Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES presented its 2024 Outstanding Community Partner Award to Human Resource Directions during the Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 11, at the William E. Busacker Complex in Herkimer.

Herkimer BOCES leaders chose Human Resource Directions for the award because whenever employees of Herkimer BOCES and the 10 component school districts have needed someone to talk to about their mental health or other concerns, Human Resource Directions has been there as the Employee Assistance Program for the region.

Human Resource Directions owner and President Linda Yost accepted the award from Herkimer BOCES District Superintendent D.J. Shepardson at the Annual Meeting.

“It has been an absolute honor to take care of this entire Herkimer system,” Yost said.

The Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting is a time for board members and superintendents from Herkimer BOCES and the 10 component school districts to gather to hear updates about the BOCES budget, programs and BOCES board candidates.

Each year, one district is considered the host of the Annual Meeting at BOCES, and this year’s host was West Canada Valley Central School District. The West Canada Valley Jazz Ensemble performed during the Annual Meeting, and Herkimer BOCES Culinary and Hospitality students provided desserts and refreshments for guests. Herkimer BOCES Board President Holly Pullis spoke to guests during the meeting, and West Canada Valley Board of Education President Jessica Bartlett served as the chairperson for the meeting.

The Outstanding Community Partner Award has been given out yearly dating back to 2011 during the Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting. The award winner is also featured each year in the Herkimer BOCES Annual Meeting Report publication.

During the meeting, Shepardson spoke about how Human Resource Directions has helped BOCES and school employees in the region through all kinds of challenges. He said school leaders are very thankful for all of the support.

“I can’t say enough about this organization,” Shepardson said.

Yost also spoke about the importance of the partnership as schools and families faced both expected and unexpected challenges in recent years.

“We went through COVID,” she said. “We went through some very difficult times.”

Yost told the school officials in attendance that the hundreds of BOCES and school employees her organization has worked with speak very highly of BOCES and the schools and appreciate that they take care of their employees.

“As a community partner, I want to tell you, you are loved by them,” Yost said.

‘The real joy’

Prior to the Annual Meeting, Yost said she was excited when she found out about winning the award.

“The Herkimer BOCES family has been a wonderful partner,” Yost said. “It’s an honor and privilege to be able to serve them. The award is wonderful, but the real joy for me is the ability to serve the employees. I have a warm spot in my heart for educators.”

Shepardson said Human Resource Directions was selected for the award due to Yost and the organization continuously showing commitment to supporting the employees of Herkimer BOCES and the 10 component districts.

“The plethora of services your agency provides to our employees and our component districts is of a wide range that can assist families no matter what stage of life they are in,” Shepardson said. “The BOCES Board of Education and the component superintendents are grateful to be able to offer this valuable benefit to its staff.”

Shepardson said Yost and the Human Resource Directions team are “true partners in education and the well-being of our staff.”

“Thank you so much for your dedication on behalf of our students, schools and community,” Shepardson said.

‘A different kind of EAP’

Yost founded and owns Human Resource Directions. She has been operating the agency for 28 years and makes services available 24/7, 365 days per year – or 366 days on leap years such as 2024.

The Human Resource Directions team includes a full array of clinicians to address any issue that may come up. There is a focus on coaching for success in addition to traditional clinical counseling, Yost said. Wellness coaching, relationship coaching, financial coaching, career support and legal advice are all available, she said.

Before starting Human Resource Directions, Yost worked for the New York State Office of Mental Health at several local psychiatric facilities, and she found the medical model lacking in some aspects. This led to her launching Human Resource Directions to help make the process easier for people and provide completely confidential services.

“We are a different kind of EAP,” she said. “I created a model where we actually take care of everything and everybody.”

Human Resource Directions works with more than 100 schools, as well as manufacturing companies, banks and colleges. The services are also offered to everyone who lives with employees of schools or companies that the agency works with.

Human Resource Directions has its main office in Utica and has offices in Herkimer and Rome. Members of the team are available to work with employees on the phone, through Zoom Telehealth, in one of the offices or even at the workplace.

“Our services are very comprehensive,” Yost said. “There’s no charge. You can come to us as many times as you want.”

Yost and her team members also appreciate the opportunity that assisting local employees provides for them to make a difference, Yost said.

“Most of the problems are fixable,” Yost said. “It’s rewarding work.”

Helping employees across the region improve their lives is what it’s all about, Yost said.

“For everybody who comes to us, our cumulative goal is for them to leave our service feeling better,” she said.