The following alumni testimonials are sorted from youngest to oldest.
Fulbright Scholar | Middlebury College
Napol Wills attends Middlebury College (VT) on a full scholarship. In March she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study blacks of German descent. In May she will earn her Bachelor's degree with a double major in American Studies and German. Napol is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship Award Recipient. She grew up with cerebral palsy. She was first in her family to attend college. She spent two summers at Longacre. You can read more about Napol in our 2012 appeal for funds for the Longacre Foundation.
"I came to the Farm as an angst ridden teenager, who worried about the future and had a hard time communicating with people. But the Farm taught me to trust my feelings and not to fear risk. I learned to lean on people, ask for help when I need it, and the art of encouraging others. These are skills I still carry with me today. Even though I still worry about the future, I know now that I’m strong enough to handle anything." -Napol Wills
Educator | Keene, NH
Maddie Caplan spent only one summer at Longacre, but it was enough to become the focus of her college essay. She later returned for four summers as a counselor. Maddie graduated from Colby College and is now pursuing a masters in education with Waldorf certification from Antioch University.
"The summer I spent as a thirteen-year-old at Longacre Leadership was without a doubt the most positively influential experience I encountered as a teen. The impact that working hard in a small community, participating in group, sharing responsibility with my peers, and engaging in a myriad of enjoyable activities had on me is one I continue to be thankful for. As a three-year staff member, I feel so fortunate to be able to share in these experiences as they are occurring for the farmers." -Maddie Caplan
Producer | Denver
Scott Posilkin spent six summers at Longacre as a camper. He graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder and now works at NBCUniversal.
"Longacre was without a doubt the defining experience of my teenage years. My six summers at the farm beginning when I was 12 taught me invaluable lessons which continue to shape who I am to this day. Whether in deep conversation with someone from a different background, milking the goats, or stargazing in the fields, every moment at Longacre was a gift. I made life long friends, have cherished memories, and made realizations about who I am that will last my entire life, and would never have been possible anywhere else." -Scott Posilkin
MBA Candidate | Chicago
After graduating from Williams College, Teri Hoffman worked as a senior associate at Deloitte. Teri is currently an MBA Candidate at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She spent three summers at the farm as a teenager.
"My summers at Longacre were some of the best ones of my youth. Not only was it incredibly fun living with 71 other kids for four weeks, but I also gained insight into myself and interpersonal skills that were really helpful in college and as a consultant. Knowing that Booth values emotional intelligence, I wrote one of my admissions essays about the farm, and now that I'm experiencing it, this is definitely the right school for former farmers. The only required class here is a leadership course, where we give each other feedback and try to become better communicators and team members. I am well prepared because Group made me comfortable with self-reflection and accepting feedback. As an aside, bragging about superior tractor-driving skills has proven to be a great conversation starter!" -Teri Hoffman
Attorney | Los Angeles
Celina Kirchner spent four summers at Longacre as a teenager and one as a counselor. She has since graduated from Yale University and USC Gould School of Law. She is an attorney at Michelman & Robinson, LLP in Los Angeles. She recently passed the California bar exam.
"Longacre was a true haven for me. Growing up in Los Angeles as a teenager, I got so wrapped up in the day-to-day drama and relentless schedule of high school life that I rarely had time to focus on personal growth and development ... or just having fun! Longacre afforded me the opportunity to learn how to develop deep and meaningful connections with my peers and how to slow down and find fun in the simple activities of day-to-day life. As an added bonus, I was the only person on my freshman year floor who arrived to college with a hammer and knew how to use it. Ikea futon? Not a problem! I still utilize the skills I gained at the farm on a daily basis when communicating with friends and colleagues. Longacre was a truly unique experience, and I cannot imagine my life without such a positive influence in my life." -Celina Kirchner
Educator | Boston
MyHanh Tran Ozonoff spent one summer at Longacre with the help of Summer Search. She did her undergraduate work at Boston College and received her master's in education at Boston University. At The Steppingstone Foundation, she does logistics and works on behalf of Boston middle schoolers and their families applying to exam and independent schools.
