Heather Crandall will tell you that LPP is the reason she graduated high school. She’ll also tell you that she never predicted becoming an integral part of the program herself.
Heather was hired as LPP Binghamton’s Administrative Assistant in 2000, and she’s held the position ever since. For more than 20 years, Heather has kept the program moving forward while providing support to all facets of in-school and out-of-school programming.
She was also part of LPP Binghamton’s first graduating class of 1992.
As one of the first LPP students and a longtime staffer, Heather has seen firsthand how the program has grown and adapted to meet evolving student needs. While LPP may be different now, Heather said the program has always been a lifesaver for teens – including herself.
“I am really thankful for this program and blessed that I’m able to turn around and give back to a program that did so much for me,” Heather said.
Heather joined LPP Binghamton when it first arrived at Whitney Point High School in 1989. She recalled several experiences LPP students still have, including field trips, mentoring, academic support, Advocacy Day in Albany, and community engagement like mural painting at the New York State Fairgrounds.
But she said it was her mentor and in-school counselor, Diane Crews, who made the biggest difference. Heather said Diane and her family practically adopted her and gave her a place to stay while Heather went through a tough time with her family in her junior and senior years.
Heather said she doesn’t think she would’ve graduated without Diane’s support. They’ve been “extremely close” ever since, even continuing to celebrate holidays with each other.
“She’s been there from Day One. If it wasn’t for her and Liberty, I could’ve been in a very different place than I am right now,” Heather said. “I am always grateful and always willing to put my heart and soul into this job because I am that grateful that I am where I am.”
After graduating from high school, Heather went on to get her bachelor’s degree in business management from Cazenovia College. She worked for a while in Brooklyn and then in Ithaca before deciding she wanted to move back to the Binghamton area.
That’s when her mentor reached out. Diane – who was by then director of LPP – told Heather there was an Administrative Assistant opening, and Heather took the opportunity to apply. It turned out to be more than a good fit.
As Administrative Assistant, Heather has a more behind the scenes role at LPP. But her experience as a student means she understands how much LPP students may be dealing with both inside and outside of school.
“I know how hard it is. Because I’ve been there,” Heather said. “You have a million things going wrong outside of the school building and you still have to get through everything else and graduate and not drop out and fall through the cracks.”
During her time working at LPP, she’s seen the biggest change in the amount of students LPP is able to work with. The program went from having a presence in one high school to four high schools in the area, each with their own in-school counselor.
Heather has been working at LPP for almost 25 years, but she said it’s fairly common for staff members to stay for 10 or more years. When Heather first started working at LPP, some counselors worked at LPP for 20 years before leaving for other positions.
“All the staff are like a family. We all work together and support each other,” she said. “When you work at Liberty, you stay for a long time.”
For Heather, a long time has turned into the rest of her career. Her new goal is to eventually retire with LPP. Until then, she continues to enjoy her favorite part of working for the program: seeing students succeed and overcome the kinds of obstacles she once faced.
“That’s the best part of my job, is to watch everybody else succeed,” she said.