A $35,122.50 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will help fund the Summer Program at The Chase Home for the next two years. The award was made through the Empowering Youth Program, which launched in 2020 and made possible by funding through the CARES Act.
According to Meme Wheeler, executive director of The Chase Home, the funding is “critically important,” given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the overall health of middle and high school youth, especially those considered ‘at-risk.’
“The last two-plus years have been incredibly difficult for them, as social, emotional, and academic pressure have continued to build within a complex cultural landscape,” she said. “The kids we work with—any kid for that matter—are feeling this stress.”
Founded in 1877, The Chase Home in Portsmouth provides prevention, early intervention, residential, and community-based programs to at-risk youth, all of whom are involved with DHHS or the Juvenile Justice System. Some youth are served in the community while others live at The Chase Home.
Regarding the kinds of activities available for youth in their Summer Program, Wheeler cited Saco River tubing, adventures on ziplines, gardening, paddleboarding, trips to Boston-area museums, and more. “These activities give kids the chance to socialize, explore the natural world, and build confidence in themselves,” she added.
According to Lindsey Ellis, who manages the Summer Program, such activities support the socio-emotional health and skill development of youth participants. “These activities are fun, of course, but the kids also learn how to cooperate with one another, express themselves in social settings, and build trust,” she said. “The summer is a terrific time for the kids to put into practice some of the things they have been learning all year.”
In addition to activities, Wheeler said the Summer Program works with other organizations to provide educational talks. Current collaborating partners include Haven, Seacoast Outright, SAResponse, and Planned Parenthood. “These are group discussions that often result in meaningful conversations and dialogue afterwards,” she said.
In looking ahead to this summer and the next, Wheeler said there are still funding gaps in the Summer Program, although she acknowledged they are “not quite as wide.” “I’m appreciative of the support we do receive,” she said. “There are, of course, still many challenges we face as a state, so the key for us as an organization and industry is to keep advocating for every kid.”