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December 09, 2016
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A different kind of school; Building community stone by stone

Rebecca Ballentine, the founder of The Stoneworks Learning Center, joins a group of local children in singing the song “Simple Gifts” at an open house on Saturday.
Photos by Lisa DeNardo

HONESDALE, PA — Here is a story of a vision that started many years ago, in the mind of a young person, who craved a sacred place where everyone belonged and where everyone felt nurtured. This vision encompassed a sense of seeing each person as a whole and empowering each one through education and peaceful guidance. As time evolved, this young person grew up, the vision became clearer, and the beginnings of such a wonderful place began to form. This is the story of a young woman and how she created The Stoneworks Learning Center (SLC).

Founder and executive director of The Stoneworks Learning Center, Rebecca Ballentine, MS Ed., MD, more commonly known as Becca in her local community, opened the doors to The Stoneworks Learning Center, on Saturday, September 14. At The Stoneworks, which is located right in the heart of Honesdale, Ballentine’s mission is to promote lifelong learning focused on integral health, sustainability, social justice and diversity on global, local and personal levels. She feels strongly that education and primary healthcare are firmly linked, where lifelong learning is integral to individual and community wellness.

Ballentine’s own educational path has taken her along many avenues, helping shape her vision along the way. She earned her bachelor’s degree through The Great Books Program at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM. She then earned her Master’s in education at the University of Scranton, and completed her student teaching at Stourbridge Elementary School in Honesdale, as well as at a school in Guadalajara, Mexico. Ballentine spent three semesters at Bastyr University, studying Naturopathic medicine, and then earned her MD at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba.

“When I returned to the United States from Cuba, I knew that it would take some time to get my papers in order to do a medical residency. I realized that now was my opportunity to throw myself into the project I had been dreaming of for so many years,” she said.

This fall, the SLC is launching numerous programs, including a homeschooling cooperative, youth afterschool programs, adult enrichment classes, caregiver enrichment and life appreciation for seniors. The goal of this place is to create a unique educational experience for all who feel a pull to get involved. When asked what is unique about the learning center, Ballentine replied, “There are so many truly amazing teachers and educators in this area, and I have a great deal of love and respect for them. I suppose this center will be unique. Since it is not legally a school, we will have more flexibility in terms of what we can offer the community.”

Children and adults alike can explore for themselves in an environment where they feel safe and nurtured, and where they are challenged to look at issues like social justice and how we can learn to live in more sustainable and healthy ways. From this learning center, Ballentine envisions the effects of well-being and self-awareness rippling out into the community at large.

“I believe that everything is interconnected, and that building bridges and connections among the different projects in the community can only make them stronger. It is important to me to do something for my community because I feel very identified with this place. I grew up here, and as my brother Sky has said, ‘The place where you are from is the place where you can make the greatest difference.’”

The Stoneworks Learning Center is located at 1036 Rear Main St., Honesdale, PA 18431. To learn more about SLC, and to check out the current offerings, call 570/251-7704 or visit www.thestoneworks.org.