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Saint Anne Institute Making Strides

April 11, 2013

by Ariana Wilson

An annual, invite only, fundraiser will be held once again this year in order to raise money for school supplies, food, clothing, and other necessities for the girls who attend the Saint Anne Institute.

Last year the “Wine, Dine, and Stein” fundraiser consisted of a formal dinner and auction resulting in the winner of the raffle being flown to Los Angeles to meet the most famous chefs worldwide. This year the focus has changed, centering more on the wine and food, with a silent auction for other prizes.  The fundraiser takes place on  April 26 at the Desmond Hotel.

Saint Anne Institue from West Lawrence Street Ariana Wilson

The Saint Anne Institute, off West Lawrence Street, is a not-for-profit organization which helps troubled girls between the ages of 12 and 18. Most of the girls enrolled in the educational program have been court ordered, or referred to Saint Anne’s by their school districts, based on behavior issues or problems with families.

Like other organizations, Saint Anne faces problems in this struggling economy.  Even though they would like to keep girls until  they are ready to return to their families, and placed back in their respective public schools, time limit restrictions make it difficult to keep each student for more than 18 months. Pat Leonard, head of volunteer services at Saint Anne, said the institute does not try to “cure” all ailments, but educates the girls so that don’t make the same mistakes that landed them in the institution in the first place.

Saint Anne faces a number of financial challenges in addition to underwriting the cost of each girl’s stay.  Students must be fed, dressed, educated, and have readily available medical care- all costly expenditures.  The institution also likes to make the girls comfortable, adding toys and games to the list of supplies the school needs.

To pay for school materials and other necessities the school holds two major fundraisers each year.  One event is the dinner-auction, mentioned above, and the other is a golf tournament in the fall.  Last September the tournament raised more than $38,00  to help aid many of the students and families affiliated with the Saint Anne Institute.

The Institute offers two different programs for its students, one is a day service for those living in the Capital Region, which allows them to live at home while also receiving the schooling and therapy desired for their personal needs.  The other is the residential program for girls who live outside the Capital Region or are in deeper need of attention.  Three fourths of the 800 students are residential.

According to Leonard, it is peer relationships with college students that help facilitate the girls.  Many students seek attention by behaving poorly, and intentionally earning poor grades.  Leonard sees through the walls the girls build up for themselves, knowing that the grades on the paper don’t reflect the IQ of the individual.

“The girls lack social skills and develop a protective demeanor,” Leonard said.

Many of the girls come from situations where the adults and caretakers they know have betrayed them, instilling a feeling of mistrust from older individuals. Students from the University at Albany, Sage College, Siena College, and The College of Saint Rose volunteer and help at the school, and also model good behavior.

A quilt made from student artwork in the Saint Anne office building Ariana Wilson

Though many colleges participate, they aren’t the only individuals in the Albany area to volunteer their time at Saint Anne’s.  Church groups, corporations, and even banks send volunteers on a regular basis.  These volunteers engage in many different activities with the girls ranging from instructing sports, playing games, or even participating in arts and crafts.  The real focus is giving the girls the attention that they have lacked in their previous years of life.

Volunteer work isn’t a one-way street for the employees and students at Saint Anne’s.  Students from the Institute can be found at local food pantries and soup kitchens, while members of the staff run 5Ks for a multitude of charities. Participating in giving back to the community creates a positive influence on the girls teaching them to give and not only receive, as well as enlightening them to the fact that there are other people in the world with struggles of their own.

Though sometimes there are complaints, members of the community are thankful for the Saint Anne’s Institute for the messages they try to send to the community and the girls.  Local resident, Rebecca Deer, expressed her gratitude:

“A lot of people wouldn’t criticize.  The girls have a lot of counseling and support groups,” but even while some people acknowledge the great things the institute does, there are some who are not so understanding and voice their concerns about the girls with ‘behavior issues’ living so close to their own home. According to Leonard, the school does get complaints, but not enough to make employees think the school is a hindrance on the community. People are joyed to see what the Saint Anne Institute does for the troubled girls.

“People are happy and appreciative of the program,” Mary Beth Musco, assistant executive director of the child care department at Saint Anne said and “we have good neighborhood relations.” -30-


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