Under the Hood at MPA Automotive Center

It’s not often you meet a teenager with the skills to change the oil in an automobile, repair its brakes, exhaust or suspension, let alone swapping out its engine. At MPA’s Career Development Center, it’s not such a rare sight after all. 

Meet the kids of MPA’s Livermore Automotive Center, an approved classroom that is a full service, auto repair shop located in MPA’s Rumney Career Development Center campus. The program was started back in 1993 as part of the school’s experiential learning program. Jeff Caron, MPA President, brought his vision of “vocational learning” to then part-time instructor at Laconia Community College, Dave Morrill, offering him a job imparting his mechanics skills to at-risk kids at MPA.

“Jeff had incredible enthusiasm and this idea that, if kids split their school time between the classroom and real, hands-on work, it would boost their self esteem and confidence, ultimately improving their behavior.”

And he was right. Since those early years of working out of a 1-stall garage in an abandoned wood shop to the now, state of the art automotive center, complete with 2 lifts and superior air and electrical systems, the program has thrived. Hundreds of students have benefited from Dave’s expertise, taking their skills outside the school and applying them in everyday life, some even pursuing careers in the automotive field.

“We typically have 6-15 kids each week in the shop performing work on company vehicles and those belonging to employees,” Dave explains. “We run the classroom just like any other business out there in the community. We make appointments, troubleshoot, diagnose, repair and invoice. And the kids help from start to finish.”

Jeff Caron notes that behaviors improve when students participate in hands-on, academic learning. “Statistically, we have very few behavior issues when students have hands-on learning opportunities. They gain confidence and realize they can succeed in a field of their choice.”

These days, Dave and fellow mechanic, Ray Whitcher can be seen under the hood of numerous projects with eagerly listening students. Just recently, Ray supervised a student changing out the engine of a Kia Sorento. “Well, I was more of a bystander,” Ray admits. “That kid knew what he was doing – even figured out the wiring harness was faulty and swapped it out before I noticed it was a problem. It kind of made me proud. You don’t see many 14-16 year olds with those skills.”

The Livermore Auto Center services over 60 of MPA’s own vehicles and gives precedent to MPA team members, alumnae and their families. Dave is quick to point out that the school isn’t looking to compete with local businesses. “Our main purpose is, and will always be, to teach kids to be successful. We just so happen to do it with a wrench, not a pencil.”

Susan Beck-Dore

I began my MPA Journey 21 years ago (May of 2001) as an Overnight Youth Counselor at our Pike campus in Bolton house. I was working towards my bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Plymouth State College. Having an overnight schedule was not ideal while I was also attending college. Luckily, I transitioned to day/evening shifts with non-traditional hours that seemed to change (based on the needs of the kids). I recall traveling from Plymouth to Pike for my 6:00am morning split shift to help wake kids, transition them to school, and then head back to Plymouth for classes, only to return in the afternoon to complete a 2:00-10:00evening shift. How could I forget and not mention the 14-hour shift on Sundays! Sundays were a long day but always rewarding. I got to support various houses in the morning an participate in programming and then in the afternoon, travel around in the vans to pick up kids returning from their home time. Helping to process home time and support kids returning to a treatment program after being at home was a wonderful time to be an active listener and help provide some counseling and guidance to kids.

After doing that for a few years, I was promoted to a Community Leader. The first 3 years working residential were inspiring and I loved being able to mentor youth, engage in outdoor programming and be there to support some challenging times when kids were in crises and working through the trauma that they endured.

I was getting ready to complete my spring social work practicum when Jay Marshall asked if I was interested in helping him at our day school Connecticut River Academy. I supported Jay and the school while I also completed my social work practicum in Plymouth (Pike campus has relocated to Plymouth when the Wreath school was going out of business) as a Family Outreach Worker. Upon completion of earning my BSW, I was fortunate that there was a full-time job opening for a Family Outreach Worker. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed working with youth in the residential and school settings, I was starting to realize how much I enjoyed working with them but also in working with families, stakeholders, and the community. Having an ability to help bridge all systems and work with kids and their family systems collaboratively, I knew this was where I could help foster the most change that would hopefully lead to more successful permanent outcomes. A few years later, I decided to go back to graduate school to complete my MSW at UNH. Little did I know that I would end up having my son during my last year of graduate school!

