Rafael came to the Haven with his mother when he was just 5 years old. Though their journey was trying and difficult, they found support and stability at the Upper Valley Haven. Through their stay his mother was able to find a stable job and secure housing. Even after Rafael and his mother moved out of the Haven, he continued to stay active by participating first as a student and later as mentor in the Haven’s Afterschool Program. As a current Senior at Castleton State College, Rafael continues to be engaged with the Haven and we were thrilled when he informed us that he has been chosen to attend and present at the Annua Conference of the Northeastern Section of the Geological Society of America. Rafael took at moment to explain his research which focuses on BPA photo-degradation in sunlight surface waters:

“Basically, BPA from trash and other plastics are leaching, from dump sites and common litter, into streams and rivers. We have been looking at four water types around Castleton: agricultural, wetland, urban, and forest. Once BPA is in the water it becomes harmful, even though it is not soluble in water, it is however soluble in organic matter (lots in wetland and agricultural) and when the sun hits it with light and OH, radicals from the organic matter can break down the BPA. VERY slow degradation of BPA occurs without the radicals, so we are trying to get an idea of rates of decay of BPA in the water types, since rates have only been measured in vitro.”

He is hopeful that this research experience will help him find a job in the geological sciences field once he graduates in May. Here at the the Haven, we look forward to hearing how Rafael transitions into the workforce after college.

Learn more about the Haven’s After School Program…
Photos of Rafael in the After School Program at the Haven:

  • Stories like this that follow our guests through their days are great and enable staff and volunteers to know their efforts day by day make a real difference.

    Thanks, Stew

  • Stories like this that follow guests through their life give reason for staff and volunteers to know their day to day efforts make a real difference.


  • Congratulations to Rafael for his hard work and fine achievement. Everyone at the Haven must be quite gratified by his success. It takes a community to support a child in his or her upbringing. I wish more parents involved themselves and their children in such a community of caring selfless individuals.

  • Many thanks for posting this story! It is always nice to have news of former residents and members of the Afterschool Program. I remember Rafael well from my volunteering days at the Haven. Please pass on my congratulations to him on his research project at Castleton State College. Since I manage and operate a small public water system, I am very concerned about the safety of our water supply. I hope the Haven will continue to keep us posted on Rafael’s progress.

  • That is such an inspiring story, and I’m proud to support the Upper Valley Haven and the great work they do.

  • That last photo of Rafael, swimming with a couple of friends, looks as though it was taken on one of the annual canoe trip down the Connecticut River. We would stop off en route at one of the small islands between Windsor, VT, and Cornish, NH, for a picnic lunch and a swim.

    Does the Haven still have those trips with North Star Canoe for the children? They were great fun!

    • Canoe trips in the summer still happen, although sometimes we use North Star and sometimes the trips occur from the Dartmouth boat house.

  • This reminds us all that people can pull themselves up by the boot straps if they have boots. So glad that the Haven is there to provide the boots!

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