Archive | February 2016

Campus Spotlight: Brookside Intensive Treatment Unit


Peter Lopenzina, Program Director – Brookside Intensive Treatment Unit

For more than 20 years, Hillcrest’s Brookside Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) has successfully treated hundreds of the most acute psychiatrically and behaviorally challenged children in the region.  

The ITU is known by hospitals, school districts and child protective agencies as a placement of last hope – a place that will not give up on a student that has had multiple failures in foster care or other residential schools. Most of the ITU students endured repeated psychiatric hospitalizations before finding the one program that could break that debilitating cycle.

This year we are eager to meet a new challenge – the transition to an all-female population. Eight year’s ago, when we moved to our current Brookside site in Great Barrington, we served mostly males. That has slowly changed over the years as we built a reputation of success in treating girls with serious behaviors. These young ladies are faced with extremely difficult problems placing them at high risk, as evidenced by the closure of many programs in the state and region that had served girls. Hillcrest’s success with females has resulted in great demand for our services.

In January of this year we sent notification to our parents, guardians and referral agencies that our few remaining boys will be transitioned gradually to our Highpoint campus or other appropriate community placements through this summer. It is our goal to be an all-female campus going into the 2016-2017 school year.

Our success with girls has been due to a consistent regimen of counseling, skills training, empowerment, education, and enriched activity programs. Programs like Girl’s Circle, a group format that helps girls learn to value themselves and work together toward common goals, help our students. Our group therapy is based on DBT – a skills-based approach that teaches girls specific skills in areas such as emotional regulation and anger management. Our classrooms have very small groupings that are conducive to one-on-one engagement whenever necessary.

ArtworkWe believe that active girls are less likely to be overwhelmed by anxiety or memories of past trauma. We continue to build on our outdoor activities including high-ropes courses, canoeing, skiing and fitness challenges. We believe that exposure to art and culture helps our girls experience possibilities beyond their personal experiences. Our students participate in art projects, poetry cafes, talent shows and have even attended Broadway shows as an incentive for safe behavior.

MelissaA recent graduate, Melissa (pictured left) stated “my art projects keep me positively focused, so I don’t dwell on the things that drag me down”. As a parting gift to the campus she finished a mural featuring the letters HEF – standing for the Hillcrest Educational Foundation.   We have proudly hung the painting in our school lobby, where it joins photo collages and art projects from all our students.

15th Annual Robert “Bees” Prendergast Reception

St Pats 1This annual celebration has become one of our most popular events! Scheduled for March 18th, 2016 at the Country Club of Pittsfield from 6-9 p.m., this festive event draws dignitaries from across the state for a memorable evening that includes a treasure packed auction, live entertainment, and the presentation of the Judge John A. Barry and the Irish Person of the Year awards.

SRThis year we are honoring the President of the Massachusetts State Senate, Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg. Senator Rosenberg was unanimously elected by his colleagues to be the 93rd President of the Massachusetts Senate on January 7, 2015. Since his first election, Senator Rosenberg has remained deeply committed to improving the lives of the people of Massachusetts. We are proud that Senator Rosenberg has accepted this recognition and look forward to presenting him with this honor. 




Event Details:

This event is open to the public.

Tickets are $50 per person and includes registration, schedule of events and food.

If you haven’t received your invitation yet, they will be arriving shortly. 

If you would like to learn more or register online for this event, please go to:

You can also forward the link to send to anyone who you think may be interested in attending.

Holiday Wish Program Success


Holiday celebration

Hillcrest’s Tim Gallagher and Robert Fraser, President & CEO of MountainOne Financial at a Hillcrest campus holiday celebration

What a successful year for our Holiday Wish Program! Each of our students creates a “wish” list and asks for several gifts for the holiday season. We are blessed to have several community individuals and organizations play Santa and help fulfill each child’s list. By the look on each child’s face when they received their gifts, this year was one of the best ever! Who knew it took so much work to coordinate and deliver almost 800 gifts.





We could not have done it without the following major supporters:

Hillcrest staff members 
Thank you
Maureen Garner
Paul Clark
Alyse Scura
Bob Maxwell
Suzanne Maslanka
The Bissell Family
Moresi & Associates
Katrina Cardillo
Corey Sprague
Maureen Phillips
Pittsfield Cooperative Bank
Martin & Oliveira, LLP
Cohen, Kinne, Valicenti and Cook
Pignatelli Electric
Berkshire Business and Professional Women
Junior League of Berkshire County
General Dynamics
Chantal Levan
Hanscomb Airforce Base
Crossfit Pittsfield
Williams College
Greylock Federal Credit Union
…and dozens of other anonymous “Santas” that really made this holiday season special for our children.