I wanted to do more clinical work and become more skilled and educated on how to best work with vulnerable populations and people in need. It took me 3 years to finish my MSW and during that time, Jay M. (see some themes here!) again asked if I would be interested in helping start a new position in a different day school called LCLI. LCLI was looking to add more supports to their students and we created a school social work position. I worked in the school for a year, had my son and upon return from maternity leave, I was offered a position back in the residential setting to help oversee kids’ treatment. I was a Treatment Coordinator and Clinician for a few years and then transition back into Family work. I became the Director of Permanency and oversaw the residential “permanency coordinators”. Through this process, I worked tirelessly with others to improve our

services and strived to help make improvements in providing more family counseling and improved permanency for our kids.

After frustrations with the court and other system issues and honestly being burnt out, I was considering leaving the agency. Luckily, in 2010, I was re-energized when Jeff Caron and the Board of Directors supported me and agreed to let me apply to become a Community Based in Home provider for the state of NH. I view this as a turning point in my personal career because not only did we provide community-based services for our residential kids upon discharge, but we also started to serve females, younger kids and other populations that historically we didn’t serve in residential. We began to work on preventing kids from leaving their homes and communities to begin with. This was a pivotal change in how MPA viewed its role as a provider and as a “temporary” treatment program in a kid’s life. MPA began to shift gears dramatically and work wholistically towards providing youth and family guided services that centered more on serving the family and not just the individual. Our community-based services grew quickly, and we open services in Massachusetts, Vermont and later on in Maine. Currently we have 12 Community Based Offices throughout the 4 states.

I have always been supported, was offered different opportunities that continuously led to growth for me. I quickly learned that if I could help improve the services for kids and families by putting in the work, opportunities were endless. I always felt like my voice was heard and even though there have been growing pains and challenges along the way, I am grateful for the opportunities I had, and still have, to lead a meaningful life helping others.

Rachel Umberger

I began to work at Mount Prospect Academy in May 2013. Initially, I was hired as a Milieu Clinician/Permanency Specialist (more on that in a bit). I had just graduated with my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health from Plymouth State University and had been clear with myself and my professors that I wanted to work in/for a company whose population had the most need. After a couple of interviews at community mental health settings which, looking back on it, would not have nearly been as interesting as MPA, I decided that my skill set, degree and working with the students at MPA was where I could be most helpful.

When I first started at MPA, I had students in the residential setting and also in the community (mostly the North Country – spent a lot of time in downtown Berlin, NH). I also had students at virtually every campus at MPA (Plymouth, Campton and Rumney) on my case load. As a Permanency Specialist I was asked to provide family therapy to boys (and girls!) in the community with their families which really honed my skills around being clinically assertive, understanding the importance of structure and routine, developmentally-appropriate consequences, and respectful communication in caregiving systems

In about six months’ time (fall of 2013) I was asked if I had any interest in spending some time clinically in re-vitalizing the CAST assessment process. Being eager to help in the organization, I said yes. I had no idea that nine years later the program would grow into its own stand-alone residential program on the Plymouth campus and that it would have led to other programs within MPA developing their own assessment programs (in Bennington and Hampton).

From 2013 to the end of 2014 (December) I worked diligently to revitalize the CAST program doing dozens of assessments on students that were placed at Plymouth, Campton and Rumney. In January of 2015 CAST became a stand-alone program on the Plymouth campus and I worked systematically with a mostly new clinical team and residential team to craft a program that emphasized safety, trauma-informed interventions and holistic assessments for our students, families, referrals and communities. This was not an easy feat and a dedicated crew of clinicians (Eli Gubenko, Chrissy Murray) and residential leadership and faculty (Joe Michel, Andrew Mangan, James Germano, Matt Hanson, Doug Gregory, Nick Beisiegel, Rob Alvey Sr. to name a few) worked long hours and late nights to stabilize the newly formed program and make CAST the premiere assessment option in New England.

