What follows are 25 brief, fun-loving, tongue-in-cheek, descriptions of the individuals that
set out each day to do good works and change things for the better.
Meet anyone of the people below and you've met a work in progress that
is truly remarkable. The listing is in no particular order:
Chris and Zuzana Won't be long before they, along with little Charlie Randa, become the "House Family" at the Life Experience School. Just like on Brush Hill Road in Sherborn where Chris grew up with the students as his uncles and aunts, he now passes this wonderful experience on to Lewis and Meg's grandchild Charlie. Nothing quite like having a one year old in our midst -- discovering everything for the first time, with the best caregivers ever to love him up. Can't wait.
Richie If ever there was a guy who thinks of others nonstop and works nonstop to get things done, it's this workhorse from Onset. Go ahead, ask him to help you do a task, then be prepared to get out of his way 'cuz this guy means business. Thoughtful beyond belief, ask him to remind you to do something and you better plan on doing it 'cause he's not going to let you change your mind. Going to Home Depot, mowing the lawn and caring for the dogs are among his favorite jobs, though anything that pleases another person is his delight. But more than any other, it is Sandra he pays closest attention to as they have been an item going on 21 years. True love it is. And oh yes, there was one other girl in his life; he had the distinction of being the personal attendant to Emily the Cow for over 8 years.
Kerri This smile is what we live for. She loves to bake and listen to soft rock on the radio and spending overnights with Lizzy. When Kerri is excited about something, her joy fills the building and makes everyone happy too. If ever there was someone who should own shares in Dunkin Donuts, it's this smiley gal who orders "medium ice coffee, heavy on the milk, with extra ice, three splendas, chocolate sprinkles and hot cup holder with a glazed stick" exactly in that order. And you guessed it, they start making it when they see her coming through the door. But for the server across the counter, it's Kerri's bright smile early in the morning that provides the "natural caffeine".
Bobby Everyone would agree that this guy is a blast to be around and can be counted on to over see any task. He especially loves yoga and going to Human Rights meetings. Bobby works at the animal shelter where he cares for dogs and cats, served as the manager of the Peace Abbey Gift Shop for 15 years, works at Pretty Paws across the street and is the Human Rights representative for the School. Of all the people here, Bobby ranks at the top for being the most heart-felt and gentle-spirited. To sit next to him during Morning Meeting at the Peacemakers Table at UMASS Bosotn is to get as close to St. Francis as one is allowed in this lifetime. Being with Bobby is a form of therapy if you're having a less than perfect day. His gentleness and loving nature make you believe peace in the world is possible.
Cal He is a master baker and can be found at the stove each morning baking horse treats called Mollys Cookies by the dozens with his business partner Lizzy. He is also quite a culinary instructor as he can teach
the fine art of baking to anyone interested in paying close attention
to his choreographed moves around the school kitchen center island. With a key chain replete with meaningful symbols and keys dangling from his belt, Cal makes a fashion statement for various causes with what he wears, though now a days he prefers sporting his "Lumpy's" T-shirt given to him by his boss. Cal continues to love riding horses at August Farm in Holliston. When it comes to caring for horses, Cal can really be counted on. He is also the "go to" tech guy for wii games system and video/dvd programming. He has a knack for figuring out how to connect things to the TV. Good thing, 'cause during the day, no one else has a clue but Cal.
Ruthanne Always calm, collected and instructive, she is there each day to help everyone better understand how best to handle an issue or cunundrum -- and is fast with great ideas for projects, possessing a knack for coming up with terrific student-run business concepts. Baking and cooking with our group are among her greatest joys -- and making sure everything falls into place with relationships, jobs in the community and Special Peace Corps projects (and anything in between) define her trademark. Now a Grandmother, Ruthanne shares her loving energy, skills and talents with everyone equally and consistently, each and every day but stores up grandmother love for her little ones. Her involvement at the School dates back to 1975 at the farm on Brush Hill Road in Sherborn. Together with Meg, she handles the duties and responsibilities of working with state agencies and with the families of our individuals. Bringing out the best in this little extended-family is what she is all about ... and so much more.
