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:

https://www.enduroworldseries.com/live/

Previous EWS coverage from 2019 Whistler:

https://youtu.be/yAcBZ51LIKo

What is enduro? 5 minute explainer.

https://youtu.be/wWH_BSRiX0U

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

 

MURDER IN WENTWORTH

“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.”

Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy Maple Sugaring at Mount Prospect Academy

MPA Hosts Its First Ever Employment Open House

As one of New Hampshire’s fastest growing employers, MPA is constantly on the lookout for energetic, motivated individuals to join their team. The challenge in today’s job market is effectively communicating to prospective applicants the many benefits to working at MPA. People can afford to be choosy and an ad or even a website can often be a limited forum in which to showcase your best attributes. Recently, John Fulp, MPA’s Superintendent & Director of Operations organized MPA’s first ever employment open house. It was held on January 26 at their Pike campus, with several MPA faculty on-hand to meet with applicants. “The open house was a huge success,” says Fulp. “It allowed us to meet, face to face, prospective educators, counselors, and other support staff. We have a lot to offer here, so when you’re given the opportunity to speak directly with applicants, get to know their goals and ambitions, you’re more apt to make a connection. Not only that, applicants were able to see where they could be working; meet the people they may be working with. It was a win-win for all involved.”
Based on the success of the Pike Open House, another has been scheduled for Thursday, March 3 from 4-7pm in Campton. Find out more by visiting mountprospectacademy.org/openhouse.

Adventure Based Learning at MPA

Whether or not you’re familiar with MPA’s curriculum, you’ve probably heard the term “adventure based learning” tossed around when there’s mention of our school. That’s because adventure based, or, “experiential” learning plays a large role in our mission to help students reach their educational and social potential. Quite simply, many of our students are here because they were unable to thrive in traditional classroom settings. They’re better learners when they can see, feel and experience things, first hand. That’s where adventure based learning comes into play. It’s a way of teaching that actually puts students out in real world settings, engages them in hands on activities and lets them actively participate and learn from their experiences. At MPA, our campuses are perfectly situated to allow our students to take advantage of our surroundings. You’ll find kids out hiking, biking, motorcycling, kayaking, dangling on high ropes courses or even exploring in caves. Learning what, you may ask? “About life sciences, biology, geology, philosophy, math and more,” says Mike Adamkowski, our Upper Valley Stewardship Center Director. “For every activity we take these kids on, I witness learning. From preparation and establishing safety protocols, to developing communication skills and making the connection between decisions and outcomes, these kids’ curiosity sparks are ignited. As an educator it’s incredibly rewarding to witness your students letting their guards down, exhibiting a sense of wonder and applying what they learn to real life.”

When you see MPA kids out on your next hike, bike, camping or kayaking adventure, keep in mind they’re not just out there having fun, they’re in their classroom, learning . . .

Mount Prospect Academy's Ethel

Rest in Peace, Ethel

What can a donkey teach us about life? The question was recently put to task with the passing of Ethel, a longtime staple at MPA’s Pike Farm.

As it turns out, a lot.

Ethel arrived at the farm in 2019 with her brother, Fred as part of a rescue program, both having endured years of mistreatment in their previous living situation. At the time they were estimated to be 30 years old. They were brought to MPA as therapeutic animals, here to assist students, many themselves having survived physical or emotional abuse, manage their stress, anxiety and depression. The pair fast became beloved members of the MPA community. Students were put in charge of feeding, grooming and caring for them. In turn, the animals greeted them with friendly brays and nudges, even coming when called by those they were most familiar with. Until MPA, Ethel and Fred didn’t know what it was like to be healthy, safe and loved . . . and many of our students had never experienced being put in charge of someone of something that depends on them. There was no mistaking the effect these animals were having on their caregivers as faculty often noted how they beamed with self pride and compassion.

On October 19 the vet was summoned to check on Ethel’s leg. She had been favoring it for days and was in visible pain. She was quickly diagnosed with a dislocated femur and advanced arthritis, likely an injury she had been suffering from for years and only getting worse. It was decided that the most humane treatment for her would be euthanization. The students were devastated but encouraged to express not suppress their emotions. She was showered with affection, including hugs and brushing. Students oversaw her last moments with Fred, her inseparable companion of over 30 years and then helped load her into the trailer.

Ethel is buried beneath a pine tree by the barn. The students are working on a placard to mark her gravesite and as a symbol of the lasting impression she had on MPA. Fred spent days bellowing for his sister but now finds solace in Sally and Pepper, his favorite goats who have been allowed to share his pen. Like Fred, those students touched by Ethel’s presence will learn to live with their loss and be made stronger by the pride they had in making her life on our tiny farm in Pike, New  Hampshire worth remembering. 

Mount Prospect Academy's Ethel and Fred Mount Prospect Academy's Ethel