Conservation students and instructor pose outside

HERKIMER – Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Conservation students have been putting up signage on the neighboring Valley Residential Services property in Herkimer to help prevent trespassing and are using skills from class to review the resources on the land.

Herkimer BOCES Conservation instructor William Carpenter said the partnership is beneficial for students because students get to apply their learning on the property, which includes a pond and trees, and the students provide free work to assist Valley Residential Services.

“I think it works – just being neighborly and helping each other out,” Carpenter said.

Herkimer BOCES has a long-standing partnership with both Valley Residential Services and its sister facility Valley Health Services. Both facilities are under the Bassett Healthcare Network and are located in Herkimer. The Herkimer BOCES William E. Busacker Complex property at 352 Gros Blvd. in Herkimer runs directly into the Valley Health Services property behind it.

For many years until COVID-19 put the visits on hiatus, Herkimer BOCES special education teacher Alana Connolly’s Career Awareness class would visit Valley Residential Services to present to residents, sing for them and conduct gardening. Herkimer BOCES Health Science Careers high school students participate in clinical experiences at Valley Health Services, and Valley Health Services works closely with the Herkimer BOCES Adult Practical Nursing Program – including sponsoring certified nursing assistants to become licensed practical nurses through the BOCES program.

Recently, new layers were added to the partnership after Herkimer BOCES School Safety Advisor

Jim Garcia approached Valley Residential Services Administrator Jennifer Miller to get approval for some safety planning assistance from Valley Residential Services.

“With our properties connecting, it only makes sense to be on the same page for safety planning as it relates to emergency preparedness and site security,” Garcia said. “By consulting with a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officer and having him tour our land and advise us on the requirements for posting it, this ensured we are adequately versed in our rights and responsibilities as we strive to keep the land secure, undisturbed and safe for our students.  Those things are obviously paramount.”

Garcia said Miller has been great to work with through the process.

“Strong community partnerships with our neighbors are a priority for us, and I'm thankful to have connected with her,” Garcia said. “The fact that our Conservation program is able to help them out as well in a collaborative effort is a bonus that benefits both organizations.”

Wanting to help out in return, Carpenter and the summer program students studying conservation conducted gardening and beautification efforts at Valley Health Services, and students in the Conservation Career and Technical Education program continued efforts this school year with the signage.

Miller said Valley Residential Services has 226 acres, so students working on the property helps free up grounds and maintenance staff for other work.

“We find that really helpful,” Miller said.

The residents in the assisted living residence also enjoy seeing students around and knowing they’re helping on the property, Miller said.

“Hopefully, it gives the students a feeling of purpose of helping out their neighbors and the community,” Miller said.

Carpenter and his senior Conservation students also plan to submit a land management plan to Valley Residential Services as a suggestion for how the pond, trees and other natural resources there could be utilized.

Between the signage work and the land management plan, students are able to practice using compasses, surveying land and managing aspects of land including wildlife, forestry, soils and natural resources, Carpenter said.

“The students are using all the skills they’re learning in class for real-world applications,” Carpenter said. “They’re getting to actually assess the land and recommend how to best utilize the property.”

Direct experience such as this can make a difference when looking for employment, Carpenter said.

“Sometimes, that’s what gets you the job,” he said.

By helping Valley Residential Services, Conservation students are earning volunteer hours required by all schools for graduation and work-based learning hours required for Herkimer BOCES CTE programs, Carpenter said.

Carpenter hopes the land management plans lead to continued cooperation between Herkimer BOCES and Valley Residential Services because students could potentially map the property, conduct logging, study the pond and more.

Miller said she would love to have the Conservation students present their ideas to Valley Residential Services and the residents to see what else can be done going forward.

“We would love to continue to work with the students in the program and enhance their learning opportunities and experience outside of the classroom,” Miller said.

Miller said she is happy to have Valley Residential Services involved with the community and forming partnerships among people of all ages.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” she said.


Conservation students and instructor pose outside

Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Conservation program seniors pose for a photo outside while putting up signage on the neighboring Valley Residential Services property in Herkimer. From left: Alex Scholl, of Frankfort-Schuyler; Jordan Mendez, of Frankfort-Schuyler; Justin Lacelle Jr., of Central Valley; Caleb Bennett, of Frankfort-Schuyler; Jake Parrotta, of Frankfort-Schuyler; Chase Brewer, of Central Valley; Katie Marhaver, of Central Valley, and Conservation instructor William Carpenter. Absent from photo: Conservation seniors Donald Gatto, of Frankfort-Schuyler; Jaiden Lawrence, of Frankfort-Schuyler, and Izaic Kerr, of Little Falls.


Student clipping posted signage to a tree
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Conservation student Jake Parrotta, a senior of Frankfort-Schuyler, puts up signage on the neighboring Valley Residential Services property in Herkimer.


Student surrounded by trees puts up signage on a tree
Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Conservation student Chase Brewer, a senior of Central Valley, puts up signage on the neighboring Valley Residential Services property in Herkimer.