After obtaining clinical licensure from the New Hampshire Board of Mental Health I transitioned to the Clinical Coordinator and then Clinical Director in Plymouth and shortly thereafter in 2018 became the Executive Director of the CAST program in Plymouth. Within a year, after realizing that many of our students expressed an intense desire to remain in the CAST program after their assessment period, I worked to develop the Summit program; a long-term treatment option for older students to focus on Adult Living or provide a residential treatment option for students who have experienced multiple transitions. Since its inception in 2019, Summit has grown into a viable option for NH students for long-term treatment. Additionally, along the way, at critical points in my career I had access to mentoring and guidance from Jeff Caron that was instrumental in continuing to hone my skills as an administrator.

In the winter of 2019, I was asked to administratively support the MPA at Rumney program and became the Executive Director of that program as well. With the help of clinical and permanency

leadership (Eli Gubenko and Amanda Sousa) and residential administrators (AJ LeBlanc and Nate Calini) we worked to stabilize the program behaviorally and breathe new life into the problematic sexual behavior (PSB) treatment pathway of that program. Working with the students and faculty over the last three years at Rumney has been incredibly rewarding as we have been able to meld a trauma-informed approach to PSB and become the only viable treatment option for problematic sexual behavior not only in NH but in several bordering states as well.

John Fulp (part 1)

I began my MPA Journey 21 years ago (April of 2002) as a Youth Counselor at our Plymouth Campus, which was then called the Wreath School Of New Hampshire, while I was still finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Law at Plymouth State University. I thought it was just going to be a summer job but, I found the work of helping kids find a better life extremely rewarding and meaningful. I found myself wanting to do more in the field and organization so I could be a part of leading new initiatives and programs. Mount Prospect Academy was supportive of my growth and encouraged me take on new challenges from the very beginning.

From Youth Counselor, I continued to excel in our mission and earned promotions to Shift Supervision, then Community Leader (today’s Assistant Program Manager). The opportunities MPA gave me coupled with my drive and ambition to grow soon brought me the decision to take on even more responsibility when I was asked to be the Program Director for an upstart program, our now MPA at Campton Campus, in 2004. I took the opportunity and spent many a late night, past midnight, after shift, working with other leaders, Jeff Caron, Jay Marshall, and others, getting the building and infrastructure ready for students. Moving fire doors, running wire, laying down the kitchen floor, etc. into the early hours of the morning. With the building complete I started the admissions for 32 students and the Campton House thrived.

Through our successful upstart of the Campton program, I was asked to come to Pike and help with the leadership of our Pike program, then called the East Haverhill Academy. I spent 2 years on the beautiful Pike campus as the Program Director, working with the team to enhance services and supports to shape the lives of 24 boys and helping with the upstart of our first girls’ program with 8 students. Long hot days of fishing and haying in the summers and cold crisp days of skiing in the winter made it one of the most memorable eras in my career.

From my days in Pike, and having just chosen to start my Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and Special Ed. Administration at Plymouth State University, Jeff Caron asked if I would come support our Day School in Tilton, NH the Life Centered Learning institute (LCLI). I then continued my work as a fulltime leader with MPA/Becket, supporting faculty and students on the academic side in September of 2006. As a teaching Assistant Principal, I again had the opportunity for immense personnel and professional growth, and found the same sense of accomplishment and reward in supporting students attend and succeed in their educational endeavors. Juggling a Masters program, working fulltime, and taking on another student loan wasn’t easy but, I spent the next 3 years at LCLI, teaching and leading the team, completing my Master’s Degree through night courses. Through this process I also applied and earned educational certificates as a Special Education Teacher, Principal, and Special Education Administrator. Year after year watching the joy in students’ faces as they received academic awards and graduated, only further assured me that this was my purpose in life.

