Starksboro at-risk youth program looks to expand - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Starksboro at-risk youth program looks to expand

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In Starksboro there is a farm spread across acres of land and dedicated to getting kids on the right path.

"You see them open up. You see a new side of them that's better than any side you've seen before," said Emily Lowell, a student at Mount Abraham Union High School.

Unbound Grace offers kids a home away from home.  "Kids come to the farm and they're involved with learning skills of agriculture and values that help them, and they bring them on into their lives and they are successful in their school work," said the program's founder, Kerry Kurt.

The camp began in 2010 and has helped hundreds of kids since then. It currently works with 15 at risk youth. The mission is to steer them toward successful life choices. Tuesday, the nonprofit shared its mission of prevention with politicians at the statehouse.

"Instead of drugs being on my mind, I can focus on school work and working hard at the farm after school," Lowell said.

"I recently lost a best friend to suicide, so it's really helped me cope with that and realize that this is a really great place to be and I think that Unbound Grace really could've helped my friend through that hard time in her life," said MAUHS student Emily Dion.

"We're investing in the beauty of the uniqueness in all of our children, and we do need the help of the community to continue doing this work," Kurt said.

Kids in the program handed out tags for state leaders to wear throughout the day. They say the program helps kids avoid the drug culture that's gotten so much attention this legislative session. "It just makes sense -- prevent kids from getting involved in drugs, going in the wrong direction, and we save money personally; we save lives and we certainly save money of our state budget," Kurt said.

"You don't get judged there. You can go there and have a good time and be who you really are, and with Unbound Grace it's just a great place to be," Dion said.

Kurt is raising money to expand the program by building a new barn on the farm. "We do need the center funding of about $300,000 to buy what we need to put it up. But people are stepping up and saying clearly this is what we need in our community," she said.

A community working to help kids succeed.

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