"Growing up in the noise of Boston, I did not have much quiet space to question and explore adolescence. However, Longacre became that place for me. In a loving and caring environment, I learned to appreciate and nurture the earth and its animals. I learned to be responsible for my feelings and actions as a member of a community. I learned how to laugh and play in the rain. At Longacre, I learned how to be free. Over a decade later, Longacre remains one of the few experiences that have left an indelible mark on my life." -MyHanh Tran Ozonoff
Pianist | New Orleans
Andrew Holbein grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and spent five summers at Longacre both as a teenager and a counselor. After graduating from Wesleyan University in 2006 he moved to New Orleans to help with recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He has spent seven years working for the City and for housing non-profits. He is passionate about music, playing organ and piano in several venues.
"Longacre had a huge and very positive impact on my life. It helped me improve my communication skills, increased my confidence and introduced me to life long friends. I miss those beautiful summer days on a Pennsylvania farm. I can't recommend Longacre highly enough to parents and teens. It is a unique and fantastic summer program." -Andrew Holbein
Education Innovation | Cambridge, MA
Val Beilenson spent four summers at Longacre as a teenager and a counselor. She did both her undergraduate work and graduate work at Harvard University and never left, first working in Harvard College admissions and now serving as assistant director for HarvardX, a university initiative to integrate the development of instructional approaches and digital tools across Harvard’s campus and around the world by providing faculty with pedagogical and research support.
"I was never a fan of traditional summer camp, but Longacre was a completely different experience. The focus on building community and pushing yourself have served me just as well in life as they did on the farm. While my peers were getting summer internships at investment banks and consulting firms the summer after junior year of college, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to go back to Longacre as a "big kid" as soon as I turned twenty-one. There's no question in my mind that I'm a more open, relaxed and self-aware person because of my time at at the farm. Plus, it's a lot of fun to be able to say you know how to drive a tractor, bale hay and cook for 90 people!" -Valerie Beilenson
Clinical Psychologist and College Professor | New York City
Matthew Oransky is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center. Prior to that he was a Clinical Psychology Fellow at the Yale Child Study Center. Matt did his undergraduate work at Swarthmore College and his graduate work at Fordham University. He spent four summers at Longacre as a teenager and another 3, years later, as a counselor.
"What I learned at the farm (as a kid and a big kid) is so intricately entwined in my daily life and my work: the importance of empowering each kid to have a voice that feels like it matters and a belief in their own efficacy; the importance and power of connection, community and support and, most poignantly, of truly being known and understood by others." -Matthew Oransky
Chef and Homemaker | Los Gatos, California
Michael Hammer-Lahav spent four summers at Longacre in the 1990s. He lives with his husband Eran and twins Zoe and Josh on a farm in Los Gatos, CA.
"The four summers I spent at Longacre were a crucial part of making the me the person I am today. When I arrived for my first summer I didn't know what to expect. I was looking for an alternative to the more sports-oriented camps I had attended in the past –- places I never felt a part of. Being at Longacre that first summer gave me a sense of belonging that I didn't know I could feel. For the first time I could remember I was able to really share my feelings and express myself openly. Though I struggled for a few more years before coming out, the seeds of my own acceptance were sowed in Group and in the relationships I formed at Longacre. Almost 20 years after leaving Longacre, I continue to talk about my experiences and the way that they shaped me. I brought my husband back to Newport (a rather long detour) when we were traveling in Pennsylvania so that he could see the place that I have so lovingly described to him. And I am hoping that my 9-year-old children will soon spend their first summer at Longacre, and hopefully love it as much as I always did." -Michael Hammer-Lahav
Special Educator | Holliston, Massachusetts
Liz Stam Kelly spent three summers at Longacre as a teenager and returned for five summers (plus winters) as a program director. She did her undergraduate work at Dickinson College and received her masters in special education from Cambridge College. Her husband Ian, an elementary school principal, was also on our staff. They have two young children.