Jeff Never without his guitar in hand, Jeff is a consummate kidder who never leaves a conversation without putting in his 2 or 3 or 10 cents worth of spin that is reminiscent of the Smothers Brothers. He is always concerned about all his friends and making sure that each and every day goes smoothly. He is often referred to as the "hall monitor" as he always updates everyone as to what's going on around the corner. Jeff is also the handyman and over the years worked with Lewis and Richie at the Peace Abbey. He offers a presence that is unique and extraordinary in ways that are bionic, yet whimsical. Go ahead and try to get a straight answer out of this guy. He's at least five steps ahead of everyone ... but pretends he's not as his sense of humor is quick, rapid fire and "back at cha". Everyone loves everything about Jeff, which in itself attests to his bionic nature.
Ian When he
joined us in December of 2010, Ian injected a heightened level of appreciation
for music and sports and, get this, wrestling. That's right, he even
got Lewis to watch a few matches on Youtube which no one thought was
possible. His father is a rock and roll star (with Max Creek) and as
they say, the apple doesn't fall far from tree. Ian's voice and style
of singing comes through on special occasions like at Boston College,
Holliston High and when ever he is called upon to set the mood for an
event. His first visit to a school activity was when he participated in
a protest at the entrance of the Boston offices of Goldman Sachs where
he helped stuff a 9
foot statue of Gandhi in the revolving doors
in protest to what Wall Street did to the economy. Having sampled what
the School is all about, he then applied to attend. Ian loves going to Music Go Round in Natick where he sings and learns the retail music business through osmosis. He sports around in his
blue power chair that has given him a new sense of freedom. Check him
out on facebook. He is gem in every respect. And to this day, the folks from Occupy Boston will remember this young lad who sang his heart out in front of the statue of Gandhi. If charisma had weight, Ian would weigh a ton.
Elisabeth Our star equestrian and Special Olympian has won a wall full of medals and received the special blessing of Tommy Smith, '68 Mexico City Gold Medalist. She also bakes Cupid's Cookies with Cal and enjoys singing lessons with Ted. Her smile and wonderfully positive energy brightens our days. She works at Temple Emannuel in Newton and the Clothes Closet in Holliston. She loves overnights at the Lavender House and going out to dinner at Victory Lanes across the street. Always smiling and happy-go-lucky, Lizzy is the sweet spot here at the Life Experience School. Ask anyone and that's what they will tell you. It's all about Lizzy and her spunky energy and whimsical way. She is joy personified and happens to be a wizard on her ipad and enjoys facetime with close friends.
Paul It all started in1972 with Paul. When his mother Neita decided to send her son to a brand new school on a nearly condemned, dilapidated chicken farm 20 miles from their home in Roslindale, the Life Experience School seed was planted. Riding to and from school in a late model ford pickup truck driven by Lewis, Paul got hooked on being free ... it was our version of Woodstock. He loved getting out of that stuffy special ed classroom and into nature with farm animals and people who knew how to learn by doing things important to them. Over a period of 40 years, this guy has been beyond belief. He is known affectionately as "the ladies man" -- just ask Meg or
Ruthanne. Paul lives with his brothers and his loving dad George who tends to Paul like his late mother Neita did for so many years. If you ask who is the most important person at the Life Experience School, Paul's name would roll off your tongue without giving it a second thought. He is pictured here with Meg because, now blind, she is who he thinks of constantly.
Corty If you haven't seen Corty around, you must have your head in the sand. From Quincy to Sherborn to Millis and beyond, there are Corty sightings and legions of Corty Fans. And how could it be otherwise as this guy's personality is so magnetic that people will drop what they're doing to touch base with him, then leave the conversation with a smile both on their face and in their heart. Being one of the first students at the School in 1972, along with his spiritual brother Paul, Corty is living proof that the Life Experience School nurtures and celebrates and embraces those qualities of heart and mind that matter most. He is charming, kind, smart as they come, and loves telling stories about his life that seem impossible. For those who don't live in the area, you may have seen him on the evening news or in the Boston Globe when he, along with others at the School, handcuffed himself to a chain that blocked off the front entrance of the Statehouse in an attempt to get the name of the agency DMR changed. Well, 10 years later, the name got changed and Corty was honored at the very Statehouse where he was busted. This guy is definitely the coolest criminal around. Ask his friends at the restaurant/pub across the street what they think of him and you'll see a twinkle in their eye, a grin on their face and a slight nod of the head that suggests they know something -- and they're not talking. Gotta love Corty: the unofficial Mayor of the Town of Sherborn.
