Pilot program provides for teens in need

Resiliency Program highlighted at Nashua West Rotary meeting

NASHUA – The Rotary Club of Nashua West hosted a club meeting Tuesday where a presentation was given about the curriculum for the pilotted Resiliency Program.

In light of the opioid crisis plaguing New Hampshire, the Club presented a joint grant to the Teen Institute in Nashua and the Boys & Girls Club of Nashua. The meeting was at the Nashua Courtyard Marriott at noon, where club members shared lunch.

With a similar idea in mind as Camp Mariposa, Kurt Norris of the Boys & Girls Club said, “We decided to partner with the Teen Institute to develop a program for teens around the same area of developing resiliency skills, and living in a family with extreme addiction, but adjusted and changed to deal with teens and their interests.”

Norris and Marissa Carlson of the Teen Institute are spearheading the curriculum for the Resiliency Program, and Maura McGowan joined them to deliver the presentation.

The program is based on a combination of experiences with Camp Mariposa, youth leadership programs run by the Teen Institute and the existing mentoring program at the Boys & Girls Club, but it instead targets participants aged 12 – 15. Those at-risk pre-teens are coming into the program from families that have experienced any of the following; severe substance use disorder, incarceration or death. The youth have been recommended by an agency they participate in, and the program brings them together for two weekend retreats of resiliency training. There is a mentorship program that’s done in-between each weekend retreat, and they survey youth participants before and after to assess internal protective factors and resiliency.

McGowan said resiliency is the ability to adapt and bounce back when you have a challenging situation.

She said it’s not about having things happen to you, or that everything is positive or that there’s more negative outcomes than positive ones.

“It’s about having the skills to handle it, working toward positive things, rather than relying on a negative coping mechanisms,” McGowan said.

Through the program, pre-teens are introduced to positive coping mechanisms, such as meditating, for example. Through the overnight camping component, participants are both getting out their of homes and comfort zones, while learning these coping mechanisms.

“They’re taking new positive risks, and are separated from the same old day-to-day routine,” McGowan said.

However, all three presenters agreed getting teens to buy in to going to a camp like this is challenging. However, they were able to meet the needs of those kids looking for excitement, fun and high energy while providing a learning experience.

Carlson said, “We really balance the weekend with skill building and fun. We want people to feel like they’re in a safe, supportive environment, and be something teens want to buy into.”

Originally, 15 kids were set to participate, but due to families dealing with crises and being in transition, 13 were able to make it, and they’re still working with those kids since the program launched between March 9 and 11.

“We spent time during the day in small, separate groups of six or seven kids each to give them a chance to process the information in a smaller group format,” Carlson said.

However, away from the camp, the program’s weekly check-ins are where the reinforcement piece takes place.

Norris said the counselor-to-kid ratio is almost one to one. With a lot of staff on hand, it offers the kids the opportunity to connect with people who will be mentors later on.

“The kid comes in and feels comfortable and confides in them. The staff are able to work with them and come up with ways to get them the support they need, and some kids end up being more than weekly check-ins,” Norris said.

McGowan said they don’t have data on how participants were impacted, because they still have another month before the program wraps up. However, she said the measurement tool they use is meant for 9-23 year olds, measuring where they perceived the resources in four areas; individual, relationship, cultural and communal.

“We did this the first weekend of the event, and we’ll do it again the final weekend to see where the change is. It helps us see the impact it’s having,” McGowan said.

By looking at those measurements, they’ll then be able to determine which areas are working well, and which need adjusting.

In June, when the pilot program comes to an end, they’ll look at that data from the pre- and post-surveys and go from there.

Carlson said, “The next steps we are looking at is how to scale up and involve more students, what are the staff sources we need and the space we need.”

Norris said in an ideal world, we would like to see the program run year-round. He said Mariposa goes out six times a year, but for the teens, being older, to maybe go out with them two or three times a year.

“We are looking to make sure this format continues, and we’re looking at ways to make that happen. There’s a lot of kids in agencies in the city where we know there’s issues, and these kids need the support this camp can offer,” Norris said.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.