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Dairy Barn Transformation is a Symbol of Its New Role

This 100-year old former Vermont dairy barn will soon be a school for at-risk students.

This 100-year old former Vermont dairy barn will soon be a school for at-risk students.

Construction has begun on Laraway’s new home.  Looking at this hundred-year-old dairy barn jacked up in the air on the occasion of last month’s ground-breaking, it occurred to me that this labor of renovation and rejuvenation foreshadows what happens to the at-risk kids who come to Laraway Youth and Family Services in Johnson, Vermont.

These students may have learning disabilities or mental health challenges.  They may be recently released from juvenile psychiatric or correctional facilities.  They may be survivors of abuse, abandonment or homelessness.

Laraway’s staff meets these students where they stand, then picks them up and pours a new foundation under them—just like the barn—greatly increasing their probability of success at school and in life.  The school is licensed to award high school diplomas to up to 35 students.  Laraway also offers foster care placement and “backpack” emotional and mental health support services into local schools.

USDA Rural Development’s loan guarantee program backs a loan from Community National Bank to finance the purchase and renovation of a 39-acre farm that Laraway has purchased as its new home.  The farmhouse has already been renovated to house administrative offices.  The barn—with its new foundation—will be transformed to house classrooms, a cafeteria, an art room, a computer lab, a woodworking shop, recreational space and therapy offices.  Laraway’s team is particularly excited about the prospect of growing food for the school cafeteria on the site’s rich farmland, as well as exploring outdoor recreation activities on the adjacent river.

To learn more about how USDA Rural Development programs can assist your community in achieving its goals click here.

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