Meg The joy, vitality and
creativity that has come to characterize the Life Experience School
require the involvement of everyone, but especially Meg who for 3
decades awakens each morning with her husband Lewis to co-create the
dream of a place we call the Life Experience School. With the care a
mother bear gives her cubs, Meg looks after everyone as though they were
family. And rarely seen without the School's mascots, Chester the Collie, Kaia, the
Golden Retriever and Meg's love of animals is ever
present. Like her daughter Abbey, her love of horses has created the
School's equestrian program which is centered at August Farm in
Holliston. Meg is the touchstone for parents
and state agencies as she and Ruthanne work collaboratively to meet the
ever-changing needs of each person and animal at the School. She is, as everyone would agree, the heart and soul of the
place as she has devoted well over half her life to keeping the dream
alive with a level of devotion and love that serves as a halo around the
Jim When visitors arrive at either the Life Experience School or the Abbey Peace Memorial Park in Sherborn,they are likely, if they are lucky, to meet up with Jim who will give their first tour. Through Jimmy's eyes, one not only gets an understanding of the people and activities that go on daily, but also a political interpretation as well. He is a walking encyclopedia with a built in GPS, standing 6'5" with a gentleness as great as his size. Always there to drive people when they need to get places, make deliveries or assist in any way, Jimmy is central to the full and efficient operation of the School. Jim looks after everyone like a big, very big, brother who truly cares. He is ever so bright; a person of enormous integrity, genuine kindness and honesty who can claim the distinction of being the only person around that never gets lost when behind the wheel of an automobile. Need to drive somewhere and want directions, short cuts or a heads-up on speed traps? Just ask Jim.
Phil For this guy, it's sports, sports, sports. Ask him anything about the Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins and Patriots and he'll recite statistics with accuracy and give you a blow by blow account of the latest game. A few years ago he won the "Golden Ticket Give-A-Way" at the Boston Garden and has tickets to all the games that most people only dream of. He works as a cashier at the Clothes Closet in Holliston, receptionist at a gym as well as the local senior center. Phil is the President of the Sigma Pi Chi frasority at the school and the general spokesperson at events. He is patriotic from head to toe and even sang the National Anthem at a Red Sox Game as well as at a conscientious objector's Mass prior to the soldier turning himself in at Hanscom Air Force Base for going AWOL from the war in Iraq. Phil is a real presence around the place ... he adds real pizazz to the day in unexpected ways.
Maureen aka Moe Every now and again the stars align and someone arrives at LES seemingly having traveled through Strawberry Fields and arrived on Abbey Road! Maureen loves the Beatles, is a huge fan of Boston sports and is animal lover through and through. She is one of those inspiring people who carries herself with dignity and can be counted on to "walk her talk". Maureen has set up her own dog biscuit company at LES where she bakes Buddy's Best Biscuits, named after one of three enormous family dogs she loves and cares for. Now that Kaia, our new Golden Retriever puppy is on the scene throughout the week, Maureen has to juggle baking with puppy care and all the other things going on at LES. One of the things she says she likes most about this "school of life" is that every day is different. Gotta get used to making room for something that just popped up in the course of the day, is the rule of thumb at LES. Maureen loves to sing, is genuinely interested in the lives of others and exemplifies a person who practices the Golden Rule. Thoughtful, engaging and eager to be involved in everything best describes this wonderful spirit that arrived out of the blue one day last summer. And what a lucky day it was for all of us at the Life Experience School.
Mike If you're looking for a good time,
find time to be with this guy and attach your wagon to his as there is
something about Mikey, as he is affectionately called, that attracts everyone at the School. A lifelong
member, he is now the "go to" person for all computer questions and
problems, a lover of animals, a musician with guitars and drums and
organs sharing his living space, an avid sports fan and is an award-winning director/editor at a Boston advertising firm. Mikey has more
things going on in more places with more people under more pretenses
than the rest of us combined. He takes first time skiers on down hill
adventures of a lifetime in Vermont, only to jet them out to LA to
actor's camp and back again before they barely have time to catch their
breath. Keeping up with Mikey is a must as a whirlwind of
good-time-blessings are sure to follow.