"Longacre was the place I was always looking for as a child and teenager; a place where I felt listened to, heard and understood. Open and honest communication were and still are imperative to me to create successful relationships. Longacre framed how to communicate in a way that was caring of others while truly sharing myself. Those skills transfer over to my life every day, as a special educator, mother, wife and friend." -Liz Stam Kelly
Green Builder (Jon) and Writer (Cordelia) | Philadelphia
Jon and Cordelia Jensen collectively spent 27 summers at Longacre, and many winters. They met here as teenagers and subsequently became staff members and ultimately directors. Cori is a Young Adult writer, bookseller, and creative writing teacher. (Her verse novel SKYSCRAPING is forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin.) She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, the first MFA program in the country to focus exclusively on writing for young people. Jon works at MaGrann Associates encouraging more environmentally sound building practices and facilitating new construction and gut rehab project certification in LEED.
"As I was growing up, Longacre was the place where I became my best self. The opportunity to do real, meaningful projects helped me to come to the realization that my actions had a noticeable impact on the world. Hearing caring adults and teenagers tell me how they really felt -- how they saw me, was a gift I did not know I wanted until I received it. Many of my life’s passions are activities I first encountered at Longacre, including carpentry, organic gardening and cooking. Learning to communicate with people in a direct, caring way has been a huge advantage for me personally and professionally." -Jon Jensen
"Longacre was the first place that ever made me feel like my sensitivity was something to be proud of -- that it was actually a useful tool that I could use in Group. Longacre also felt safer to me than any other place I had ever been. Because I knew there, among those people, I would receive honest feedback, something that was not available to me in other places. I use the skills I learned at Longacre everyday when I practice active listening and try to see the world not just from my perspective but from other people's too. I carry the Longacre philosophy inside me and I use it as a parent, as a writer and as a teacher. It is a life-changing and life-validating place." -Cordelia Allen Jensen
Executive Recruiter | Boston
Dana is a partner and VP at Commongood Careers, a mission-driven search firm that supports the hiring needs of high-impact nonprofits around the country (including Summer Search, a partner to us for 20 years and counting, helping make the Longacre experience possible for dozens and dozens of low-income students from all over the U.S.). Dana's first job, an international exchange program that recruited students from around the world to work at summer programs in the U.S., allowed her to travel all over the globe, from Slovakia to Ghana. Dana received her Bachelor's from Stanford University. She now lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with her two sons, Mo and Sammy, her husband, Jay, and their Norwich terrier, Gus. Dana spent two summers at Longacre as a teenager and, later, one as a counselor. She still picks up her guitar from time to time, but mainly to make up silly songs with her kids.
“The farm was a transformational experience for me, both as a camper and a big kid. Not only did the experience test my physical limits (who knew I could happily shovel dung or fix a barn fence for hours?) but it also mapped a blueprint for values that I still honor today: authenticity, risk-taking and community. For a relatively sheltered kid from the suburbs, the farm taught me that there is truth and reward in sharing my true self with others. Some of my fondest memories trace back to my time at Longacre.” -Dana Hagenbuch
Commercial Real Estate Developer | New York City
Damon Hemmerdinger spent three summers at Longacre Farm in the 1980s. As co-president of ATCO he is a real estate developer, builder, and investment manager. He is chairman of the board of AmericaSpeaks, a national non-profit deliberative democracy organization. Damon graduated from Williams College and Yale Law School. He lives with his wife and twin daughters in New York City.
"I grew up at Longacre and would not be the person I am today without my experiences in Perry County. I learned life skills that are core to my being -- construction and driving a tractor, sweeping, mounting a community theater performance, cooking for 90 people, exploring caves, from communication skills to leadership skills. I treasure my time at the farm, as do my children, who have been visiting since they were 4-years-old." -Damon Hemmerdinger
Educator | Chicago
A native of Long Island, Lila Leff spent five summers at Longacre in the 1980s and 1990s, first as a camper and later as a counselor. In 1997 she founded Umoja Student Development Corporation in Chicago, serving as the organization's CEO until 2010. There, she received national media attention for her success in preparing inner city students for college. Now, Lila is an educational consultant for Umoja and for the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University, founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to transform the public schools of New Orleans. Lila is married with two young sons.
