all!

Pecan Pie, Apple Pie, Chocolate Crème Pie, dozens of Chocolate Chip Cookies washed down with ample amounts of Eggnog and Apple Cider ensured that following dessert each stomach was filled with the delicacies of the fall holiday season. The gathering brought the tastes, smells, and a reminder of the interconnectedness and need to be mindful of recognizing the value of our shared experiences no matter the difficulties we face.

If one listened in on the conversations among the group present, the clarity that events such as this play a critical and equal part in fulfilling the educational and clinical mission of Mount Prospect Academy would be easily apparent. The resounding “Thank-Yous” that echoed from the students as they departed to continue their daily schedule, mixed with the reinforcing well-wishing smiles and “Good-byes” of the Faculty made this occasion far more than just a meal.

We are all aware that sharing a meal can provide support during challenging times. It is a time when people can come together to share not just food but also a social-emotional bond. This annual Thanksgiving feast stood to remind each of the attendees of the transcendent power of compassion, being mindful of others, and the value of service that ties the Mount Prospect community together.

Turkey Bowl at Mount Prospect Academy

Wet and Cold = Fun!

Mother Nature brought her best team to the “Turkey Bowl” at Husky Field in Plymouth, but she proved no match for the team of students of Mount Prospect Academy.

The victory on this day went to the students.

The event, which has taken place for more than 30 years, brought together more than 50 students and faculty to test more than simply their skills on the gridiron.

Turkey Bowl at Mount Prospect Academy

To be outdoors with friends, to socialize, to make and share the memories of how cold it was, to laugh about who crashed the worst in the snow, or who was a candidate for MVP, or to simply be a spectator and watch the game- each student present was a part of the day’s excitement and challenges.

Either way, the first challenge was to simply find the field!

For that to happen a little teamwork, some shovels, a few snowblowers, and some patience mixed with a healthy bit of determination was needed.

Turkey Bowl at Mount Prospect Academy

The annual Turkey Bowl game allows for a healthy, relaxed, and inclusive competition among peers guided by the staff of Mount Prospect Academy. Students are instructed and required to respect the rules and their fellow competitors. For all involved this football game is a learning experience as well.

Like all teams, understanding the abilities of their teammates and acceptance of the diversity of personalities and skills each “player”, as individuals, brings to the field is equally as important to the competition. Fostering such respectable, unifying, and self-regulating experiences is a key component of the mission of Mount Prospect Academy.

The slipping, sliding, and stumbling that came with this year’s Turkey Bowl served as a reminder to faculty and students alike- that getting up and getting “back in the game” after falling is a critical part to the experiences and challenges in life that we all share.

Field Of Dreams

The 2023 Plymouth Area Softball League wrapped up its season and our MPA team came out winners! . . . well, not necessarily in the standings, but sometimes accomplishments can’t be measured by a scoreboard. 

2023 marked the first year MPA has ever fielded a team in this popular area league. And it wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Jessie Gaudioso and Steve Meier.

“I had achieved some success playing sports in college and was looking for a way to stay active locally,” says Jessie Gaudioso, Principal, Karen Langley Learning Center, Mount Prospect Academy. “Steve & I had known about the local softball league, there is history for us, and thought it might be a great way to get involved again in competitive sports, while also engaging with our workmates outside the office.”

In order to start a team, they needed a sponsor. That’s when Jessie approached Jay Marshall, Head of Schools at MPA.

“He jumped at the opportunity to help out. He not only offered to sponsor an MPA team for the Plymouth league but the neighboring Lincoln League as well.”

The core group of 2 quickly recruited nearly 40 of their workmates, friends and family and the inaugural MPA Softball Team was born. They competed on Monday and Tuesday evenings throughout June and July in Plymouth, and Sunday mornings in Lincoln. It’s a coed, slow-pitch league so everyone is encouraged to play, although each team is required to field at least 3 women at a time to keep the teams on par every inning.

“It’s a very family-friendly atmosphere. That isn’t to say we’re not out there every day looking to win. Some of our teammates have never played softball before, but a core group of us are able to play alongside them, teach them the basics and cheer alongside them when we record an out or drive in a run.”

In the end, they finished in the back of the pack of 9 teams but consider the experience a huge success. They created quite the buzz in the MPA community, with aspirations of recruiting enough players next year to field 2 teams. And those outside the MPA community, in the form of opposing teams, got to learn a little more about the school by meeting, interacting and learning first-hand what MPA does and who they service.

