Gerard Academy’s Brolsma honored

Published 6:23 am Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deveny Brolsma spends each day working with teenage boys at the Gerard Academy. She takes them to appointments and brings them shopping for the necessities. They do arts and crafts projects together and play sports. Her work helps the teens develop social and life skills.

Brolsma, who is a senior counselor, loves her job and the daily impact she makes on young lives. On Thursday, she is being recognized for just that.

Brolsma is going to the Sheraton Minneapolis-West Hotel tonight to accept an honor from the Minnesota Council of Child Caring Agencies (MCCCA).

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The MCCCA is recognizing Brolsma with The Sister Helen Louise Roth Award. The organization gives one each year to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions and service to youth and families in Minnesota.

Brolsma is the first Gerard Academy employee to receive the award.

The Gerard Academy offers residential treatment programs for children and teenagers with a variety of emotional and behavioral problems.

“I grew up in a daycare setting. My mom ran a daycare,” said Brolsma, who was raised in Austin and is a senior counselor in the Bordeaux House at the academy.

“So, working with kids is natural to me. It is never boring, and I work with awesome people — the kids and the staff,” she said.

In addition to her work on an eight-member direct care team, Brolsma trains new staff members in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (Gerard’s behavior management program), CPR and First Aid.

Brolsma has worked at the Gerard Academy for eight and a half years, starting as a counselor to boys ages six to 10.

“Everything is a team effort, and that is something that I love about this job,” she said.

She will accept the award tonight with her supervisors who nominated her, clinical director Pamela Retterath and clinical supervisor and Sandi Bucher.

“Deveny puts forth a ton of extra effort to really change these kids’ lives,” Bucher said.

An example of this is seen in the hand-painted murals that cover the walls of the Bordeaux dormitory.

“The theme of the unit is ‘Bordeaux City,’ and we try to teach the residents that they are part of a community,” Bucher explained.

Brolsma was instrumental in designing and painting murals of homes, parks and skylines with kids and staff since 2007, she said.

“We try to make every room a house, a home,” Bucher said.

“It has been very therapeutic for the kids. They love it, and are very proud. They take ownership of it,” she continued.

A letter to the nominating committee from Retterath and Bucher states that Brolsma also took kids on extended camping trips, and worked extra hours, sometimes doing things like sewing pillows and window coverings to make the residences more homey. It also notes her ability to rejuvenate staff who grow weary when the work is challenging.

They write: “Deveny rarely looks for a thank you or approval from her supervisors, and often is embarrassed when her efforts are noted.”

But, Bucher said, when staff give 100 or 110 percent, in this case, they should be rewarded.

“I just really enjoy the work… and I think its important,” Brolsma said.

MCCCA is a professional association of therapeutic providers based in St. Paul. MCCCA has more than 40 member agencies across the state.