NASELLE, Wash. - Dressed in a tailored suit, tie and designer glasses, Darryl Poston strolled through the grass and posed for a picture with three girls taking a break from mowing the lawn and other outdoor tasks on a recent afternoon.
After his breather outside, he sauntered back to his office with one teen yelling after him, "What is that you're wearing? It smells nice."
Poston, reaching the back door to the Naselle Youth Camp administrative office, laughs and calls back, "It's Burberry!"
His connection with youth is natural for the Naselle Youth Camp's new superintendent.
Poston arrived at Naselle Youth Camp earlier this year after Superintendent Marybeth Queral left in July for Green Hill School in Centralia. The new superintendent brings with him years of experience in leadership, community and human services. He has worked in mental health assistance, behavioral evaluation and intervention, negotiation, mediation, psychiatric treatment, client care planning, juvenile justice, agency relations, therapeutic substance abuse services, and curriculum and program development.
"I arrived in Washington on April 13 and it's been a whirlwind trip ever since," he grins. In the past few weeks, Poston has met with Washington Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Robin Arnold-Williams and assistant secretary John Clayton.
"I'm still learning with some of the meetings in Olympia, though," he admits with a laugh. "They have way too many abbreviations for me - I have to stop the meeting and ask, 'What does that mean?'"
In addition to hearing a variety of cougar, bear and other wildlife warnings from his new neighbors, Poston says, "My biggest challenge has been confronting 70 mph logging trucks on these roads!"
Capital beginningsBorn and raised in Washington, D.C., Poston comes from Coates and Lane Enterprises, a nonprofit organization where he served as executive director and most recently chief executive officer of Mental Health Rehabilitation Services. During his six years at Coates and Lane, he worked closely with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Mental Health to provide housing and mental health services to the homeless, mentally ill, and people affected by drug abuse and AIDS.
Also in Washington, D.C., Poston served four years as executive director for Consortium for Youth Services as a counselor at Riverside Psychiatric Services for a year; and vice-chairman of the Washington Area Project for Youth, Inc., board of directors for six years.
In Laurel, Md., he worked as a primary counselor and helped develop the Substance Abuse Free Enrichment Program for detained youth at Oak Hill Youth Center. In Hyatts, Md., he managed evaluations of human service organizations at Associates for Systems Evaluation for nine years.
He served as the home-based services manager for at-risk youth at Beyond Behaviors in Annandale, Va. From 1982 to 1989, he was employed at PHP Healthcare Corporation in Reston, Va. While at the psychiatric facility, he held several positions: psychiatric attendant, psychiatric technician, training administrator and crisis intervention team leader.
Poston received his bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Delaware in 1993 and his master's degree in human services from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania 1996.
He has served as a consultant and GED instructor for Boys and Girls Clubs. His first experiences with at-risk youth came from volunteering with the Child Protective Services Division.
"It was the first time I worked with kids that were neglected and abused," remembers Poston, who became interested in working with kids. Over the years, he has volunteered with several youth programs, taken inner-city kids on nature trips, and mentored two young men that some had considered a lost cause. The men, who are now in their 30s, still call Poston regularly.
Setting an exampleThough far away from the East Coast, which he has called home most of his life, Poston says he enjoys learning about Washington's "cutting-edge" juvenile rehabilitation processes, such as "implementing evidence-based therapies" and "using a clinical model with a correctional foundation, which has changed how young people react" with less violence and less suicide attempts while incarcerated.
According to Poston, the clinical-based facility fosters the formation of different relationships between staff and youth - a combination of corrections and rehabilitation with the nurturing and support that children should receive at home.
'A model'"I really can't say when, but one day Washington state will have a model that is valid and scientific for assisting young people," he promises. "It's like I finally found a place that gets it. The children of Washington state will be served long into the future."
A devout man, and devoted to his family back home, it's taken some time to get used to not seeing his 92-year-old grandmother regularly. His father served in the army for 27 years, moving the family to a variety of locations including Berlin - before the Berlin Wall came down. His father now spends his time as a community advocate. His mother worked for the Department of Labor and Department of the Treasury. One of four children, Poston shares his initials - DJP - with his brother, two sisters, and his mother and father.
One of his favorite things about the Pacific Northwest is being able to take in beautiful sights while driving down the road.
"Washington is very green, and similarly very healthy. Washington, D.C., is also considered one of the greenest areas in the country - we have a lot of parks there. But it gets very hot and humid ... I love the mild temperatures here, I absolutely love it."
"Since I've been here, I've found Naselle Youth Camp and the town to be very, very friendly and very, very welcoming. People I've never met before come up to meet me."