OUR SHINING STARS
Adelphoi Helps Guide Youth on a Path of Success
Frustrated, and struggling with her mental health, 12-year-old Aayla felt like she had nobody on her side. Feeling lost in a public school, her family made the decision to enroll her into Adelphoi’s Partial program. After a year, and doing well, she returned to her original middle school, but started to fall back into the same patterns and began to struggle again.
With that struggle came a recommendation to attend the Adelphoi Ketterer Charter School, but she was initially hesitant. She had already failed a grade and was behind. Her family knew that something needed to change, so Aayla enrolled in the Charter School hoping that this would be the change that she needed. It turned out that it was exactly what Aayla needed.
“The Charter School gave me the structure that had been missing,” said Aayla. “The teachers understood that I wanted to do better, but just needed a little bit of guidance and structure. They didn’t give up on me.”
Aayla says that she remembers her teachers telling her “you can do this.” She worked daily to learn coping skills that she still uses today. She also worked to recover academic credits and was able to graduate on time.
One of the biggest things that I was able to realize while at the Charter School was that I have potential and I can achieve my goals. I also have a lot more self-worth. My past does not define me,” expressed Aayla.
Since graduating from the Charter School in 2017, Aayla attended the Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC) with the help of the Adelphoi Promise and graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts in May. The Adelphoi Promise is financial aid and support for students who successfully complete an Adelphoi program. It provides up to 2 years of tuition at one of ten affiliate community colleges in Pennsylvania.
Aayla also was awarded a full-tuition scholarship for Indiana University of PA where she will attend in the fall to study digital design. Her dream is to be a freelance animator, and she is excited about the opportunities that she will have.
“I was dumbfounded, surprised and very grateful – almost a sense of relief,” said Aayla, describing her feelings when she found out about the scholarship. “Now I can focus on getting a job and not worry about paying back school loans.”
Aayla was awarded the scholarship from the All-USA/All-PA Community College Academic Team which is sponsored by Follett Higher Education Group, Phi Theta Kappa, the American Association of Community Colleges, and the Coca Cola Foundation. It is awarded to students who excel academically, demonstrate intellectual rigor in their course of study, show academic growth and potential, and use their two-year college education to better themselves, their schools, and their communities.
Aayla represented Westmoreland County Community College for the All-Pennsylvania Academic Team awards and was also named WCCC Outstanding Student of the Year.
Aayla was nominated for the All-PA Academic Team by Lynna Thomas, Special Populations Counselor at Westmoreland County Community College. Lynna works as a mentor to the Adelphoi Promise students who attend WCCC.
“Aayla is a student that will make the most of every opportunity that is provided to her, and she is so worthy of this honor. I have looked forward to nominating her for this award for quite some time now; she has always been a student that came to mind when I thought about this academic team. She represents all that is great about ambition, growth, opportunity and the community college experience. I am so proud of her, and humbled to have been a part of her journey,” expressed Lynna.
Aayla is excited about her future and credits her family, especially her mom and grandfather, her best friend, the staff of WCCC, and the Adelphoi Charter School for supporting her. “They are always my cheerleaders.”
Johnson Marks Career at Adelphoi as both Recruiter and Foster/Adoptive Parent
Paul Johnson knew that there was something special about working with children when he began his career in 1981 as the Physical Education Director, and eventually Executive Director for the YMCA in Scottdale and Uniontown. Over the course of 17 years, Paul had the opportunity to be a positive influence on children’s physical, social and emotional development. During that time, Paul also became a member of Rotary International. He and his wife, Brenda were given the opportunity to become host families through Rotary’s exchange program for youth from all over the world. It was then when their eyes were opened to the experiences of working with youth and how they could help.
When Paul began working at Adelphoi in 2000 as a counselor at Alliance House, his eyes were opened again to the need for youth to have consistent support from adults in their life. But it wasn’t until Paul changed his role at Adelphoi and became a Foster Care Family Recruiter that he decided to take his passion for helping kids to a new level.
