The New Hampshire Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs has come a long way since the inception of the state’s first Club in Manchester more than 100 years ago. Today, there are Boys & Girls Clubs of America organizations in New Hampshire–Salem, Derry, Portsmouth Naval and Nashua serving the southern part of the state; Manchester, Concord, Souhegan Valley, and the Lakes Region serving the central part of the state; and Lisbon and Littleton in the northern part. The goal of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America is to provide youth with programs and services that allow them to realize their full potential as productive members of society. In New Hampshire, nine Clubs have opened throughout the state, with a number of satellite organizations operating at local schools.
The Clubs’ mission includes the core elements of Character and Leadership development, Health and Life Skills, the Arts and Sports, and Fitness and Recreation. And even though New Hampshire already enjoys the third highest rate of secondary school graduates in the entire country, our Clubs have begun to shift their focus increasingly toward a fifth core element, Education and Career Development skills. Large companies with a presence in the state have overwhelmingly supported other Club programs, enabling the organizations to free up dollars for important education initiatives, including postsecondary preparedness.
State and federal funding continues to be the main challenge to Clubs in New Hampshire. In response to this challenge, several Clubs have spearheaded the postsecondary education initiative by informally guiding members through their own locally designed programming. For example:
College Mentoring Program: The state’s largest Clubs—including Manchester, Nashua, Concord and Souhegan Valley—provide group and individual mentoring to coach, encourage and guide their teen members to prepare for college. This includes guidance in deciding high school course selection, SAT preparation, additional training for essay and college application development and assistance in finding financial aid and scholarship monies. Many of the Clubs listed, through the help of generous donors and local companies, have created their own scholarship programs for members.
Collegiate Tours: Several Clubs have established relationships with colleges and maintained contact with Club alumni around the Northeast in order to enable older members to attend official campus tours and information sessions. Members get the full collegiate experience while at the schools, talking with former Club members, sitting in on classes and lectures and engaging in extracurricular activities, such as athletic events, with their tour guides.
Career Exploration & Career Launch: Instituted in Manchester, Nashua, Concord and Souhegan Valley, Clubs work with either members of the business community in their own cities and towns, or Club alums to provide age- and interest-appropriate career-exploration activities. Volunteers provide mentoring, internship opportunities, guidance in basic employment skills and job-shadowing at local companies.
diplomas to Degrees (d2D): Many of the Clubs in the Alliance have demonstrated both flexibility and innovation in offering expanded programming to members in order to prepare them for postsecondary education opportunities. Additionally, they are preparing to use some of the same tools to launch an additional program that will assist members in their goals to continue their education past high school. Beginning this fall, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua will be one of several Clubs across the nation that will pilot a new program called diplomas to Degrees (d2D). Geared toward members ages 13 to 18, diplomas to Degrees assists in providing a range of services to help guide members through high school graduation while helping them make plans for postsecondary education or in careers of their choice. The program contains three components: The Facilitator’s Guide for Club staff members and volunteers helps staff explain to teens why college is important, and provides training in how to help members search for colleges and how to complete the daunting tasks of applying for admission and financial aid. The Teen College Guide offers tips on achieving academic success and tools to plan for postsecondary education, including information on how to build a college admission portfolio. The d2D Supplemental Website includes resources and interactive tools that will help guide members on the right track to achieve their educational and career goals. The goal is for the d2D program to eventually be offered in all Boys and Girls Clubs nationwide.
Lou D’Allesandro is a New Hampshire state senator and former chair of NEBHE.