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.