After seeing so many children in need of a loving home, Paul and Brenda decided to become licensed as foster/adoptive parents with Adelphoi. “Fostering children gave us a chance to work with a child one-on-one,” said Paul. “I tell families that that you will soon realize that it is not about you, but about the kids and what they have gone through, and what they need.”
Paul and Brenda admit that it isn’t easy, but there have been some great moments that have happened along the way. Paul recalls the day when their daughter Tasha, whom they adopted in 2012 at the age of 17, asked if she could call them “mom and dad.” “She had always called us Paul and Brenda up until this point. It took her eight years to realize that we were sticking with her through the many difficult times that life brought to all of us,” Paul said.
The Johnsons credit their extended family and church as their support system through the difficult times. They also felt very prepared with over 30 hours of valuable trainings such as child development and parenting, CPR, and safe crisis management, all offered through Adelphoi.
Although they felt prepared, Paul says you must learn to “Expect the unexpected. Your sense of a ‘normal’ home environment is often so far from what your foster child has experienced. Their responses to what you provide for them may not be what you expect. For example, they may now have their own bedroom, but they were used to sharing with several siblings, and now they feel lonely and frightened at night.”
As a Foster Family Recruiter, Paul has been able to share his own experiences with other foster families as well as offer support when needed. At the same time, Paul credits his family for their influence on his decision to be a foster parent. “My parents were always welcoming people who shared their life with one another, each of us, and those around us, friends and neighbors. I learned early that you need to stop and listen and be there for others in a time of need, and they will also be there for you,” Paul noted.
Paul and Brenda both come from large families, so having children of their own, and now having a grandchild, has brought them both joy. They are very proud of their children. Their son Mark is a Respiratory Therapist at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville working on the frontlines of the Coronavirus pandemic. Tasha recently became a mom and is engaged to be married.
After 20 fruitful years at Adelphoi, Paul has made the decision to retire. He is looking forward to spending more time with his family, including his new granddaughter.
Adelphoi Ketterer Charter School Helps Youth Realize His Potential
Colin’s contagious smile and big heart will brighten anyone’s day. If you happen to find yourself driving through the McDonald’s in Latrobe, his kind words will greet you at the window. When he isn’t working, this 18-year old is often watching YouTube videos, or teaching his young nephew how to ride his bike. To see him now, you would assume he’s a happy, fulfilled recent high school graduate. But it wasn’t always this way.
In 6th grade, Colin started to get into trouble at school and was diagnosed with ADHD and Impulse Control Disorder. By the time he reached 8th grade, the school was calling his mom Leslie pretty regularly. As his behavior spiraled and the calls increased, she began to fear that he was going to get “lost” in the public school system.
Before the end of the first quarter of his 9th-grade year, Colin’s principal called her to have a meeting. During that meeting, his principal suggested that Colin attend Adelphoi Ketterer Charter School in Latrobe. While she agreed that she needed to do something to help Colin, she was hesitant to send him to a school that she knew little about.
“Life before the Charter School was very stressful and full of anxiety,” said Leslie. “Problems just kept arising and Colin was getting further and further away from where I knew he could be.”
Leslie reluctantly agreed to meet with teachers at the Charter School. During that meeting, Leslie says that they were greeted with “a smile and acceptance” from everyone that lasted long beyond the first meeting. Colin felt comfortable and accepted the first time he set foot in the school, not only from his teachers, but from all of the school personnel, including the counselors, receptionists, principals, CEO and the school resource officer.
Colin found that the staff took interest in his life beyond just school, and worked hard to forge a personal bond with him. One of Colin’s teachers, Eric Pavlik, was what Colin considered his “go to” for everything. “He has talked to me and helped calm me down so many times,” said Colin. “He talked through problems with me.”
Many others, such as Brooke Pierce, Principal at Adelphoi Ketterer Charter School, rallied behind him to help him succeed. “She has been there for me anytime I needed,” Colin noted. “I know that I am welcome to go to her and talk if I need to. She’s helped me even when I messed up.”