In September of 2009, I was called on again to help revitalize 2 of our schools in Maine, the Central Maine Learning Center (CMLC) and the Androscoggin Learning and Transition Center (ALTC) as the

Head of Schools. Like our schools in New Hampshire, we served a population of both Day and Residential students. At this point I also started classes to complete a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies at the University of Southern Maine, for Educational Leadership, Special Education, and Superintendency.

I always felt, and saw the evidence, that if I put forth effort beyond just making it through the week, to take on more responsibilities professionally, and made the time and financial sacrifices necessary to grow as a person and professional, those toils would be an investment that would later payoff. MPA has always provided opportunities, support, and the flexibility for me to create new opportunities for myself and others, almost wholly unincumbered by internal bureaucracy.

None of the above accomplishments would have been possible without the support and encouragement of all the people I’ve worked with over the years…

….To Be Continued in Part II

Justin Lagassey

Hello friends and colleagues!

I’m writing you all from the gate of Logan Airport on the first leg of my journey to compete in the Enduro World Series at the 2010 Olympic venue in Whistler, Canada.

This has been a goal of mine for the better part of a decade and I’m finally able to compete on the world stage thanks in part to support from Mount Prospect Academy. In just my short time here the team has helped me grow and develop as a professional and the support I have received is beyond what I could have imagined. Thank you all for everything and I would not be in this position without that support and such an awesome environment to flourish.

Some people close to this have requested that I share this adventure with the broader MPA community. Please feel free to share these resources and stories with students and the wider community. I’ll try to check in regularly and I would love to host a zoom call on location at some point closer to the race. (Briefly-ish) I’ll describe what I’m doing below.

Enduro mountain bike racing is a high-speed downhill oriented stage race. Riders must navigate technical terrain while racing downhill stages, but then must climb back to the top of the mountain in the untimed portion of the race to the next timed stage. Typically the races have 4-6 stages in a day and take 4-8 hours to complete, alternating between high intensity all out racing portions and untimed jovial transfers. This race format tests the combination of all day fitness and technical skill in mountain biking, which separates it as a uniquely demanding race discipline from Downhill and Cross Country mountain biking.

The Enduro World Series is the highest level of competition in the sport of enduro and only the world’s top 350 ranked riders are invited to enter the 8 races that occur across the world. This season I will compete in five races, Whistler Canada, Burke Vermont, Sugarloaf Maine, Crans-Montana Switzerland, and Loudenville France. While it has been a dream of mine to qualify for this level of competition, I would not encourage you to hold your breath for a top result. My goal is simply to finish and watch with eyes wide open how the best in the world perform as I learn the process of going from really fast to ludicrous fast.

Just to add some “fun” factor to this race and add to the experience, I plan to peddle my bike and all the supplies I require for the week from the airport in Vancouver to the race venue some 120 miles away in Whistler. Here’s hoping the OE curriculum has taught me something about building a shelter and staying dry!

I’ve included some links below from those curious about the format and where you can follow along.

Live timing for Aug 5+6 race:


Previous EWS coverage from 2019 Whistler:


What is enduro? 5 minute explainer.


Joe Michel

My name is Joe Michel and I am currently the Executive Director of MPA’s Adventure-based, program in Warren, NH. I have been the Executive Director of, the Warren program for a little over three years now. In May of 2012, I was hired as a youth counselor on the Plymouth campus, specifically the Denali community. Things were, different, residentially ten years ago in terms of student-faculty ratio, student behavior and use of physical restraints. My third day I was asked to support an off-campus swim trip (my first day was a Wednesday that just so happened to be water safety training) and very quickly I found myself needing some support from a seasoned faculty, Jimmy Germano. I did not know this at the time but that seasoned faculty who arrived to support would spend the next ten years working side by side and eventually become my Program Manager in Warren. After gaining some experience (which I didn’t have prior to my first day), I transitioned to the Campton house where I became a community leader and eventually the Program Manager.

