There really is no job description that could fully explain the depth and responsibilities of a Boys Town Family-Teacher®. In simplistic terms, they are the parents of six kids who come from challenging backgrounds to the Portsmouth Bazarsky Campus. They are responsible for providing a sense of family and community, all within the Boys Town model of behavioral learning.
Lisabeth and Brandon Depina are Boys Town Family Home Teachers who do all of that and then some… and they love it!
“This isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle and my life,” Lisabeth said. “For me, it’s sad when people don’t see all the good in kids. Our job is to provide a community for them in which they feel comfortable and feel supported, so they have an opportunity to use all that is good to be successful.”
The Depinas came to Boys Town a little more than a year ago and have made an impact with kids not only in House 125, where they live, but also in the entire Boys Town community. Their background helps to explain why they have been so impactful here.
“Honestly, Boys Town specifically was never on our radar,” Brandon said. “Lisabeth and I went to school together and when we were teens, we were both very much into the ideas of mentoring and serving our church. We were camp counselors and church youth leaders. While our friends were out partying, like most high school kids, we were already working to improve the lives of younger kids.”
Lisabeth added, “We needed an escape. We didn’t want to do drugs to get ‘high’, we wanted to work with others to help them feel better.”
The Depinas first started working professionally at a private school where they worked extensively with teenagers. But the challenge of needing to make more money got them thinking about possible next professional steps. Boys Town Foster Care Trainer and Recruiter Kim Gagne is a member of His Province Church in Swansea, the same church that the Depinas attend. Aware of a family teaching opening at Boys Town, she recommended the Depinas.
“Honestly, this wasn’t something I was thinking about doing,” Brandon said. “Lisabeth was sold right away, but it took some convincing for me. Once we got to campus, I immediately loved the environment and the boys in the house. I saw that House 125 was open and I knew we would love to work here.”
The Depinas’ house features six boys and is right next to the outdoor basketball court. Any day after school, on weekends and throughout the summer, you will see Brandon and the boys playing hoops. It is in many ways the epicenter of campus.
For Brandon, what is so impressive to him is the kids’ resilience. “Each kid has gone through so much in their lives and they still face that while they are here. And yet, despite the disappointments, they bounce back.”
Brandon shared an example of resilience talking about a boy in his house who received an email from his parent telling him they didn’t want to visit anymore, suggesting their son end his life. That’s a pretty tough message to receive.
“And yet after Lisabeth and I spoke with him about the email, he hugged us, thanked us for caring and had a smile on his face.”
Brandon went on to talk about the misconception of Boys Town kids from those who don’t know them.
“So many people think these kids are hopeless and that one day they will be in prison,” Brandon said. “Most of the people in their lives haven’t given them the time of day. And yet all these kids want is a loving home and to be around people that care about them. That’s what Boys Town gives them.”
Added Lisabeth, “Kids are so misunderstood by everyone. They are people, not just a number. All they want is to be accepted, loved, understood and to be part of a community.”
So, what makes Brandon feel like the time he spends with kids is making an impact?
“I have two answers to that. We were all at breakfast the other day and the boys were talking,” Brandon said. “One of them said, ‘you act like the father I never had.’ Believe me, that made a huge impact on me. The other example I would share has to do with school. Our kids candidly struggle in school. But the longer they are here, the better they get. When I see their grades improve, and how proud they are because of that, it reminds me that we are helping to open doors for them and provide opportunities.”
Lisabeth had a similar story, but just as profound.
“We were on the back porch and all the kids were talking and playing video games inside,” she said. “We looked through the door and they were all smiling, and they were just all so happy.”
The Depinas both feel strongly about the community aspect of Boys Town and through their work they have established one that is valued and will be always remembered by the kids in House 125.