Colin says he feels at home at the Charter School. He credits his teachers for encouraging him and allowing him to realize his potential. He knows that he can go to each of them with any problems that he may have and they will help.
Leslie says that that everyone at the Charter School “has Colin’s back” and they give him the encouragement and support that he needs to be successful. “Even when Colin makes a bad decision, the staff don’t make him feel like a bad kid, they just help him understand why it was a bad decision and help him to move forward.”
According to Leslie, the personal care and attention that Colin has received is outstanding. “We have never felt like just a number at Adelphoi Ketterer Charter. Anytime that I have concerns or questions, the staff have responded and provided the human contact and care that I have come to know, expect and love from them.”
“When I drop Colin off every morning, Resource Officer Ray always reminds him to tell me that he loves me,” says Lesie. “He asks Colin how he is, and if Colin misses a day of school, the next morning Ray says, ‘I was worried about you, you doing ok?’ There have been many mornings after Colin walks into the school that Ray will take the time to talk to me. He tells me what a good kid Colin is and that he will check in with him and see how he’s doing.”
Today, Colin talks positively about his future with his school counselor and plans to use the Adelphoi Promise scholarship program to pursue education after high school.
“Colin is a smart a young man, he was a lost soul with some emotional baggage that needed the support of people that understood and cared and that is exactly what he got at this school,” said Leslie. “Adelphoi Ketterer Charter School gave us hope again, restored my faith in public education, in teachers and humanity. I wouldn’t want my son anywhere else.”
Before Adelphoi, Bob didn’t have many healthy relationships with friends and family. He would often hang out with friends that were a negative influence on him. His life consisted of trying to push the limits of what he thought was wrong and what was actually wrong. Bob needed structure and guidance from Adelphoi to bring him to terms with reality with the decisions he was making.
Adelphoi also showed Bob that there were people that understood what he was going through and wanted to offer guidance to help him make better choices that would lead to a more productive and healthy lifestyle.“Adelphoi gave me opportunities of leadership, accountability and responsibility. Through situations such as being a home manager for a week, keeping myself accountable for negative behavior, tasks such has schoolwork and treatment work, I had things to focus on, which in the long run, carried over into my daily routine 10 years later. From these opportunities, I often seek leadership positions instead of being a follower, I am more self-accountable and pride myself with integrity through work and personal life. I find taking responsibility easier knowing that I have the willpower to follow through and the determination to get tasks and jobs finished.”
After Adelphoi, Bob jumped right back into high school as a 16-year-old freshman. He completed high school on time and pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Commercial Music Technology from California University of Pennsylvania.“After I received my undergraduate degree, I went back to California University of Pennsylvania to pursue a master’s degree in business administration. After 2 more years of school and through the help of the Adelphoi’s scholarship programs, I was able to pay for and complete the required curriculum in order to receive my MBA in 2018.” “The programs and services at Adelphoi that I received made a difference in my life because I am now fully aware of my life and my actions. I can easily identify things like seemingly unimportant decisions and high-risk situations that I couldn’t recognize before Adelphoi. From the programs at Adelphoi, I’ve learned about understanding my behavior cycles and how to identify my problem areas. I have also learned about urge control and empathy. These two things have impacted my life the most because I use them every day. Having the self-control to stay away from temptations and releasable behaviors as well as recognizing and having empathy for the people that I hurt or could have hurt keep me more self-aware and help me to live a healthy and responsibly life.”
Today, Bob’s life is completely different from his days before Adelphoi. He currently has a successful sales position with a plastics supply company.“This year has been my 10th year since completing treatment at Adelphoi. Almost every day I find myself doing or thinking about the lessons that I’ve learned from this program. Adelphoi has taught me that all of my actions will never only affect myself. The way I handle every life choice for the rest of my life will affect my family and the people around me.”
A Family’s Success With MST
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) program is an intensive family- and community-based treatment program designed to make positive changes in the home, school and community for youth who are displaying antisocial behaviors. For 13-year-old “Amy,” these behaviors included becoming physically and verbally aggressive, stealing and leaving home without permission.
