A Lifeline for Students

On a cold December morning, Erin Curry debated whether or not she should go to work. Having never called in sick, she was feeling less than stellar that day, but decided to muscle through. It was a good thing that she did. That day, Curry, who is a full-time counselor for the Housatonic Youth Services Bureau, may have saved a young woman's life.

The Housatonic Youth Service Bureau“I had to make a crisis call that day,” Curry said. “A student came to my office in tears, she just didn't look right. She said she was scared for herself. I stayed with her and her family for the next four hours. I honestly don't know what she might have done if I hadn’t been here.”

The Housatonic Youth Services Bureau serves children and families in the Region One School District of Northwestern Connecticut. HYSB provides free leadership programs, family workshops, internships, and counseling and referral services. In fact, since its establishment in 1991, the bureau's reach has grown considerably and their mission remains simple; to create a supportive, empowering environment for children and their families.

Executive Director Nicholas Pohl cannot imagine the area without it and without Curry, who on average carries a case load of 25 students at any given time. Students at any of Region One’s seven schools can access Curry’s services as needed.

“We're bursting at the seams so we had to start a small waiting list for counseling services,” he said. “A good number of students would not be seeing anybody if Erin wasn't here. It's really heartbreaking because in a lot of cases they don't have anyone to talk to. And this is serious stuff: addiction, abuse, homelessness.”

Although the bureau is “pretty thin-staffed” and at least 40 percent of its operating budget comes from fundraising, the organization reaches deep into the community, seeing hundreds of children from kindergarten all the way on up through twelfth grade. As for down time? There is none.

“We usually schedule appoints with Erin, but there are always drop-ins,” Pohl said. “Just the other day we had a young man come in who said he needed to talk to someone right away. He is on his way to college, his family life seems less than stable, and who knows where he would have driven if he didn't stop here. It makes me wonder.”

Curry doesn't wonder. Experience has taught her that HYSB is a lifeline for students and their families, many of whom are often entering counseling for the first time in their lives. While the work is nothing short of challenging, her efforts, she said, are rewarded tenfold.

“One of my favorite days working for HYSB was the day I attended the graduation at Housatonic Valley. I knew what a challenging year it had been for so many of those students. To see them accomplish such big milestones and to see the love and support of all of their families around them was so rewarding. I am very lucky to be doing this.”

And as for the girl who came in that winter morning, Curry still sees her and her family on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, the young lady is thriving. 

“As time passed, she gradually improved and came a very long way. The most rewarding part is seeing how happy and successful she is now.”

HYSB has been supported by several of Berkshire Taconic’s Donor Advised funds: the Madeleine Beattie Wildes Fund, the W. O. Webb Fund as well as anonymous donors. Their board and staff have benefited from their experience in the Nonprofit Learning Program.

About This Photo
About This Photo
Erin Curry, counselor for the Housatonic Youth Services Bureau. Photo by Michael Lavin Flower. Story by Nichole Dupont