Students wrote thank you letters to Santa to let him know just how much the gifts meant to them this holiday season through the Holiday Wish Program!

Thank you to everyone in our community who helped to make Christmas morning for our students so special!

Student thank you letters to Santa:

I am very happy for your presents to me and I really love them. I appreciate all the good work you are doing for all kids. Thank you Santa. -Rafe

Thank you for bringing me lots of gifts. You are the most nice person on the planet I have ever seen for my whole life. I love you so much and so do all kids.-Anthony

Thank you for bringing toys to all the good boys and girls at the Brookside ITU. – Dahionix

Thanks for the presents. I wish you a Happy Christmas! Happy New Year ! – Masiona

Hillcrest’s 2016 Annual Campaign

Annual CampaignAs many of you know, we are at the start of our Annual Campaign. To kick things off, we announced this to our staff at the annual all-staff meeting held at Shakespeare & Co. in December and since then, almost fifty percent of them have participated. We wanted to publicly thank our staff and let them know that we are proud of their generosity and that their support is a testimony to the impactful work that Hillcrest provides for children.

We also wanted to thank each of you who have sent in your pledge already this year. Your support gives Hillcrest the ability to continue to provide the specialized treatment and education these children deserve. And it works…

Did you know that 85% of our children successfully graduate from our programs?

And of these graduates, 90% are still successful after one year?

ASD studentOur success with special needs children is due in large part by keeping our staff trained with the most current and effective treatment strategies. Your support helps the Hillcrest training department provide a whopping 18,720 hours of internal training annually.

In addition to its successful treatment programs for children, Hillcrest has a large community impact. Supporting Hillcrest means supporting over 530 staff living and spending money in the local community. On the business side, last year, over 60% of all Hillcrest payables were to vendors located within Berkshire County.

We ask you for your donation today because your support for Hillcrest means much more than a donation. It supports your local community, the people that work in it, and gives every child a chance to be successful. To help them Heal, Learn and Thrive!

Although you can send us any amount that you feel comfortable with, please consider our different societies of giving levels to help with your decision.

Giving Levels:
New Horizons $2,000+
Champion for Kids $800-$1,999
Caring for Kids $350-$799
Leaders in Giving $150-$349
Friends of Hillcrest $0-$149

To thank all of our supports, we will publicly recognize each donation in our Newsletter, Facebook and Website at the end of the campaign.

Online Donations:

If you would like a tour of our programs or more information about Hillcrest, please do not hesitate to contact or (413) 499-7924 x 133.

We understand that you have a choice in which organizations you support. We thank you for considering
 us for a donation.

Hillcrest’s Graduate Program

Hillcrest Educational Centers and Endicott College have partnered together once again to offer a Graduate Certificate Program in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The courses are held at the Hillcrest administrative offices in Pittsfield, MA.

Hillcrest will be starting their second course in February with 10 students. The classes will be held Tuesday evenings from 5 pm – 8 pm.

Endicott College offers a Master’s Degree in Autism and ABA and an autism certificate for students who wish to specialize in meeting the complex needs of this Van Loan Schoolpopulation. Autism is a complex disorder, with behavioral, learning, and social characteristics that require comprehensive and coordinated intervention. Furthermore, autism is a spectrum disorder, and is manifested quite differently in different learners. Understanding the disorder is not achieved with exposure to one or a few children with this diagnosis, or with a few lectures on it. It is a many-layered disability that requires in-depth training.

The Master’s Degree is a 39-credit program that emphasizes the dual skill set of an in-depth understanding of autism spectrum disorders and a broad understanding of the principles and procedures of Applied Behavior Analysis. Six courses in ABA are offered. Graduates of the program will have fulfilled the educational requirements to sit for the national examination administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Seven courses in autism are also included, enabling the student to attain a deep and broad understanding of how autism spectrum disorders are manifested. Graduates of this program will be uniquely qualified to apply the most effective interventions to this challenging population.

The certificate program is designed for students who seek the in-depth autism training, but who already possess a master’s degree and are already a BCBA. Often, prior graduate training has not provided in-depth exposure to state of the art information about the nature, diagnosis, definition, or treatment of autism. Students who plan to specialize in educating persons with autism may want to pursue this certificate to obtain the specialized training and to develop this unique skill set.