While at Campton I became the community leader of the then Washington community where I supported four students throughout that time. After supporting the Washington community and the larger Campton building, in terms of the safety of the students and faculty, I became the Program Manager of the Campton program supported by friend and colleague, Andrew Mangan in the Assistant Program Manager position. After many long nights, tough situations, and a broken nose (thanks Eli), I was asked to transition to Plymouth (specifically the CAST Program), where I became the first Program Manager of the CAST program. With Matt Gelinas as my APM, we worked thoughtfully to build a safe residential milieu from jump. Faculty worked to build relationships based on consistency and predictability (with a dose of humor) which was needed during some growing pains that you have when opening any new program. To be part of such an incredible team while navigating challenging situations all while opening and developing a brand-new program is one of my fondest memories of my time at MPA.

After my stint as Program Manager of CAST, I transitioned to the Dean of Students role at MPA Plymouth. The landscape of the school was different at that point as 4 Warren, Campton, Plymouth and Rumney all attended school on the Plymouth Campus. Managing close to 60 students in the academic building was challenging but I enjoyed working with all the academic faculty to deliver academics and have the kids progress through school. As someone who only thought of themselves as a “Res” person, this was challenging to overcome but with support from seasoned academic faculty we were able to overcome many difficult obstacles throughout my stint as Dean, which included me finally finishing my Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice. Towards the end of my time as Dean (which I didn’t know at the time), I was able to reconnect and meet weekly with one of my many mentors Jay Marshall, who I have had the pleasure of working with on and off in many different settings over the last ten years.

Upon transitioning out of the Dean of Students role, I was back in Campton supporting the early stages of the ERT Program in a residential administration position, with a familiar face Rick Phelps. After working closely with Rick, Jeff Caron had asked me to support the Adventure Therapy program in Warren with the same administrative support I was providing at ERT. Very quickly, Warren became my focus, and after a few months of supporting both, I transitioned full time to support the development of the Warren program, which brings me too today. One of my skills as a leader at MPA has always been able to build skilled teams around me and put people in a position to be successful. That leadership quality was instilled in me by some of the people I have mentioned already. Rachel Umberger and Eli

Gubenko supported me in understanding the Clinical aspect, while also allowed me to bring some CAST faculty with me wherever I went. MPA for me professionally has been incredibly rewarding but has also impacted me personally. It has allowed me to develop a family (as you can see my daughter Madison in the above photo). The appreciation I have for the leadership here at MPA is endless, and I would not be where I am both personally and professionally without the trust and support, I have received from Jeff, Jay, John, Rick and most importantly my wife, Rachel.

Thank you for taking the time to read a little about my time here at MPA, as stated I would not be where I am today without the teams that have been around me. From youth counselors to teachers to AON’s to Program Managers. Thank you for all that you have and will continue to do to support not just the Warren program, but all programs moving forward.

Student Council at MPA

Recently, the Mount Prospect Academy’s Student Council sat down and met as a team to discuss topics to improve and better their facilities. The 4 students, and 8 faculty met at noon to eat lunch and follow with facilitating discussions on ideas that ranged from making student handbooks, to creating a career day.

The MPA Student Council was created by Mount Prospect Academy’s Richard Potack with the help of Denise Castonguay in the 2013-2014 school year. The purpose was to give students a forum in which they could have a direct and long-lasting impact on the school; where they could make changes for themselves and each other, while learning about how governments operate on this and other levels in the outside world.

The Student Council at MPA is important for student life because they address and tackle issues important to their community as well as making sure students’ voices are heard. Much of what this group is focusing on, is how to save the environment and how to create better environments around the students. These students are working to make a change within their community by using leadership tools to work together and make a difference.


