Dear Starfire...

Dear Starfire,

As you know, this coming Thursday will mark the end of Joe’s time at StarfireU.  I want to thank you and to let you know how much you have done to impact his life.  During Joe’s four years at StarfireU, he has grown tremendously in character, in maturity, in self-confidence, in self-awareness, in self-respect (and pride), in citizenship, and particularly – in community mindedness. The lessons you have taught him (thru example and with gentle guidance) on a continual basis have lead him to understand how to treat others and how to deal with all manners of inter-personal exchanges.  The respect, encouragement, and admiration you have shown him for his gifts and talents have brought him to a new respect and pride in himself.  Your guidance in some very tough situations has helped him to better understand himself, and to learn self-discipline.  At StarfireU he has been fortunate to be able to explore a vast variety of activities, past times, lifestyles, organizations, community places, and experiences.  He has discovered what most peaks his interests and what he is best at doing.  He has experienced various methods of contributing and participating in his community.  He has learned how important it is and how much he enjoys being involved in the community. He has met new friends who enjoy sharing common passions with him.  He has had the opportunity to name what he wants in his life and what he wants to ‘do’ with his life. He has a focus and a framework for his future – along with new friends with whom to share that future. In a quip:  ‘The World is his Oyster’!  He is definitely a more mature, polished man now than he was four years ago.  . . . . . .And yet he is the same man. . . . . .  What StarfireU has done is 1) to help that man discover himself – the good things about himself; 2) to introduce him to people who share his passions; 3) and to teach him how best to capitalize on his gifts, talents, and passions in becoming an integral part of his community!  All this has been a phenomenal experience for Joe and has made a significant contribution to helping Joe achieve the future of his dreams.


The single most important thing you have done to totally transform Joe’s future has been to enlighten his mother.

You have helped me to grow exponentially in respectfulness, in acceptance, in understanding, in courage, in character, and most importantly – in community mindedness.  The lessons you have taught me (thru example and with gentle guidance) about respect for ALL have led me to understand the importance of ME showing respect to Joe. The encouragement, and admiration you have shown Joe for his gifts and talents have helped me discover all the best things about him and helped me focus on what is RIGHTabout him.  His experiences and explorations of various interests thru StarfireU have helped me to see that Joe has many interests that are shared with others.  Joe’s PATH process helped me to recognize Joe’s dreams and that my job is to help him realize HIS dreams – not MY dreams for him.   His experiences and internship with organizations and community places have shown that there are many places where Joe is not only welcomed but is valued for the contributions he makes – real contributions.  I have learned to believe that it is possible for Joe to make and hold friends – real friends. The people he has met thru Starfire have proven to me that there are people who ENJOY spending time with Joe and who WANT to have him in their lives.  I now understand how crucial it is that he has friends to keep his life full, happy, meaningful, and safe. You have taught me how important community is in finding those friends, in feeling a sense of belonging, and in experiencing a sense of fulfillment by making a contribution. Joe’s capstone project (orchestrated and realized by a team of people who not only truly care for Joe but who are just as passionate about Living History as he) proved to me that others will come forward to help support Joe and WILL make an effort to be in his life.  Your example, lessons, seminars, conversations, and connections have helped me learn to look at my son, his life, his future, and our community in a totally new light – one with hope and much promise. And you are there (indefinitely!) with the monthly Gatherings to support me in learning how to support Joe in building a new future for himself – in community – with others – a future that HE is designing.


Truthfully, Joe is the same man that walked through Starfire’s doors four years ago.

But his mother . . . . . . She has become a totally different woman.

There are no words to thank you sufficiently – just know that you have made an enormous difference in Joe’s life and we are forever grateful!

With overwhelming gratitude,

Kathy, Tom, and Joe Wenning

Post Script:   When Katie interviewed me for Joe’s capstone video, I said something that struck a chord in me – actually it sorta hit me like a rock!  I said something like: “When Joe came to StarfireU, he was a bundle of problems to fix, a set of behaviors to modify, a person who needed something to do to fill his days.  He is leaving StarfireU as a person who has gifts and talents – a person who has contributions to make and who has found places where his contributions are valued. He has a whole new group of friends who spend time sharing his passions with him. He has found his place in the world.”  While this statement is (on the surface at least) very true, here is the real (hidden) truth (rock-up-side-of-the-head part):

It was not Joe who did the majority of the changing these four years

it was ME and my perception of him!!!