A Castleton student answered her cell phone in early April, completely unaware of the bad news that was set to follow. Katie Sprowl, a CSC senior majoring in Social Work, was told that she no longer had a job. Her place of employment, the Sand Hill Residential Community for Young Women in Castleton, had closed.
“I was stunned,” Sprowl said. “I had no clue that this could happen like it did — no warning.”
Sprowl was one of more than two-dozen Sand Hill employees let go earlier this month. The facility functioned as a “detention/crisis stabilization program” for teenage girls deemed “at-risk” by the state – the only one of its kind in Vermont.
Sand Hill was shut down due to administrative problems supporting and supervising the program from its base, Spectrum Youth Services, located 60 miles away in Burlington, Vt.
The at-risk teens staying at Sand Hill have been moved into other temporary shelters and foster care providers in the state.
The program’s closing also hit many at CSC close to home.
“Castleton had a strong internship relationship with Sand Hill,” said Chrispin White, Director of Community Service and Internships at Castleton. “These opportunities have been great for our students because they would receive internship credit and they were paid.”
In the past, Castleton has generally sent between two and four interns to Sand Hill each semester. Students majoring in Social Work and Psychology received academic credits serving the facility as case managers and overnight staff.
The shift hours available were particularly beneficial to students looking to earn some money and earn credits while also balancing a full academic schedule.
“[The] work hours were good,” Sprowl said. “I was able to do overnights, a full caseload of 17 credits, and community service.”
Castleton assistant professor of psychology Gail Regan also credits Sand Hill’s convenience to CSC students, as it provided an option for student internships within a few miles of campus.
“Because of the small size of Castleton, it is a challenge to find internships for students who need to or would like to do a combination of regular class with internship hours,” Regan said. “[Sand Hill] gave students who think they are interested in working with ‘troubled’ adolescents a chance to gain some experience without having to drive to Rutland or further.”
Regan stated that the main problem former student employees of Sand Hill now have, stems from the program’s lack of advance notice of the closing.
Katie Sprowl voiced her distaste for the manner that the closing was announced, as well as lack of explanation from administration, as one of her biggest peeves.
“I was never able to say goodbye to anyone I worked with for two years,” Sprowl said. “I am still not comfortable with what happened and I still do not have any answers.”
Despite Sand Hill’s closing, Castleton students can still earn credits for their time spent at the facility for the spring semester. Students should meet with their faculty advisors to discuss the amount of internship hours earned and what can be done to finalize their internships for credits.
“While the closing of Sand Hill takes away a longtime, consistent community placement for our students, I am confident that we will be able to find other options that will satisfy their internship needs,” Chrispin White said.
Even still, Castleton students like Katie Sprowl are left wondering what to do now, frustrated and searching for answers.
“A lot of the employees who worked there were students and those who [worked] paycheck to paycheck,” Sprowl said. “It seemed wrong. Their [administrative] reasons just don’t seem to fit the bill.