The Co-Student Council Presidents, led the meeting by inviting everyone to introduce themselves and then turning to business as they began reading the student council’s agenda and discussion notes. There were many discussions and conversations that took place within the meeting, many important ideas were brought to the table; for example, creating a logo for MPA Student Council so that merchandise can be embroidered, creating more after-school activities, such as a soccer team, and basketball tournaments, a band, and a zen garden, as well as improving the MPA school store by creating and handing out a survey to ensure that the school store is carrying material that the students want to purchase.

One of the bigger announcements that was made within the meeting was the opportunity to meet and work with someone from the “You Got this Kid” campaign. Chuck Saia’s “You Got this Kid” campaign is a leadership foundation that evokes positive change for youth. By working with this organization, the Student Council will participate in a workshop to develop better leadership skills and act to fundraise for a new green house. By enhancing leadership skills and raising money for a greenhouse, the student council will encourage saving the environment while creating another activity to partake in.

The Mount Prospect Academy Student Council carefully debated and reviewed numerous issues that are important to the students of MPA to provide advancements within the facilities and environments surrounding the schools. By addressing recycling issues, gym renovations, career expansion, and expanding curriculums, they are taking action in bettering programs and student life.This group is working to challenge themselves and each other in empowering their voices and ideas to boost and promote their progress!

Awards Night

On the first of June, Mount Prospect Academy held an awards night for the staff who have been a part of MPA for 5 years, 10 years, 15, 20 and 25 years. The faculty of MPA were invited to the Common Man’s “The Barn on the Pemi” from 5-8pm for an awards ceremony, accompanied by dinner and drinks. To kick off the ceremony, MPA’s Director of Operations, John Fulp, said a few words. Fulp talked about the obstacles that MPA has faced through the duration of COVID-19 and how Mount Prospect Academy has continued to work as a team to overcome the hardships the company and the schools face. He explained that Mount Prospect Academy continues to grow stronger with the people and strategies they continue to use. Fulp closed by saying,“we just keep getting better and better and that’s because of all you folks and all of us working together. So thank you everyone; thank you to those who have stuck with it year after year, we are able to honor you tonight.” The microphone was handed to Mount Prospect Academy President, Jeffrey Caron, where he also showed appreciation to the staff within the room. Jeff spoke of their longevity at Mount Prospect, whether it was 5 years at the company, or 25 years. There were different gifts presented to the staff depending on how long they have been with MPA. Jeff pointed out that not only is MPA creating careers to help kids, but it’s also a fortunate place that allows staff to change lives, for as long as 25 years. He spoke highly of the mini biking trip (National Youth Project Using Minibikes; ie NYPUM) that he and Jay Marshall, Head of Schools, went on earlier with 6 students. He explained how smooth, civilized, and pleasant the trip had been, showing that having great trips with the students of MPA is due to the amazing faculty and staff who work with the kids. “Treating students with compassion and leadership allows these children to respect themselves, their environments, and others around them. Working for MPA is beneficial not only to the students, but also to outsiders and our surrounding communities. The attraction Mount Prospect Academy creates, encourages other companies and corporations to want to be a part of something so influential and impactful.” As Jeff Caron, John Fulp and Jeff Park hand out awards to MPA staff recipients, there is a light and grateful atmosphere; as everyone acknowledges their roles within a business that has one main goal: to better the education and environment of our youth.


Recognized were:

5 Years Award:

– Don Jones

– Rebecca Moulton

– Megan Smith

– Paul Thomas

– Corey Tower

– Dori Craigie

– Rob Alvey Sr.

– Harry Bearden

– Josh Colle

– Mike Burnham

– Becky Drapeau

– Jessie Gaudioso

– LeRoy Hollis

– Tyree Jones

– Derek Pitcha

Recipients for the 10 Years Award:

– Karen McAlpine

– Mark Labonte

– Richard Moulton

– Bill Greene

– Joe Cristiano

– Tom Corbin

– Lacy Hunt

– Mike Adamkowski

Recipients for the 15 Years Award:

– Chris Boyd



“At approximately 8:32 pm on Monday, September 5, a murder was reported at Resident Camp Kikakee, which is located at Lower Baker Pond in Wentworth on Route 25a. The murder was reported by the Cook, a foodservice staff member at Camp Kikakee. The victim was identified as Frederica Cowlea. The believed cause of death was Possible Homicide/Drowning.”

