Ethel's Tree of Life was founded in 2003! February, 2012 began our 10th year of service!
Branching Out has successfully provided group mentor and recreation based transition training for youths and young adults who live with any disabilities or special needs since 2003, specifically to ready youths for responsible, productive, and, successful adult lives. Development and understanding of life and work skills is achieved through workshops, peer support groups, family gatherings, community based activities and opportunities, life skills trips, and, student volunteerism. Student accomplishments and learning experiences include workshops such as “Human Communication” in which all forms of human communication…the arts, symbolism, speech, the written word, body language...were explored and experienced so that students could gain a more comprehensive understanding of ways that they could communicate with other people; and “So, I’m Going to be an Adult, Part 1 Get a Job”. Other activities have included a recent Life Skills Trip to Old Quebec where students stayed at a hostel, helped to prepare our meals, explored the old city, participated in Winter Carnival events (including the spectacular Night Parade), went dog sledding in the Canadian wilderness, and, toured the Ice Hotel; and, our Summer Activities are fully developed promoting Independent Living Skills with various camp oers and day trips to explore the many and varied city and country areas in Maine and New Hampshire. Each week, Ethel’s Tree of Life presents two groups, our Biddeford Group and our South Berwick Friday Grou, wherein students mentor each other, participate in a peer support group, have a workshop, an activity, and participate in a nutrition segment. Once weekly, students have the opportunity to socialize at our ETL Café’. All activities promote student growth and development in an integrated environment where they often express that, with ETL, they don’t feel “different”. Soon to be launched is a Young Mothers Support Group which will provide socialization, resources, and, parenting workshops.
In a very integrated environment, peers learn about team building, communication, social behaviors, problem solving, connecting with community and so much more!
Here are some of the activities we have done:
•Development of a nutrition program for youth in transition under a research grant from the Muskie Institute and with the Maine Cooperative Extension Service. Program has been included in a reference brochure produced by the Muskie Institute for distribution in Maine. •Development, under a grant through Maine Mentoring Partnership funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, of our Transition Mentoring Program which is inclusive of Peer Mentoring and Group Mentoring activities. •A fully developed Summer Program •In house youth groups •Urban Hikes to explore nearby cities •Life Skills Trips to Philadelphia, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Montreal, New York City, and Old Quebec •ETL In-House Food Program to help promote healthy living by increasing access to healthy foods for our ETL families. •Presenting at the first national Aspire Conference for Youth with Disabilities (two ETL youth were presenters and volunteers at the conference; ETL was recognized by Dr. Roy Grizzard, Sec. of the Dept. of Labor). •Connections with Maine CareerCenters, NH Works •A Summer Youth Employment Program under the NH Dept. of Education/WIA Funded •Proclamation by Governor Baldacci of an Ethel’s Tree of Life Day throughout the State of Maine.