The Voices of New Directions

Staff Spotlight – Melisha Patterson


Melisha Patterson – CSE Family Facilitator

Melisha is the CSE Family Facilitator for all CSE youth from the NYC downstate area. She works with youth referred to Randolph or Wyndham Lawn residential campuses, along with their families. She began working for New Directions in August of 2018. Happy 3-Year Anniversary, Melisha! She attended SUNY Old Westbury Long Island, NY campus, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Community Health and Human Services.

Melisha describes her position as very interesting and multifaceted, beginning with CSE intake
and screening pre-admission, then transitioning to family support after a youth’s admission in
one of our residential programs. She especially enjoys the connection made with families while
empowering and educating them while children are receiving residential services.

Melisha’s favorite part of working at New Directions is having the opportunity to connect and
work with agency employees from all over Western New York, visiting youth on our campuses,
and building relationships with families.

Melisha is always direct and honest with families in order to give them the clearest insight into
their child’s treatment and progress. She is also a faithful and hard worker.
In her free time, Melisha loves going on bike rides and road trips, spending time with family,
trying new foods, relaxing at the beach and planning social events for family and friends. A
unique fact about Melisha is that she is very allergic to shellfish and breaks out in itchy hives if
she eats it…OUCH!!

Melisha, thanks for your dedication to serving children and families!

Back to School!


Every Fall, many children feel anxious about returning to school. This is completely normal.  For students who spent last year in remote or hybrid learning programs due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the traditional back to school anxiety may feel even more overwhelming.  Along with the typical anxieties of class schedules, teacher personalities, maintaining friendships, and wondering what to wear, children may also worry about wearing masks, new school safety protocols, and getting sick.  Although anxiety about returning to school is common it is important to recognize and address the signs and symptoms.  Children may not always be able to put their feelings into words.  Here are a few behavioral clues to look for:

  • Easily upset or angry
  • Difficulty concentrating and staying focused.
  • May be more clingy
  • May be restless or fidgety
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Complaints of stomachaches
  • Diarrhea or constipation

If left unaddressed anxiety can lead to difficulties in school performance as well as an overall decrease in a child’s quality of life.  There are many things you can do to help your child manage their feelings of anxiety.    Here are some things to try:

  • Encourage your child to talk about their feelings.
  • Show love and care. Hug your child often.
  • Prepare your home for back to school by establishing a routine – bedtime, dinnertime, homework time.
  • Remind your child of the good things about school – friends, favorite teachers, learning new things.
  • Use Grounding Techniques – have them identify things using the five senses. What do they see, hear, smell, taste, touch?
  • Give opportunities to burn off steam – exercise, sports, dance, yoga, music, reading, art, journaling.
  • Time with pets can be a great stress relief.
  • Establish a healthy lifestyle by adding theses stress busting foods – spinach, salmon, cashews, avocado, and dark chocolate.
  • Remind them that they are not alone. Many children experience stress and anxiety.


Remember each child is different and what works for one may not work for another.  Keep trying until you find what works best for your child.  If symptoms last more than two weeks and are effecting your child’s quality of life seek help from a professional social worker or therapist.


Written by Dena Balicki, LMSW
School Social Worker
New Directions’ Henrietta G. Lewis Campus School


Happy Retirement, Ed Gargala


Happy Retirement!

Ed Gargala, Residential Services Director

Ed with co-workers in the early 1980s

Ed Gargala, who has been a cornerstone on the Wyndham Lawn Campus, will be retiring from New Directions Youth & Family Services, July 2, 2021. A licensed clinical social worker, Ed has accrued a combined 38 years with Wyndham Lawn / New Directions. Ed’s career also includes serving as a psychiatric social worker at the former Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic and Residential Director at Gateway. 

At age 22, Ed began working as a Child Care Worker at Wyndham Lawn’s Hodge Cottage, which was home to 14 boys. Ed admits that it was a tough job at first, but the kids warmed up to him and he learned the ins-and-outs of the job from his coworkers. 

