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LSS challenge course teams up with Niskayuna crew

ALBANY – Niskayuna crew coaches have had a long standing desire to be available to at-risk youth as well as provide the high school team with a team building activity. LaSalle’s adventure based and experiential learning is an important asset to the agency’s clinical treatment helping young people learn to trust in others, work collaboratively toward a common goal, build positive self-esteem and strength in skills and coping strategies.

Dina McManus, the director of clinical services at LaSalle as well as the parent of a Niskayuna crew member, recognized the opportunity for LaSalle and Niskayuna to exchange expertise and worked with staff from both schools to design the activity. McManus also serves on the board of directors of the Niskayuna crew program.

The first stop was on September 1st at LaSalle where, for six hours, 11 staff members of LaSalle’s clinic, administration and residential program volunteered to join Dominic Cataldo, LaSalle’s experiential learning and challenge course coordinator, to give 54 Niskayuna High School rowers and Crew Coaches Stacy and Burt Apfelbaum opportunities to try both earthbound team building and high element climbing activities. These included walking a tightrope and navigating a vertical playpen, an obstacle course allowing team members to challenge themselves in ways other than climbing, while remaining fully invested in the group’s experience.

Weather permitting, on September 22nd, 20 LaSalle youth along with LaSalle staff will travel from the Niskayuna Boat House onto the Mohawk River assisted by eight Niskayuna crew team members for a three-hour ‘learn to row’ session. To get used to the rigors of rowing on the Mohawk River, Niskayuna Coach Stacy Apfelbaum volunteered her time to work with LaSalle youth over four weeks to help prepare them. Apfelbaum also participated in three adventure based groups at LaSalle to get to know the LaSalle boys so they would feel comfortable with her and vice versa. She brought along Ergs (rowing machines) with her to the third LaSalle adventure based session for our boys to begin to understand the mechanics of rowing, learn the commands they would need to know once the boys were in the boat and on the Mohawk River and to begin practicing strokes. The only requirements for the ‘learn to row’ activity are that LaSalle’s boys know how to swim, will be safe off LaSalle’s campus and have parental permission.

Of course, the expense associated with an academic rowing and crew program are such that LaSalle cannot have a formal program. However, the rewards that this connection with Niskayuna’s program will reap in human nature and learning service to one another are great and have unlimited potential for reciprocal activities in the future. All in all, a win-win for LaSalle students and Niskayuna rowers, each having the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones to share their talents and learn new activities with each other. A valuable take away for all youth will be learning how to trust in themselves and allowing themselves to trust that others will help them and have their best interests in mind in very challenging circumstances.

Watch our website for more about this exciting collaborative experience!

LaSalle School is a leader in programs and services for youth and families in crisis offering a variety of programs designed to meet their needs including specialized residential placement, day service education, and alternative to detention services. The Counseling Center at LaSalle is an OMH and OASAS licensed outpatient behavioral health clinic located at LaSalle School, and currently implementing ACE treatment practices with youth and families. LaSalle is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), and affiliated with the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), and the national Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. LaSalle is a member of The New York State Coalition of 853 Schools.


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