Climb Newsletter – Spring 2024

Spring is a busy time at Jacob’s Ladder. Catching up with Climbers at the Spring Retreat, making preparations for the Summer Enrichment Program, celebrating graduations, and remembering past events. Find out what we’ve been up to in this edition of The Climb Newsletter!

Climber Winter Event

Nothing says “It’s the Holidays” quite like looking at holiday light displays! Jacob’s Ladder held its 2023 Winter Event Saturday evening at the Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. We spent the night admiring millions of colorful lights, botanical decorations, and model trains while enjoying hot chocolate and s’mores and catching up with our Climbers and their families. Over 50 Climbers, family members, and Jacob’s Ladder staff members from across the state joined in on the fun. Having events throughout the year not only allows us to stay connected to our Climbers and their families, but also provides them with opportunities to experience new things. Thanks to our generous donors, we are able to host events like this every year. We have so much to be grateful for this holiday season!

Climbers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Climber Spring Retreat

Our 2024 Climber Spring Retreat was a weekend filled with unforgettable moments of friendship, service, and bonding. Climbers spent the weekend playing outside and enjoying the beautiful scenery while reconnecting with each other. Our returning kids wrote the annual letters to new Climbers joining us at summer camp, sharing their experiences and getting them excited for what’s to come during their downtime.

Climbers at the CARATAS event

We had a special lunch with our board members, followed by a community service project supporting CARITAS, a nonprofit that serves those experiencing homelessness and/or addiction. Our Climbers collected donations for the men’s and women’s emergency shelters, packaged up all the supplies, and wrote letters to the staff at CARITAS, thanking them for their hard work and dedication to helping those in need. The retreat provided an excellent opportunity for our Climbers to escape from their daily routines, recharge their batteries, and gear up for a strong end to the school year. As the weekend came to an end, our Climbers felt a sense of gratitude and accomplishment. Spring Retreat 2024 was truly a weekend to remember, and we can’t wait to do it again next year!

Jacob’s Ladder Welcomes new High School Advocate

We are pleased to announce that Cathy Gregory has joined our team as the new High School Advocate (HSA)! In her role, Cathy will be responsible for helping high school students with their college searches and choices, assisting with financial aid applications, finding internships, and researching career opportunities. Through regular communication and visits to schools, she will build strong relationships to support and guide students toward success. We are excited to welcome Cathy to the Jacob’s Ladder team! Please read her bio below to get to know her better.

Cathy Gregory

Cathy grew up in Richmond, Virginia, leaving the city to attend the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, where she graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. While teaching in Chesterfield, she earned an M.Ed. at Virginia Commonwealth University in Special Education. Cathy worked in education at various roles and levels, ranging from pre-K to college, for a span of 45 years. She became an administrator in 2000, serving as an Assistant Director of Special Education in Hanover County and Director of Special Education in Caroline County. After retiring from public education, Cathy worked at Collegiate School as the Director of Student Services for the Lower School. Currently, Cathy is retired but works part-time as an administrative assistant for the Virginia Senate when the General Assembly is in session. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren, traveling, sailing, listening to music, and appreciating art.

Why They Wish to Return

By Sophie Scott

Anyone who works at Jacob’s Ladder (JL) can tell you–quite enthusiastically–about our programs, but there’s nothing better than hearing about them directly from our Climbers. In fact, every January, we request that Climbers spend some time each crafting a “Why I Wish to Return” [to the JL program] letter. The audience of these letters is the JL Board of Directors, partly to tell the Board what Climbers have been up to and why JL is “worth” someone’s time, effort, money, and care–staff, donors, volunteers, and Climbers’ families alike. And yet, after I read this year’s batch, I would say the letters equally serve as reminders to Climbers themselves about what JL summer camp, enrichment events, and general support and advocacy really means to them; with these letters, they remind themselves why they would want to commit to another year, and ultimately, to commit to graduating from the program. We wanted to share the below excerpts with you now, in an effort to impart the value of what we do and why we do it, in the words of our Climbers.

On self-expression and learning new things…

“JL lets us learn and be happy and express ourselves!” / “Theater has really brought out parts of myself I didn’t even know existed!” / “I never knew about my love for acting, but now I do, thanks to JL.” / “People have lots of opportunities to do things that they have never done!” / “With a wide range of activities, there is constant opportunity for Climbers to try something new.” / “I got to learn about sea creatures and money management in some classes, while getting to go see museums in D.C.” / “The classes are always unique and fun, even math isn’t boring!”

On the growth of confidence and the impact of being surrounded by good friends and role models…

“I think JL will impact others by helping them come out of their shells as well as it did for me. I think it will help their self- esteem and their endurance of being away from home.” / “JL has helped me with building my confidence speaking in front of people.” / “I take great pride in my character that is continuously being shaped by all the wonderful role models around me.” / “JL has helped me realize that even when you make a mistake, if you center the right people around you, you will still be accepted with your own efforts of also trying to pick yourself back up.” / “You’re never really a new Climber because the seniors and RAs make you feel so welcomed. It’s like when you buy new shoes and put them in your closet with the rest. The new shoes fit in so well that it’s like they’ve been there all along. That’s how I felt my first year at JL.” / “You can’t have fun activities without fun people!”

On the future…

“JL meant to me learning and getting an experience like college.” / “Classes I take over the summer help me realize what certain jobs are expecting.” / “A lot of the RAs were former Climbers and they’ve all had positive stories about JL and how JL prepared them.” / “I think we need to invest in our future, which means we need to support and uplift our youth that will one day be the leaders of the world, and I feel the staff at JL is doing a great job at building the future.”

Jacob’s Ladder Spotlights

Jessica Workman

Climber Alumnae Jessica Workman
Jessica Workman

I was fortunate to get to know another JL alumna, Jessica Workman. While once a Climber herself, she also became an RA for our Summer Enrichment Program in 2012, the same year she graduated from the University of Richmond (U of R). The fall after graduating from U of R, Jessica made the big move to Los Angeles. She has just celebrated her 11th year of being an LA resident! She has been a licensed Private Investigator since the spring of 2018 and holds professional certifications in Human Resources and Project Management; most of her career has been focused in the corporate security and investigations field. In fact, she has just started a new job as the Program Manager of Global Safety and Security at Creative Artists Agency, which is a talent agency that represents major figures across the sports and entertainment industries. Jessica is responsible for overseeing projects and initiatives related to workplace safety and physical security operations, and conducting and supporting investigations, she tells me. Some other exciting things that have happened for Jessica this year include lots of travel–Maui, Miami, Joshua Tree, Tokyo, and Savannah, running her 6th half marathon (with a personal best time, no less), and playing in a kickball league with friends. Jessica enjoys volunteering as much as she can, including baking for Goodness Cakes–a nonprofit that provides birthday cakes to children in foster care, and she donates blood to the Red Cross regularly. We at JL couldn’t be more proud of Jessica’s accomplishments and her continued commitment to giving back!

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