Amy’s mother “Dawn” worried about her daughter’s behaviors, fearing that she would never reach the promising potential she saw in her. As a result, Dawn’s mother turned to Adelphoi MST for help.
Early in the family’s treatment, the MST team realized how crucial it was for Amy and her mother to improve their communication as well as learn how to model the de-escalation skills that she desperately wanted Amy to use in handling her anger more effectively. Numerous steps were also put into place to assist with communication styles from both mother and daughter on a daily basis. These interventions helped Dawn to see the value of an authoritative parenting approach that encompassed both control and warmth.
To help Dawn construct appropriate expectations, the MST team provided education on normal adolescent development in tandem with teaching Dawn about how to “pick and choose” her battles. Adelphoi MST also assisted her with developing clear expectations with added incentives to help strengthen her discipline techniques. This way, Amy had clear rules in place with either a reward or consequence, based upon the behavior she chose to exhibit.
MST also focuses on enacting change within the child’s entire ecological support system. In order to sustain the support Dawn had received from Adelphoi MST, the team enlisted Dawn’s boyfriend “Jeremiah” as a support to help her to continue to use the skills that she had learned throughout treatment. Jeremiah was able to stay calm amidst tense circumstances, which was incredibly helpful in managing Amy’s behavior and more importantly, the changes that had greatly improved the mother-daughter relationship.
Through completion of the MST program, the entire family learned how to decrease aggressive communication and find ways to really hear one another, which strengthened their relationships with one another. In turn, they were able to share their concerns without being critical and could focus the conversation on problem-solving rather than arguments.
After working with Adelphoi MST, Amy found a renewed sense of being loved and taken care of while simultaneously understanding that because she was loved, she would be held accountable to certain standards of behavior. At the close of treatment, Amy was most proud of her ability to demonstrate self-control, successfully meeting each of her overarching goals, while her mom was confident that she had the skills to be a better parent.
Barnaby Serves as Mom to 125
Adelphoi foster parent Sandra Barnaby has watched many children move in and out of her life over the years. A foster parent for more than 30 years, many of these children, now adults, still call the Barnaby household “home” and refer to Sandra as “Mom.” Over time, Sandra has been able to watch some of those children have their own children, get married, or visit her to show their appreciation for her love and support over the years.
Foster parenting wasn’t something Sandra embarked on early in life. No stranger to hard work, Sandra worked outside of the home to give her family all that she could. Her employment and active involvement in the church never interfered with her role as a full-time, hands-on parent.
In 1988, everything changed when Sandra and her husband Steve made the decision to become foster parents. As if it were second nature, the Barnaby’s approached each child with a compassionate heart and the philosophy that each child deserves their unconditional love, no matter what occurred in the child’s past.
Years later, after the passing of her husband, Sandra continued to foster, giving all that she had to ensure that others did not go without.
Sandra credits much of her success with children to the great support system within her family, church community, and Adelphoi staff. When she takes on the care of any child, they are adopted by her entire family. Every child that has been lucky enough to have found a home with the Barnaby’s has come to them the same way, weary from life lessons learned all too soon. Over time, Sandra’s love and devotion catalyzes a change in these children. The youth in her care slowly start to trust again and gradually let down the walls that have protected them for so many years.
Over the past six years, Sandra has continued to offer even more permanence for kids in need, seeking and obtaining guardianship of three teenagers who are now currently in their twenties and hve families of their own. She also fostered a young man that lost his mother to her battle of cancer. After only a few months of fostering, Sandra made the decision to give this young man a “forever home,” and secured guardianship of him as well.
Because of her dedication and to so many children, Sandra was named 2019 Permanency Family of the Year by the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network. She was honored at a banquet on June 13, 2019 at the Kalahari Resorts in the Poconos.
Sandra has given more than 125 children with broken dreams a chance to dream once again. At 74 years old, Sandra notes, “Fostering children keeps me young. I don’t know where I would be without them.”