“What got me most excited was the camaraderie we built over the course of the summer. You’re playing with workmates who you sometimes only speak with over the phone. It fits in so nicely with our wellness initiative here, which is basically to take care of yourself outside of work. There’s also so much to learn out there on the ball field: How to strike out and get back up there and try again; lift each other up; celebrate the highs and lows, together. It’s what we try to instill in our kids in the classroom. Putting it to work on the ball field.”

AJ’s Journey

Antoine Joseph (AJ) is a paraeducator, youth counselor and basketball coach at MPA’s Plymouth campus. His journey to MPA has all the twists and turns of a major motion picture, complete with happy ending, we like to think, because he ended up with us!

He was born in Saint-Marc, Haiti, a small village outside of Port-Au-Prince, and raised by a single mother who worked as a housekeeper to support herself, AJ and his little sister. “You would expect me to say life was hard,” he explains when asked about his childhood. “My father walked out on us when I was very small. We had very little but I never felt worry, sadness or helplessness. That’s because my mother worked hard to get us an education and raised us to believe we could achieve great things if we put the work in and always tried to be the best at whatever we did.”

And soccer was what AJ was best at. From an early age he was running circles around players on opposing teams; winning games and championships. At the age of 15 he earned a spot on the National Team for Haiti. It was there a scout took notice of his skills and recruited him for the French Guiana Football League. His dream of becoming a professional soccer player was one step closer to being realized. Fame and, hopefully, fortune would surely follow. Only one obstacle now stood in his way. As he was still, technically, a minor, he would need permission from his mother.

“My mother was less than enthusiastic,” AJ explains. “Here was the chance of a lifetime. A team that would allow me to travel all over the world doing what I loved most, all expenses paid. And she was skeptical. ‘Who are these people’ she said. ‘I’ve never met them and this contract does not fully explain to me what you are signing up for.’ I was angry with her and couldn’t understand why she was questioning anything about this golden opportunity.”

AJ reluctantly called the scout and explained he would need to speak directly with his mother before any contract was signed.

“He scoffed at me and reminded me how many kids would jump at the opportunity to take my place. My mother held firm and with that, the offer was rescinded. My soccer career was over.”

While AJ remained heartbroken, his body was going through dramatic changes. A growth spurt put him head and shoulders above his peers, leading him to try his hand in a new sport: Basketball. By age 22 he was 6’ 9’’ and dominant on the courts, drawing on his footwork skills and the competitive edge that came naturally from years of playing soccer.

“I was at a level where I was drawing interest from colleges in the United States. Partial scholarships were offered, which was like no offer at all to me. I couldn’t even afford basketball shoes.”

With all the attention he was receiving, AJ, and even his mother became determined to use his new sport to get him out of Haiti. There were opportunities overseas far greater than what his village or anywhere else in his country could offer. And to make matters even more pressing, political instability and a rise in gang violence was making Haiti a dangerous place to live.

“I spent every day visiting my church and praying,” he explains. “My mother’s work ethic is ingrained in me. I was using everything at my disposal, physically and spiritually, to get myself out of Haiti. I’m proud to say, God answered my prayers.”

At age 22 AJ was offered a full basketball scholarship at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee where he thrived as an athlete and student, despite not knowing not one word of English. Within 6 months he was fluent and a star basketball player. He went on to play professionally in Argentina, while also finding time on the side to coach and mentor kids. As someone whose journey had not been an easy one, this came naturally to him.

He eventually returned to Haiti and became captain of the Haitian National Basketball Team, where he witnessed, first-hand the unrest in his home country. He was convinced, once again, that he needed to leave and got to work using his extensive overseas contacts for a way out.

His agent put him in touch with Moses Jean-Pierre, former basketball star of Plymouth State University.

“We hit it off right away. We both played at a high level and he is the son of Haitian immigrants so we have a lot in common. He also knew about my passion for mentoring kids so immediately told me about MPA. It seemed like a perfect match for me, particularly after I spoke with Jim Carey, Director of Recruiting at MPA.”

“He’s an extremely likable guy,” says Jay Marshall, Head of School. “And what he’s done for the kids in this school is invaluable. MPA is a community built on helping the most at-risk, overlooked, forgotten kids. It’s just not in our nature to give up on anyone.

“Everything happens for a reason,” says AJ. “It was my faith in God and the relentless love, guidance and hard work of my mother that brought me to where I am today. I was recently offered a contract to play basketball professionally in Spain, but turned it down. I feel I belong here and owe it to this place and the community that adopted me to fulfill my passion for helping kids. It’s bigger than money. It’s about making an impact. And I feel like I’m just getting started .