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.”

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

Mount Prospect Academy Earns High Honors at NYPUM Rodeo

As part of our mission, Mount Prospect Academy (MPA) is continually seeking therapeutic environments in which to grow and acquire the skills students need to reach their educational and social potential.
One such initiative is our involvement with The National Youth Project Using Minibikes (NYPUM). NYPUM is a non profit organization operating in over 32 communities, including here at Mount Prospect, with a commitment to building healthy peer group experiences with positive adult role models. Several of our students and faculty recently participated in the annual NYPUM Rodeo at Camp Pinnacle in Voorheesville, New York. The event featured an outdoor living experience, group trail rides, games, campfires and competitions. MPA participated with two other programs, one from Albany, NY and the other from Wellsboro, PA. Although the event was impeded by rain, the competitions continued and MPA riders placed in the various events including multiple first place finishes.
The event culminated with an awards ceremony, where MPA received the Sportsmanship Trophy, which goes to the program that best demonstrated good sportsmanship throughout the Rodeo and is voted on by the attending programs. Like hockey’s Stanley Cup, the Sportsmanship Trophy is engraved with each year’s winner and on loan to its recipient until the next Rodeo. MPA was the first-ever winner from the state of New Hampshire.
The students returned at the end of the week having gained new friendships, multiple awards and stories to share with their peers back on campus. Special thanks to the faculty who helped facilitate the trip. Just another example of the incredible lengths they and everyone else at MPA go to help support our students.