Sheila Though she primarily works with Phil, she has a special relationship with everyone and is the Human Rights Officer at the School. To be with Sheila is to appreciate a person of boundless energy that is focused on helping more people in more places than any one person can wrap their head around. Her straight talking, no nonsense approach to problem-solving at the School, coupled with her commitment to achieving the goals of the program make it easy to understand why she was chosen to be honored by the Metrowest Daily Newspaper with "Distinction" as a public servant. With her late son Matthew never far from her thoughts, she is drawn to service like a bee to honey as she defines her days by how much good she has done.
Nancy Our Yoga Guru who arrives each Wednesday to lead the most wonderful classes on the floor of the living room of the school. Her knowledge, skill and love for yoga, and all things wholesome and healthy, remind us to be patient and kind and mindful of our friends. She not only leads the Yoga classes, but so loves us all that we feel blessed when she's here. Nancy's devotion to the individuals at the School and the principles of health and love and kindness upon which the school was founded are found in her very being. She is yoga personified for those fortunate enough to benefit from her teachings, guidance and love. Below is the website for the studio in Holliston where she offers yoga classes to the public.
Sandra She was the first girl in the School which makes her Queen Mother to all of us here ... and the heart throb of Richie, her devoted sweetie going on 21 years. Now that's love! Sandra is the banner maker, cookie baker, cat fight faker and dancing mover and shaker. She also loves to deliver bread to the homeless, serve lunch to the elders at Pilgrim Church in Sherborn and work on the world map machine when time allows. And as for her wardrobe, all her clothes are handmade with love by her mum Joyce, who just happens to be one of the founding mothers who taught pottery at the School for decades. Sandra's sisters Annette and Ronnie look after her with TLC, as does Rob, Annette's husband who is like a father to her. It's often been said, if you had to trade places with anyone, it would be Sandra, as even the Angels crave for the love she is surrounded by.
Mary Everyone loves the days when our bookkeeper comes to work in the back office in the recreation building. She always finds time to talk to everyone and find out what's been happening since she was here last. Mary keeps a handle on all the bills and sees to it that the billion little receipts are in order and ready for the audit and maintains the books with utmost care. Rarely do you have a person so good with numbers, equally as good with people. Her uplifting personality and genuine interest in the lives of everyone makes her the ultimate bookkeeper this side of heaven.
Ted Teacher, singer, tap dancer and all around music man, Ted not only gives singing lessons to Lizzy and tunes Jeff's guitar, he tap dances like Mr. Bojangles himself. When it comes to performances and special events, Ted adds those awesome personal elements with our students that help everyone appreciate their musical talents and gifts which everyone has ... but just need nurturing. He and his wife Pamela are awesome performers and dear friends of the School and Abbey.
Charlie with Papa Lewis The youngest member of the Life Experience School who comes in on Mondays to remind everyone what they were once like when just one year old. The son of Christopher and Zuzana, this little guy is turning the place upside down with the help of everyone who just loves playing with him for the short time he's there. To see Charlie with Kaia, our 6 month old Golden puppy, is to witness unharnessed frolicing with no holds barred. Like his daddy Christopher, he'll no doubt learn to be ornery from what the gang at school teaches him -- especially Bobby. What goes around, comes around. Charlie is the third generation of Randas at LES. OMG
Abbey and Cupid Like her two brothers, Abbey has been a part of the Life Experience School since her birth as she grew up with the students as her caretakers and friends. A recent graduate of the University of Delaware, Abbey's love of horses led her to become co-captain of the equestrian team and assistant riding instructor here. Abbey is never far from horses, or simply just horsing around with the gang. She does overnights with the girls at Lavender House and enjoys finding time to pitch in at the School which everyone looks forward to. Her fun-loving style of relating to everyone is contagious, so needless to say, everyone loves it when Abbey walks through the door. Several of the members went to the hospital to see her when she was born, then bottle fed her and cared for her like a member of the family.
Lewis The lives and message of peace and
nonviolence of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. continue to
motivate his every move ... and he never stops moving. The words
of RFK during the '68 presidential campaign sum up his modus operandi -
"Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that
never were and say why not." Lewis can be found at the School, the Abbey Peace Memorial Park or working in the new Peace Room at the University of Massachusetts Boston dreaming up projects that have never been done before and
participating with members of the School in social justice causes. His
kids say he can't help himself. Bobby calls him "Loudog", but no one
else is allowed to. Spend the day with Lewis and you'll cover more ground
and idea territory than you're normally accustomed to. With Meg, he rises each morning with the Life Experience School dream on his mind. That's what gives him that spring in his step.