"I left Longacre as a more well-rounded person than when I arrived. The gifts and life lessons from my time there have been some of the deepest and most important of my personal and professional life. I learned to be brave physically and emotionally, to try things that were new and challenging, to solve problems strategically, to communicate more effectively and to understand that working cooperatively, collaboratively and with empathy are as essential to my own success as they are to the success of the people I work with." -Lila Leff
Organizational Psychologist | Madrid
James consults in the areas of market research and organizational psychology. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Madrid, Spain. After graduate school, James began private practice in New York City. Later, he founded a consulting business. He received his Ph.D. is in clinical psychology from The Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, the nation’s first university-based professional school of psychology. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. James spent six summers at Longacre in the 80s and 90s as a teenager, a counselor, and, ultimately, a director. He was instrumental in the founding of Longacre's sister program, Visions Service Adventures.
"My time at Longacre was incredibly meaningful. I learned new skills in the areas of leadership, communication, carpentry and farming -- skills that I've used ever since in my personal and professional life. I am extremely grateful to all the folks at Longacre who have helped me to be the person and father I am today. I sincerely hope my daughters want to go to Longacre when they are old enough." -James Rosow
Commercial Real Estate | Chicago
Michael Kavanau is a Senior Managing Director and co-office head of the Chicago office of HFF (NYSE: HF) with 25 years in commercial real estate. In 2013 HFF was ranked the #1 financial intermediary in the world by National Real Estate Investor. Mike received his Bachelor's in English Literature from Brown University.
“It was a life-changing experience, five summers at Longacre in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a magical time, and the people and the place will always stay with me. Two of my children -- Alexandra, currently at Tulane, and Nicholas, currently at Northwestern -- also attended Longacre, for a total of nine summers. (Interestingly, all three of us wrote our college admission essays about the farm.) My wife and I are super proud of the kids, in no small part due to their Longacre pedigree which has set them up for successful careers.” -Michael Kavanau
Author | Washington, DC
Leslie Morgan Steiner is the author of the anthology Mommy Wars, the memoir Crazy Love, and The Baby Chase, an examination of surrogacy’s impact on the American family. Her TEDTalk about relationship violence has been viewed by over one million people. She lives in Washington, DC with her three children, four cats, and one dog. Visit her website at www.lesliemorgansteiner.com.
"I first came to Longacre Farm as a 13-year-old girl growing up in Washington, DC surrounded by lawyers, politicians, and lots of cement sidewalks. I craved a summer of animals, farm work, and learning to drive a tractor and to bale hay. A few life-altering weeks later, I came home transformed into a kid with a hard-charging work ethic, a 360-degree sense of community responsibility, and new skills for expressing my feelings. My mother was most impressed that I came home knowing how to -- and wanting to -- wash all the dinner dishes for my family, including the pots and pans. After that first summer, in some sense I never really left Longacre Farm. I returned to the farm for three additional, transformational summers, and more weekend visits, weddings and reunions than I can count. It’s been over 35 years since then. I’ve lived in Madrid, gone to Harvard and Wharton, survived an early divorce, become the mom to three amazing children, and realized my lifelong dream of becoming a writer. Along the way, the farm has been my second home. I’ve taken the Farm values -- hard work, taking responsibility for every glass I dirtied and every tomato I ate, being candid with myself and others -- everywhere I’ve gone. It’s been especially meaningful to watch my teenaged daughter grow up during her summers at the farm. She left our home that first July as a somewhat cautious, reserved, headstrong child. She came back to us with a striking way with words, along with renewed self-confidence and leadership skills. Plus she washed all the dishes, including the pots and pans, after dinner every night! Now in our discussions about friendships, life’s frustrations, world politics, my daughter often looks at me and says, 'Mom, that person could really use a summer at Longacre Farm.' I couldn’t agree more." -Leslie Morgan Steiner
Updates are current as of Oct. 10th, 2014.