A View from Glen Hill: It takes a village…

I recently discussed with two of my friends who are Wilton High School students their work at Ambler Farm. Maggie Cummins and Sam Schmitt described how transformative the experience has been for them and for the many other young people who work there. The program is led by Kevin Meehan, who is also a science teacher at Cider Mill School. He and his colleague, “Farmer Jonathan” Kirschner, are clearly much loved by their young workers.

Young people tend the animals, the gardens, and even the fields, using tractors no less!

Some help with maple-syrup collection and watch the sheep-shearing, and everyone participates in special events that include, among many other things, bonfires, camp-outs, field trips, and, of course, Ambler Farm Day. A few of the older youth become mentors assuming greater responsibility for the work, and one of the regular programs links special-needs students with these older youth and also with younger ones as their buddies.

Ambler Farm instills in our young people a sense of compassion for the land, animals, and the environment that extends to each other and beyond. In the words of one parent, “It fosters the growth of hard-working, confident, compassionate, and grounded youth who know what it’s like to be both leader and follower, to be cared for and to watch out for others, to welcome new life and to watch the life of a loved animal pass, to watch the earth change from season to season.”

Hearing this parent describe the Ambler Farm experience, I was reminded of the adage “it takes a village,” as I was reminded again by the valedictory sermon of Brian Angerame, the soon-to-be retiring chief lay officer of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Among his remarks, Brian included a moving description of the role of his faith community as an integral part of the raising of his and Jennifer’s children.

As I reflected on these comments, I thought broadly across the whole of our town and felt how fortunate we are to be part of a long-standing fabric of institutions and individuals who actively participate in the raising of our kids. It was very much the case when Becky’s and my kids were growing up here (long ago now!), and it surely continues to be the case today. This engaged life in community that is so much a part of Wilton and means so much to all of us, adults of all ages and also, and especially, our children, is evident around us everywhere.

We see it in teachers at our schools (public, private, day, and nursery) who go far beyond the requirements to give our kids a foundation for a life well-lived in the broadest sense.

We see it in our sports teams’ coaches. In fact, I was told recently by a parent whose child is now a graduate student that the letter he received from his fifth grade coach at the end of the season has remained one of his prized possessions, carefully treasured even now, years later.

We see it in Wilton Youth Services’ leadership, in the Wilton Youth Council, in school board members and administrators, in the leaders of Positive Directions, Peer Connection, PeerVention, Parent Connection and Youth-to-Youth, in Wilton Library, Y and Trackside staff, in our clergy, choir directors, and youth group leaders, in school resource officers and health care professionals, in scoutmasters, in Police Explorers’ and WVAC leadership, in Parks and Recreation staff and volunteers, in those who work in theater, music, and dance ranging from lively children’s concerts and productions through blockbuster high school performances, in Wilton businesses that offer employment opportunities to our youth where much is learned, in child care professionals (including babysitters, many with professional credentials now) who guide as well as watch our children, and in others all around town.

This necessarily all-too-brief recitation of those forming community for our young people hardly begins to do justice. The full list would be enormously long even focusing only on those working with young people and not beginning to address the many other things we do so effectively in community.

As we wrestle with what sometimes seem to be really big issues in town, it’s well to step back and consider all the good here. It’s especially fitting to do so as the new year begins, to think about our town in this broader context as community with so many working together for the greater good, and to reflect on how enormously enriched we all are by that great collective gift.

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.