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CHD honors volunteers

SPRINGFIELD — Center for Human Development (CHD) volunteer Judy Cohen and Jennifer LaValley, educational director of CHD's Terri Thomas Girls program, were honored as "Visionary Women of Excellence" at the Common Ground Awards on June 11, at the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. Cohen, a resident of Long-meadow and a retired guidance counselor at Agawam Public Schools, and LaValley, who lives in Ludlow, were recognized for their work at CHD's Terri Thomas Girls Program, helping the young residents produce a collection of poems and writings called "Searching within."
"As you read what the girls wrote, I know you will feel their anger, their pain, their lack of trust and their desire to be loved by a family," Cohen wrote in the book's introduction. "I know, too, that you will be impressed by their insight and shocked by their endurance. Some of their stories are seared with grief and longing, yet they have managed to survive."
The Terri Thomas Girls program, located on Tinkham Road, provides detention, stabilization, and short-term treatment services to court-involved female adolescents referred by the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS). The program was named in memory of Terri Yvonne-Cherie Thomas, a former DYS caseworker who was murdered in 1996. Despite its secure residential setting, the program recognizes that healthy growth and fostering relationships are the means and goals of these young women's psychological development. The awards were presented by Unity First News, an online publication that focuses on the African-American community, locally and nationally.
"The inspiration of Judy Cohen and Jennifer LaValley should certainly be celebrated," John Roberson, vice president of CHD's Children and Families programs, said. "Their ability to create a safe and non-judgmental environment allowed the girls to openly express themselves through their writings, which is a demonstration of the many talents they possess."
"Searching within" is available for reading or free downloading at CHD's Web site, www.chd.org.
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