Both of the programs are hybrid online and F2F formats, with most of the instruction delivered online.


Contact :
Cheryl Richards
Director of Workforce Development
Phone: (413) 499-7924 ext. 118


Development: Welcome from Tim Gallagher


Tim Gallagher
Tim Gallagher, Director of Development and Community Relations

Guest Blogger: Tim Gallagher, Director of Development & Community Relations

By way of introduction, my name is Tim Gallagher, the new Director of Development and Community Relations for Hillcrest Educational Centers, Inc. Having worked at Hillcrest previously, I feel privileged again, to be a part of a dynamic team in an exciting chapter of Hillcrest’s legacy.

My professional background within Hillcrest includes direct

Santa handing out a gift to ASD student, Jacob.

care, clinical work, training, business development and has eventually led to my current role as Director of Development and Community Relations. In addition to Hillcrest, I’ve also been fortunate enough to have worked in some other professional positions locally, such as Director of Health and Healing at Canyon Ranch, President of Absolutely Experiential and most recently as Chief Executive Officer at Ramblewild, a forest investment initiative. I am also privileged to serve on the board of Ecu-Health Care in North Adams.

St Pats

Sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union, the 2015 Annual St. Patrick’s Event Irish Person of the Year, John Scibak (center), flanked by Hillcrest CEO, Jerry Burke (left), and Hillcrest Executive Director, Shaun Cusson (right)

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of you through our Annual Golf Tournament held last September and the Holiday Wish Program that we just completed, and I’m looking forward to meeting and keeping everyone updated going forward on news from the Development office. This should be an exciting year so stay tuned….








Online Donations:

Contact Information: 

Tim Gallagher
, Director of Development
Phone: (413) 499-7924 ext. 133

What’s the Scoop about the Scooper Dooper?!


Ellie Sorrentino, ASD Teacher

Guest Blogger: Ellie Sorrentino, Teacher at the Hillcrest ASD Program


Since we have distributed our first issue of our newsletter we have been asked the same question: “What is the Scooper Dooper?” Well, first let’s start with the name. A strong supporter of our Hillcrest Autism Spectrum Disorders Residential Program has a catch phrase “that’s the scooper dooper”. This phrase is just that, catchy. Our staff and some of our students have caught this phrase and added it to our everyday vocabulary. When asking one of our students why they like to say it they instantly laugh and reply “its fun to say!” Our students love to joke and say silly things with one another and staff. That is what we are all about, having fun!

Over the summer the Hillcrest education department was given the challenge to create a summer curriculum with a common theme to educate our students over the summer months. The theme was intended to provide students with a fun way to learn while still targeting their educational goals. Themes also had to relate to the Massachusetts Common Core Frameworks by choosing a content area or two as the foundation of the curriculum. The teachers within the Autism Spectrum Disorders Residential Program brainstormed some great ideas and settled on the idea of choosing writing as our foundation to produce a newsletter. Being that our program is relatively new to Hillcrest and the community of Berkshire County we thought this would be a great way to show everyone who we are and what we do. While having fun, of course!

Now that we had the big idea, our teachers worked hard to find individual educational targets that aligned to a different common core standard for our 21 students. Once these targets were identified our teachers got to the fun part in creating materials and activities that we could use to contribute to the newsletter. We shined on our students’ skills of writing, their artistic talent, their communication and social skills, vocational work, and more! Through this project our students were able to put these skills to work as well as experience some great field trips! Some of our students went to the local Farmer’s Market to buy some healthy foods while others explored our town of Lenox by visiting a variety of community places and greeting our community helpers. We are certainly surrounded by a great community so our teachers were just as excited as our students were to gain these experiences. Our teachers then worked even harder to put together all of the students’ work and pictures to represent this curriculum project as well as capture the skills our students have to offer.   Thus, the first issue of the Scooper Dooper was born.

Once this newsletter was ready to put to press our students along with our staff took a great deal of pride in this work. Teamwork is a common theme in our program that is seen every day in all that we do. So make sure you read through our first issue to learn more about the amazing work our staff do to teach our students and make such a big difference! Well, “that’s the scooper dooper” on that. Now the question we often hear is “When is the next one?”, stay tuned for the next issue of the Scooper Dooper in April!

In the meantime, check out the first edition of The Scooper Dooper here!