“We want to be engagement focused,” said Reilly Lawrence, speaking about Involve MRV, the new youth program he and his partner Kayla Barss are launching this October.
Involve MRV is a program for teens that provides after-school, weekend and homeschooling options. Remote learning students can join Lawrence and Barss once a week for a full day of activities like hiking, journaling and candle making. Students who attend in-person school, on the other hand, can sign up for a weekly four-hour after-school session in either the adventure, wellness or creation program.
Lawrence and Barss are focused on keeping their program pandemic-safe. Groups are limited to eight students. When inside, masks and social distancing are required. The couple will also administer temperature checks. “We rented a big space and plan to do many activities outdoors. We will maximize the time where we can spread out,” said Barss. The program will take place at the Pindari Lodge on Route 17 on the way to Mad River Glen.
The idea to start Involve MRV came after a summer of community conversations and brainstorming. The couple wanted to know not only how to help parents find after-school programming in a time where many group-based programs have been canceled, but also how to help young adults cultivate fulfilling lives for themselves by learning practical and life-affirming skills.
“If you spend time in nature, you make things with your hands, you check in with your body, that’s a good way to live a healthy holistic lifestyle,” said Barss, explaining how they came up with the adventure, wellness and creation offerings. “We’re not trying to replace schooling, but this program has educational components,” added Lawrence.
In adventure, students will do activities like hiking, back-country cooking, wilderness first aid and navigation. Lawrence has a degree in outdoor education from Johnson State College which he utilized when working as a guide at True North in Waitsfield. He plans to use those same skills to guide the adventure program this fall.
The wellness program aims to help students cultivate routines that support the body and mind. Activities in this program involve energy work, craft work, group discussions, journaling, mindfulness activities and walks. Barss received her degree in wellness and alternative medicine from Johnson State College and plans to use her skills to lead the wellness program.
The creation program involves hands-on activities such as candle and soap making, cooking nutritious meals, making clothing, weaving, carving and creative writing. Both Lawrence and Barss are firm believers in the value of hands-on creation work. “Working with your hands and trying new skills is a really engaging experience that helps you feel purpose and motivation,” said Lawrence.
The cost of admission is higher than they’d like it to be, admitted Lawrence.
“We’re trying to accommodate all financial needs,” said Lawrence, who encourages anyone who’s interested to apply. “We have been in contact with other organization for aid. If you’re a local family trying to support your kid, we want to help make it work.” Lawrence also mentioned that meals will be provided in each session, lunch during the daylong sessions, and dinner at the after-school sessions.
While cost is a factor, Lawrence and Barss hope it will not inhibit people from taking part in something that offers 13- to 18-year-olds a unique supplement to their traditional education. “Kayla and I spend a lot of time talking about creative approaches to things,” said Lawrence. “Like the way we cultivate our lives, the way we educate our kids.”
See more details at involvemrv.com