When Ed started, Jim Coder and Marcia Kramarczyk were also new employees; Ed states they were a big reason that he decided to stay.
Ed tells that Jim in particular encouraged Ed through some of the harder aspects of beginning a new position, for which Ed is extremely grateful, to this day. The advice served him well, as Ed would go on to become a supervisor, social worker, program supervisor, Residential Services Director, as well as mentor, advocate, and friend.

Ed would like to thank Jim, Marcia, and all of the people who guided and supported him through the years. There were many nights where staff would go out for wings and share their experiences, knowledge, and funny stories with one another, and these nights are some of his fondest memories. Pondering his work experience, Ed said, “it made me a better person”.

All who know Ed know he is always working hard and finding solutions. “Find something that you love to do”, is Ed’s advice to young people looking for a workplace that is truly fulfilling, like he found at Wyndham Lawn. Ed encourages new Youth Counselors to learn from their mistakes and persevere, because every experience with the kids is a valuable and educational opportunity.

After retirement, Ed plans to stay active and spend plenty of time with his family! He loves hiking, biking, kayaking, and all manner of sports that he can learn with his children and wife, who is also retired. Ed admits that he’s sure he’ll spend plenty of days relaxing on the couch – certainly well deserved after years of diligently supporting children and staff. 

Ed, thank you for your service, ethic, and dedication to our mission, children, coworkers, and programs. The relationships you’ve forged within the agency and community all benefit the children and families we serve. You’ve made a positive impact at Wyndham Lawn and across New Directions. We wish you all the best!



All of us at New Directions

June Staff Spotlight


Christine Gabrielsen – Controller, Randolph

This month, we are highlighting a very integral member of the Finance Department; our Controller, Christine Gabrielsen! Christine began her journey at New Directions in June of 1994. When she began in the Finance Department, she started by covering for Sheila Searle during her maternity leave, handling Payables and Receivables. What is ironic is that baby girl will soon be on maternity leave herself and also works as an accountant!

Christine received her education at the State University of New York at Brockport and got her bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting. In her current position as Controller, Christine is part teacher and part problem-solver. She teaches members of New Directions’ programs how different variables affect their finances and how to best keep track of agency finances. She also aims to help improve various programs’ successes by helping them set goals to regulate expenses. As a proud member of the Finance Department, Christine must try to take an agency that is ever-changing and make sure it meets both accounting standards as well as federal and state government requirements. Keeping proper track of the numbers across an expansive organization like New Directions is quite a challenge.

Christine’s favorite part of being a New Directions employee is working with the incredible friends she’s made, not only in the Finance Department, but across the agency. Christine is kind, compassionate, silly, and sassy. In her spare time, Christine enjoys hiking with her dog, learning to mountain bike, and kayaking, a hobby she picked up after being introduced to it at New Directions.

Thank you for all you do for us here at New Directions, Christine, we appreciate you!



Celebrating Juneteenth 2021


Juneteenth is Saturday, June 19th, 2021. Keep reading to learn more about the history of the holiday and discover ways to honor, celebrate, and take action.

The History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth, also called Freedom Day, African American Independence Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day, is a holiday celebrating emancipation from slavery in the United States. A combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” this day commemorates the proclamation of freedom for enslaved people in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865.

Excerpt from the Emancipation Proclamation

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863. This was an executive order which declared that enslaved people in the Confederate states were free. However, it wasn’t until June 19,
1865— 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, and 2 months after the Civil War ended— that those enslaved in Galveston, Texas (the westernmost state in the Confederacy) were released from
slavery. On that day, approximately 2,000 Union troops led by Major-General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to announce that the Civil War was over and that the 250,000+ enslaved people in Texas were officially free.


Excerpt from General Order No. 3, read by Major-General Granger in Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865

According to one account cited by Juneteenth of Buffalo: “On the evening of June 19, 1865, thousands flooded the streets of Galveston, rejoicing in their newly announced freedom. The sweet smell of barbecue smoke filled the air. Dancing feet pounded the dirt roads and harmonic voices sung spirituals. This was the day, Juneteenth, that would forever commemorate African American freedom.”