It’s a story one might expect in TV’s “CSI” or ripped from the front page of the Manchester Union Leader, when in reality (or more like science fiction), this case is at the center of a learning experience for a lucky group of students at Mount Prospect Academy.

Meet Corey Tower, an Adventure Science instructor at MPA’s Plymouth campus. Corey, along with fellow instructor Karen McAlpine are leading a forensics class in Adventure Science this spring.

“We created a fictional crime from scratch,” he explains, “complete with backstory, a crime scene and evidence. We have several faculty participating as ‘suspects,’ while the entire class is tasked with gathering and analyzing evidence, facts and testimony which they will then use to formulate a case and identify likely suspects.”

The class has been learning about forensic science in the classroom, including basic skills, deduction, fingerprinting, fabric analysis and blood typing. They then apply what they learn in the “real world,” which in this case, is a crime scene staged with physical evidence planted by the instructors. Students are given time to study the evidence while instructors observe and offer information relative to the case. They’re given a week to analyze their findings, come to a conclusion and then build their case against their prime suspect.

“The kids are learning all different facets of science as well as chemistry and deduction. There’s a level of excitement here you don’t usually see in a school setting because we’re actually getting them out of the classroom and into a real-world situation. It’s science in action. In my opinion, the best way to learn.”

One could argue the class extends far beyond science, to psychology, public speaking and criminal law, as the classroom is transformed into a mock courtroom, where students are tasked with presenting their case, using physical evidence and witness testimony, before a judge and jury (played by faculty and their fellow students).

Corey and the Adventure Science team have more adventures planned for the months ahead, including an underwater robotics class, a camping trip to Pennsylvania, which includes 4 days of paddling over 28 miles and an ocean kayak trip in Maine. Just another example of the power of adventure-based learning at Mount Prospect Academy.



Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy

Sweet happenings at MPA in Pike!

March is Maple Month in New Hampshire and students at MPA in Pike are in the thick of it – literally! Just ask Mark Labonte, faculty member at MPA, who, along with Eric Underhill and Zach Cousino, has led a maple sugaring program for the school in Pike for the past 9 years. Venture past the cattle barn, just up the hill into a small clearing called the Sugarbush and you’ll find MPA’s very own sugar shack, complete with all the buckets, tubes, gadgets and tools necessary to turn tree sap into liquid gold.

The current sugar shack was built over 10 years ago as part of a student project led by faculty member Hugh Underhill. Today it attracts as many as 20 – 30 kids, itching to learn and lend a helping hand to the very hands-on process of producing maple syrup. Visiting MPA’s sugar shack this time of year is an experience for the senses. One can’t help but getting wrapped up in the sounds, sights and smells of a sugar house in full operation. It takes cords of wood and a network of hundreds of trees to feed the operation. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of helping hands as dozens of MPA students can be seen hard at work splitting wood, emptying sap buckets, feeding the stove and monitoring the constant drip being fed to the collection bin outside.

“We have over 200 trees tapped in our network here,” explains Labonte, who, with the help of Zack and Eric keep the operation rolling. “It’s the warm days and cool nights that produce the most sap. Once things get rolling we’ll produce about 20 gallons of Grade A maple syrup. We love watching the kids participate in the process. There’s a certain pride they take when sitting down for breakfast and pouring a generous amount of syrup on their pancakes, saying ‘I made that!’”

Of course, there’s more than enough product to share. MPA traditionally gives away their syrup to local communities. It’s a fittingly sweet end to a rewarding experience.

“Honestly,” adds, Labonte, “that’s what keeps me coming back each spring. The curiosity and excitement you see in these kids when they’re listening, working together and learning.”

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