2023 Winter Newsletter

the Climb header

From Student to Teacher

A Climber’s Journey

Matt Owens

Matt Owens

Jacob’s Ladder has shaped my life in many ways, more than I likely even know. Attending the Jacob’s Ladder Residential Summer Enrichment Program as a child from 2002-2006 helped me build a foundation of values my life has grown around. Being a Climber meant you were part of something bigger than just the summer program itself. The friends I made are still like family to me to this day, and the staff always supported and guided me. Having that group behind me allowed me to grow confident in other parts of my life and helped me become someone I am proud of today.

Being a Resident Advisor (RA) was somehow an even better experience. I couldn’t stop returning and worked as an RA for ten years. Living with a dorm full of Climbers is as exhausting as it is rewarding. It stretches you to your limits at times and makes you push yourself. Other times, it is the most fun that you’ve ever had. Throughout it all, I was constantly impressed by how intelligent and amazing the Climbers were. I tried my best to pass on the values the summer program taught me. Sometimes I failed, sometimes I succeeded. Trying to pass along lessons to the Climbers helped me realize what things are most important to me in life, and it has helped me continue to grow.

Returning as a teacher has now offered me another perspective on the program. Working with the Climbers in a classroom setting allowed them to show off how smart and caring they all are. My class taught the basics of money management, and it did so in a competitive format. The material covered was something most Climbers hadn’t studied, but each was able to grasp it relatively easily. Any time a Climber did struggle, their classmates jumped in to help explain the material, even though they were all competing. When one Climber would succeed in something, the others would cheer. They listened respectfully and thought critically when presented with new material. I’ve never taught in a classroom outside of Jacob’s Ladder before, but I’m willing to bet most teachers don’t have it so lucky. I look forward to returning next summer for my second year as a teacher.

Jacob’s Ladder Oyster Tasting

While our supporters differ in their roles, they are all part of the Jacob’s Ladder family. On October 15th, we held our 13th Annual Jacob’s Ladder Oyster Tasting at Merroir Restaurant in Topping. This event brought together former Climbers, Jacob’s Ladder employees, donors, and new friends wanting to learn more about our organization. We were blessed with good weather and spent our afternoon listening to great music, enjoying delicious food, and looking back on another incredible year for our Jacob’s Ladder Climbers. Thanks to everyone who attended the event. Your presence made it all the more special, and we are grateful for your support, which allows us to continue to further our mission. We would also like to thank Mr. Stephen Best, President of the Beazley Foundation, who announced a $50,000 donation to support our 2024 Summer Enrichment Program and Davenport & Company for underwriting this event. We hope to see everyone back next year, and invite your friends!

Why Jacob’s Ladder? A Teacher’s Perspective – The Peavey Project

One of our main goals is to help our Climbers become leaders equipped with the skills and abilities to help others in similar economic and social situations. We see this play out each year at summer camp when our older Climbers step up and aid the younger Climbers. Our teachers with The Peavey Project, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching mindfulness for health and performance, reflected on their time with our Climbers. They stated, “We have had the opportunity to work with Jacob’s Ladder these past two years and have been so impressed with the experience, the tradition/culture, and with the Climbers themselves. You can tell that this experience with Jacob’s Ladder impacts the Climbers in a positive and lasting way, especially for those who have been in the program for multiple years. They have developed the capacity to see the big picture of their experience and understand how it has impacted them, so they can skillfully give back to the program by supporting the new Climbers. It’s like Jacob’s Ladder has created a fool-proof system of creating thoughtful, compassionate leaders.”

Climber Fall Event

JoAnn Ruffa and Janet Kirby get into the spirit of the event.

Reconnecting with our Climbers throughout the school year helps strengthen relationships between the staff and our Climbers and their families, as well as allows our Climbers to make new memories with their Jacob’s Ladder friends. We were ecstatic that more than forty-five Climbers, parents, and staff members attended our Fall Event hosted by Camp Piankatank. Climbers and staff alike eagerly caught up on each other’s lives, reminiscing about past adventures and sharing stories from the summer. They also had a chance to learn and explore target sports, including archery, axe throwing, and knife throwing. Even Janet Kirby, our Office Administrator, took a turn and hit a pumpkin in the dead center! When we needed a break from the fun, we enjoyed delicious food while listening to live music. Thank you to Camp Piankatank for allowing us to be part of your community event!


NAP Tax Credits
Jacob’s Ladder has been approved by Virginia’s Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) participant for FY 2023-2024. For a donation to qualify for NAP tax credits, a minimum donation of $500 for an individual or $616 for a business must be received by Jacob’s Ladder. A tax credit of 55% will be applied. Make your check payable to Jacob’s Ladder, Inc., P. O. Box 3, Urbanna, VA 23175. Your NAP forms will be mailed to you to complete. 

Climber Spotlight – Nai’ja Cooke

by Sophie Scott

This month, I had the privilege of meeting Nai’ja Cooke, JL class of 2019. Nai’ja graduated this past spring from Middlesex High School, where she earned a final GPA of 3.0! Throughout her time in high school, Nai’ja was an intern with her local health department, pursuing her interest in the health/medical field. In fact, she just finished up her internship this August, after many long hours scanning tax maps and similar documents into the health department’s database; some dated as far back as the 1940s, she told me! Currently, Nai’ja is taking a gap semester and working at Ulta. She has been accepted into Richard Bland College (RBC) for the spring semester, where she will study psychology for two years. Then, using RBC’s guaranteed admissions program to William and Mary (W&M), Nai’ja plans to transfer and study neuroscience at W&M! Congratulations Nai’ja!

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future.”  

  – Jeremiah 29:11


Save the Date!
Monday, May 13, 2024
The Golden Eagle

From all of us at Jacob’s Ladder, Merry Christmas!

Share This:

Comments are closed.