It is important to note, however, that while we celebrate Juneteenth as the end of slavery in the United States, it would take several more months to legally enforce it. Slavery was not formally abolished until December 6, 1865 with the passage of the 13th Amendment, which freed enslaved people in Union territory. 1

Nevertheless, June 19th is recognized as a day of liberation, as a commemoration of the end of chattel slavery in the United States. While celebrations of this day first began in Texas, they have since spread across the nation. Juneteenth has evolved into a way to pay homage to ancestors and celebrate Black culture, liberation, and the
achievements of Black Americans. This holiday also presents a powerful opportunity for critical reflection, social action, and examination of our progress towards racial equity and justice.

The Juneteenth Flag

From CNN: The Juneteenth flag is full of symbols. Here’s what they mean




How can we honor and celebrate Juneteenth?
Note: There is an extensive collection of resources available online and in the community. Here are just a handful of ideas to get started.

Pictured: The Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo

Attend the Virtual Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, June 19th-20th
 Started in 1976 by B.U.I.L.D. Buffalo, Juneteenth of Buffalo ranks           as the third largest in the country. Stay safe and take part in this               year’s community celebration virtually!

Watch What is Juneteenth and Why Do We Celebrate?
 This animated video from BrainPOP is suitable for a variety of age            groups and explains the history of Juneteenth.

Visit the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
 The Center, located in Niagara Falls, NY, offers a collection of                   virtual and in-person learning resources

Read Five myths about Juneteenth | The Washington Post
 This article by Afi-Odelia Scruggs dispels myths and misinformation surrounding the holiday and its history.

Pick up one (or all) of these Juneteenth books for audiences of all ages

Take part in the 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge
 Choose from a variety of books, articles, podcasts, videos, and anti-racism activities

Watch Ava DuVernay’s 13th for free online
 This critically-acclaimed film explores the history of racial inequality in the U.S.

Sign the petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday


1 But even then, there was a loophole. See Ava DuVernay’s critically-acclaimed film, 13th, or, Does
an Exception Clause in the 13th Amendment Still Permit Slavery?

PRIDE 2021


by Natalia R. Rice (she/her/hers), Equity Officer | New View Alliance

June is Pride Month! Keep reading to learn about how we can celebrate Pride and champion LGBTQ+ rights and equality not only this month, but all year long.

Celebrating Pride
LGBTQ+ Pride Month is celebrated annually in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. In the early morning of Saturday, June 28th, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Inn had become one of very few “safe” spaces for members of the city’s LGBTQ+ community, in particular LGBTQ+ youth who were homeless due to non-acceptance from families. The raid on Stonewall was not spontaneous, but rather the latest in a series of targeted raids and anti-LGBTQ+ harassment. In addition to arresting the bar’s employees, police officers singled out drag queens, cross-dressers, and transgender patrons for arrest.

In a display of “enough is enough,” bar patrons and community members fought back. These six days of protests, demonstrations, and conflicts with law enforcement would become known as the Stonewall Uprising (also known as the Stonewall Riots or Stonewall Rebellion). While historical accounts of Stonewall vary, the response marked a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, justice, and equality and is widely regarded as the catalyst for the modern LBGTQ+ rights movement. To honor and commemorate Stonewall, June was chosen as Pride Month.

While progress has been made for LGBTQ+ rights and equality, there is still much work to be done. Pride is a time to appreciate community and diversity, celebrate and honor the progress that has been made in the LGBTQ+ community, take action to continue the work towards intersectional equity and justice, and champion love, inclusivity, and unity.

A Handful of Resources to Honor, Commemorate, and Celebrate Pride:

  1. Participate in Buffalo Pride Week!
    • While this year’s programming has gone virtual, click here to visit the official website for Buffalo Pride Week, learn about the history of Pride in Buffalo, and discover upcoming community events!
  2. Support, visit, and lean into local LGBTQ+ advocacy and resource centers, such as the Pride Center of WNY, GLYS WNY, and PFLAG
  3. Want to learn more about the Stonewall Uprising and Pride?
    • Watch Stonewall Forever: A Documentary about the Past, Present, and Future of Pride for free online
  4. Pick up one, some, or all of these books by LGBTQ+ authors or 59 picture books that celebrate Pride
  5. Image from GLYS WNY

    Are you a “podcast person”? Here are a few listening choices:

    • Making Gay History
    • One from the Vaults
    • LGBTQ&A
    • Lovett or Leave It
    • Queery with Cameron Esposito
    • For the Girls!
  6. Check out the It Gets Better Project
    • The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to uplift, empower, and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) youth around the globe.
      Image from GLYS WNY

May is Mental Health Awareness Month


Our Children’s Clinic of WNY is a program that really deserves to be highlighted for the amount of enthusiasm and effort they put into their work. The clinic, located in Niagara Falls, has been providing family centered, trauma informed treatment and outpatient mental health counseling to youth ages 5 – 21 years residing in Erie and Niagara counties since 2018. Services are currently offered in person, as well as via telehealth.

The clinic has 4 licensed clinicians total as well as a director and office manager, so six staff in total! The lead clinician, Michelle Volpe, is a Licensed Certified Art Therapist who looks for creative, innovative and evidence-based ways to meet the psychiatric needs of the youth.

Sherita Anderson-Bailey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who focuses on families and their structure as a unit when targeting care. Jacqueline Chavers and Holly McCarty both have the credential of Licensed Master of Social Work and are flexible in addressing the mental health concerns of youth in any situation. Gretchen Goelhe recently moved back up to the clinic from another position within the agency, and currently serves as the Office Manager. Fun fact: Gretchen has been with New Directions for 15 years!

We want to give these amazing ladies a huge shout out for how they have continued to provide the trauma-informed care that our youth need.

If you or someone you know are interested in our clinic services, please call 716.300.8339!!

May is Foster Care Awareness Month!


We are so grateful for our amazing foster families! This month, in celebration of National Foster Care Month, we would like to spotlight Brooke & Dave Dezik!

How long have you been fostering/fostering with New Directions?
A little over 2 years

What made you want to get into fostering?
We wanted to have children of our own but that wasn’t possible. We looked into adoption and realized how many kids there were in our area who didn’t have families and thought we could provide a stable and loving home.

How many children do you have and/or currently fostering?

What is your favorite thing about fostering children?
I never realized how difficult fostering would be but our little one has changed our lives dramatically, for the better!

What does being a foster parent mean to you?
It means being able to provide stability, love and compassion for our little one and her biological Mom.

Thank you for fostering good!

If you are interested in learning more about mentoring, fostering, or adoption, please click here!

Celebrating Nurses’ Week!


Sarah Collins – LPN, Health Services Department at Randolph Campus

In honor of Nurse’s Week this month from May 6th through May 12th, we would like to recognize some of our terrific nursing staff! Sarah Collins is a humble and hardworking member of our Health Services Team down in Randolph! She began working with New Directions in December of 2018. When she was first working towards her certification, Sarah attended the E2CC BOCES nursing program in Ashville, NY, and obtained her LPN license. She is still working towards higher education by attending the University of Arizona Global Campus, majoring in Applied Behavioral Sciences. She also plans to continue on to receive her PsyD to become a Doctor of Psychology. Way to go, Sarah!

Sarah helps the youth at Randolph with medication management along with maintaining their medical and mental health care needs while in our care. She works diligently to keep families involved with this as well. To Sarah, this means keeping the youth healthy and safe, all while keeping the families up to date on their care so that they are informed and feel supported.

Sarah loves every part about working at New Directions. She appreciates how the agency stands behind its employees and encourages them to be a part of a team spanning all of Western New York. She believes that teamwork is amazing through all departments from the bottom all the way to the top and that this creates an invaluable network of support that not only is appreciated by staff, but by the youth and families we serve as well.

Sarah is known for being honest, cheerful and witty with her humor. She loves being outdoors. Hiking, kayaking, camping, going for walks on the beach, and spending time with family and friends are some of her favorite activities. She also loves gardening but will admit that she can’t keep flowers or vegetable plants alive to save her life!

Thank you for your continued dedication to the health of our youth, Sarah!


