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WOOSTER – A family reunion atmosphere characterized the annual Celebration Day on Saturday at The Village Network in Wooster, where employees and clients, their families, friends and other special guests enjoyed a cookout in the pavilion, games, inflatables, a climbing wall and art auction among the day’s special features.

The celebration revolved around preparing youth to live independently and to create bright, successful futures for themselves.  “This a nice day. Their families get to come,” said Vincent McBride, a behavioral management specialist working with youth in the transitional living program in which youth 17-18 years-olds learn, with a safety net, to live on their own.  They come here, he said, to the specially designed Gault Opportunity Suites, when “they’re ready to get acclimated back to society,” McBride said.  But Celebration Day is just “a good day,” he said.

As part of the entertainment, “Today we’ll be leading a drum circle,” said TVN music therapist Adrian Murphy, pointing out “a lot of research on trauma treatment in drumming.”  It aligns with TVN’s use of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics in its “patterned, repeated motion,” Murphy said.  Because guests were on campus, “I’m hoping to open up (the drum circle) to everyone,” he said.

David Paxton, TVN’s vice president of strategy and innovation, highlighted some of the changes being made on TVN’s Wooster campus, including the remodeling of the Welker Smucker Culinary Arts Center.  “Food is so important to these kids,” Paxton said. Because they come from a background of abuse and neglect, many have wondered where their next meal is coming from.  In the culinary arts program, they learn not only life skills in preparing and cooking food, but also taking into account nutrition and food safety.

“Eventually, the long-term goal,” Paxton said, is in collaboration with the horticulture program for youth on campus to grow in a campus garden their own food to be used in the culinary center.  Also on the agenda, with the same objective of independent living in mind, is the renovation of the old schoolhouse on the campus for use in a new entrepreneurial program.  With seed money from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the program is being planned with self-sufficiency of the youth in mind.

“Essentially, what we’re doing is teaching our kids to be independent, instilling in them the fact that they can be financially independent,” Paxton said, by starting their own business or being creative in some other way, rather than needing to rely on other people or the government.

In conjunction with the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics in their treatment plan, the entrepreneurship program has as its tenets several components, including budgeting, marketing and soft skills.  All require higher-level thinking using the cortex, a part of the brain that has been damaged in traumatized children, according to Paxton.

They must learn “to be able to think and reflect about (their) behavior,” he said, and how it, for example, would affect co-workers in an employment setting. The goal is becoming capable of “regulat(ing) themselves and their emotions” and developing self-control.  They’re “strengthening these parts of their brain so that they can calm down,” he said, enabling them to learn and become productive adults.

The entrepreneurship lab in the renovated building, scheduled to open in the fall, will have a 3-D printer, a CAD machine and computers, allowing youth to design their own products.  Through this program and others at TVN, “they can have control of their own future,” said Paxton, noting one of the other models being followed by TVN was developed by Dr. Stuart Ablon, working on the premise that “given the right circumstances, (these youth) will do the right thing.”

“It’s our job to figure out” the tools they need to be successful, said Paxton.  Each of the students and staff members wore a celebratory T-shirt, proclaiming, “My future is so bright I need shades.”

A new sculpture just installed on the campus uses the sun as its theme and was a gift to Steve Shapiro from his family for a milestone birthday.  Made by Don Drumm of Akron, it is a stainless steel work of art incorporating an abstract sun to symbolize “optimism and a bright future,” Steve Shapiro said.

The Shapiros of Wooster made the lead donation for the renovation of the former administration building into the Cheryl and Steve Shapiro Center for the Expressive Arts, a center celebrating and facilitating all art forms. It opened last year on Celebration Day.

Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230 or

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