By Laurie Caswell Burke
Perhaps what best describes the Oct. 17 celebration at the Stern Center for Language and Learning’s 30th Annual Meeting are the people who attended. Board members, instructors, former and current staff members, Friends of the Stern Center, and alumni gathered in support of the Stern Center’s compassionate mission: learning for all – because all great minds don’t think alike. The Stern Center evaluates and teaches over 900 children and adults with learning disabilities each year.
At the heart of the mission is founder Blanche Podhajski, who has led the organization with vision, passion, tenacity, grit, and love for the past three decades. Shelburne resident Peter Stern and family are the key reasons the Stern Center is here today. Together with Elizabeth Wallman and her late husband, Lester, the three were the wind beneath Podhajski’s wings, helping shape and create what has become an organization that changes lives.
At the meeting, Stern gave an eloquent keynote address, offering a historical perspective with humor and words of sincere devotion to the Center. Stephanie Hackett, the smiling barista at Village Wine and Coffee, received the prestigious “Above and Beyond Award” for her volunteer work at the Center this past year. Many grateful past students, now members of the workforce, are giving back to the organization that helped them succeed, including new Board members Brian Till (a first-year medical student at UVM and author of “Conversations with Power”) and Sarah Beal (director of marketing and communications at Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce). Graduates shared storied of transformation thanks to the Stern Center’s efforts, an organization which is available to its students throughout their lives.
Stern is often asked if he is associated with the Stern Center. He smiles and says, “Yes,” to which he often hears, “The Stern Center saved my child’s life. Thank you.”
To learn more about the programs and services offered by the Stern Center, please visit www.sterncenter.org.