Melissa Adinolfe – Campus Nurse, Henrietta G. Lewis Campus School

Melissa is another amazing nurse that we have on staff here at New Directions! She takes care of youth on our Wyndham Lawn Campus in Lockport.  She gained her nursing degree from NCCC in 2009. When Melissa first started with the agency in January of 2020, she was the only nurse on campus for both the residential program and school (H.G. Lewis) for the year. This broad position was especially challenging through a pandemic. In January of this year, when our non-secure program at Gateway was no more, Henry Huber, RN, accepted the residential position at Wyndham, taking some of the pressure off of Melissa’s shoulders. She has transitioned to being primarily the school nurse. She really appreciates the great teamwork and help he has brought to the table, as their work crosses over a lot!

Being a nurse for New Directions means that Melissa gets to do what she does best; helping kids stay healthy. She provides compassionate care for our youth often when they are at their worst or most vulnerable. Whether it be bandaging a physical injury, being available emotionally or for a positive influence mentally, Melissa is there for the kids. It means so much to her to try to help make a difference and show them there is someone who cares about their health and safety.

Melissa’s favorite part of working at New Directions is the people! From day one, all of the staff have been so welcoming and helpful and really made Melissa feel like part of the family. She loves that she gets to work in a place where great things are being done and where she can have fun at the same time.

When she is not at work, Melissa enjoys spending time with her husband of 10 years and their three young children. They are a very active family that enjoys camping, bonfires, hiking, kayaking and fishing – basically anything outdoors! Melissa also helps coach the tee-ball and wrestling teams that her kids are a part of.

Thank you, Melissa, for making sure that our school kids are healthy, safe and supported!

Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week!


Heather Garis – Kindergarten Teacher, Henrietta G. Lewis Campus School

Heather Garis has been with New Directions since 2012. Heather received her Bachelor of Education from SUNY Fredonia and her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Buffalo State University. She began as a teacher’s assistant for the 2nd grade class, before becoming the kindergarten/1st grade teacher.

Heather currently serves as Elementary Team Leader, ensuring effective communication among the team, planning for events, delegating responsibilities, and helping her team members in any way possible. Within her kindergarten class, it is Heather’s responsibility to set her students on a path of success for the rest of their schooling, whether it be here at HGLCS or upon returning to their district school. She creates a nurturing learning environment and builds the framework for her students to feel successful in and love school and learning. It means a lot to Heather to be such an influence in her students’ emotional, social, and academic success.

Heather loves the passion that everyone at H. G. Lewis shares, for helping others as well as the team-mentality that her co-workers and administrators have shown toward each other and clients. She greatly values her growing experience in effective behavior management and trauma-informed care.

In her free time, Heather loves spending time with her husband and her 9-year-old son. She and her husband are superfans of 90’s band 311 and over the past 15 years, they have traveled across the country to see concerts and many “311 friends”.


Thank you for creating a vibrant and caring learning environment for our day students, Heather!


Shannon Zaranek – Elementary Teacher, Henrietta G. Lewis Campus School

Shannon has been with New Directions since 2012. She holds a BA in Elementary Education and MS in Literacy Education, both from Canisius College.

Shannon teaches students in a 6:1:1 setting. She differentiates and modifies curriculum to accommodate each student’s individual needs. Her lessons involve a lot of hands-on learning, movement, and music. Watching students grow academically and emotionally makes Shannon happy and feel like she is making a difference in their lives. Her class motto is: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It is all about modeling good character and positive thinking in Shannon’s class!

Shannon’s favorite part of working at New Directions is having a front row seat to watch the strides that her students have made throughout the years. It is extremely rewarding to help a student overcome a struggle and start to comprehend the material being taught and the life lessons taught to them in the classroom each day. She thinks that it is simply wonderful working and collaborating with the other staff members to help students progress and improve in all aspects of their lives. It is 100% a team effort at HGLCS!

In her spare time, Shannon enjoys hanging out with family and friends, watching her nieces and nephews play sports, working out and training at Shannon-Connors Fitness, binge-watching shows on Netflix and going for walks on nature trails. She is an all-around fun, energetic and loyal person! Shannon is a die-hard athlete and played Division 1 volleyball and received MAAC Athlete of the year. She even landed in the Athletic Hall of Fame at her high school, St. Mary’s in Lancaster.

Thanks for helping to shape bright futures, Shannon!




Skip to content