Students garner life lessons on the trail
Jobs for America’s Graduates and the Appalachian Mountain Club have partnered up to offer Berlin students meaningful, paid summer employment, skill-building work in environmental stewardship, and exposure to careers in conservation and land management
By Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, Network for Good Contributor | August 15, 2019
Despite the muggy heat of the late-July day, the blackflies still swarming the woods of Berlin, and the hard day’s work ahead, 16-year-old Julianna Willey is full of enthusiasm. She speaks in the lingo of an experienced trail-builder — of “laying a crush” and “making good tread” and learning to “fly” buckets with the grip hoist.
“It’s wonderful,” Willey says. “All the work is really fun. I’m learning a lot all the time.”
Willey and six other Berlin High School students make up the Teen Trail Crew, a NH-JAG summer youth program. NH-JAG — Jobs for America’s Graduates — started in 1987 with a focus on improving academic standing, decreasing drop-out rates, and preparing students for life after high school.
During the school year, JAG students learn employability skills, receive career guidance, and are supported in their academic efforts. Summer employment is an important component of the JAG program, and that’s where the Teen Trail Crew comes in. A collaboration between NH-JAG and the Appalachian Mountain Club, with grant support from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the trail crew offers meaningful, paid summer employment, skill-building work in environmental stewardship, and exposure to careers in conservation and land management.
“This program does a great job of helping young people discover their own strengths — and showing them some of the really exciting outdoor career possibilities that the North Country has to offer,” said Kirsten Scobie, director of the Tillotson Funds. “We are thrilled to be able to support it.”
The Berlin NH-JAG program, founded almost two decades ago, is one of 11 throughout the state. Berlin JAG first partnered with AMC in 2011, working with students for two weeks to establish a new trail on Mount Jasper, which rises in steep cliff faces to a forested dome just behind the high school. The crew continues to improve and maintain that trail each year.
The NH-JAG/AMC partnership has grown from a two-week program to a full-summer, seven-week program. This year’s program brought students from Mount Jasper to Great Glen Trails, the White Mountain National Forest, and the summit of Mount Washington.
“By partnering with an organization like AMC, which understands and respects the mission of NH-JAG and the population of youth served, we are offering these young people so much more than just a paycheck,” said Janet Arnett, executive director for NH-JAG.
“The region’s history and economic health hinge in part on local youths’ engagement with, and understanding of, the opportunities of the local economy,” Arnett said. “This AMC/NH-JAG collaboration provides a great opportunity to expose students to some future career options while making a meaningful contribution to their community.”
Under the guidance of two AMC professional trail crew leaders, the students work together to build new trails, smooth out overused or damaged sections, and complete complex tasks like building stone steps along paths.
“None of this is fluff work,” said Alex DeLucia, Trails Volunteer Programs Manager for the AMC. “These students are doing professional-quality work.”
The trail crew starts the summer at Mount Jasper, where students learn the basics of trail-building, how to use the tools, and the value of teamwork. They also see that their work can make a difference close to home: Passing hikers thank the students for their work on the trail, and physical education classes use the trail during the school year. The Mount Jasper trail is also now included in the AMC’s White Mountain Guide, the most comprehensive trail guide for hikers in the region.
“We select projects that are close to the high school, on public lands, and provide meaningful support to partnering land managers or significantly impact communities,” said DeLucia. “The students are exposed to the world of conservation and recreation management. They learn about career opportunities at the AMC, National Forest, state parks, land trusts, and more. Trail work helps develop problem-solving skills, patience, teamwork, perseverance, work ethic, and more that will help them in their future work and life goals.”
The group spent a week this summer exploring potential future employment opportunities. They drove the Mount Washington Auto Road, observed Forest Service and professional AMC trail crews at work in the alpine zone, toured the Mount Washington Observatory and visited AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, meeting with representatives from each department, from guest services to campsite caretakers to adventure guides.
Most importantly, these students are gaining a more thorough understanding of what their community has to offer beyond high school — and what they may offer to their community.
NH JAG received a $19,000 grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to provide paid summer employment for youth in Berlin
Thanks to the generosity and support from the NH Charitable Foundation, NH JAG has again partnered with AMC to deliver a customized summer Teen Trail Crew experience for teenagers in Berlin, NH. The project provides meaningful paid summer employment, skill-building service work in environmental stewardship along with exposure to careers in conservation and land management.
The trail crew began work on Mt Jasper to maintain established non-motorized recreational trails.
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation, founded in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire. the Foundation manages a growing collection of more than 1,800 funds created by generous individuals, families and businesses, and awards nearly $40 million in grants and scholarships every year. The Foundation works with generous and visionary citizens to maximize the power of their giving, supports great work happening in our communities and leads and collaborates on high-impact initiatives. For more information visit www.nhcf.org or call 603-225-6641.
Congratulations!Congratulations to NH-JAG Alum Alka Gurung for graduating from Southern New Hampshire University this month!!
Dinebari Adumene: Success through Perseverance, Hard Work and NH-JAG
“I cannot allow anyone’s perception of my life to hold me back from achieving greatness.”
Dinebari speaks with confidence, but that was not always the case. In fact, he was so shy, that his mother, Kile Adumene, once enrolled him in acting class to try to get him to come out of his shell. While that was not entirely successful, the NH-JAG program was, according to his mother. “NH-JAG taught him how to talk to people and helped him develop his presentation skills. They built confidence in him as a person,” she said.
Said Dinebari, “When I first started JAG I was a quiet, reserved person who didn’t show any leadership skills. During team building activities I would sit out and not participate because I didn’t know anyone. As I progressed into the program and became a leader of JAG, I became friends with other peers I normally wouldn’t have even met. I figured out skills that I didn’t even know I had. Having these skills started to build my confidence with talking to others and being a leader.”
For Dinebari, being a leader for his family has been most important. With no father around, he saw his mother struggle to provide a roof to live under and food on the table. As the oldest child, Dinebari was responsible for daily chores and for baby-sitting his three siblings. While not easy, he learned to balance multiple responsibilities along with his academics, just as his mother was doing. “My mother emigrated to the Unites States as a refugee without any college education. She put herself through school starting with English as a second language class and eventually earning her college degree, all while working at night and going to school during the day with a mortgage and four children,” said Dinebari.
This is around the time Dinebari found the NH-JAG program during this sophomore year in high school. According to his mother, the program was a life-changer. “I could not be with Dinebari all the time as I was occupied with studies and work. NH-JAG taught him practical skills like budgeting and presentation skills and provided him with professional development opportunities,” said Kile. “He even earned his first paycheck through a part-time job with NH-JAG and got to travel to Washington, D.C.”
The NH-JAG trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Student Leadership Academy – a trip he couldn’t have taken otherwise – was certainly more than a sightseeing tour. Not only did Dinebari gain connections with students from different states, but he also gained knowledge that allowed him to become a better leader. Those leadership skills motivated him to strive to be his best – and to encourage his peers to be as well.
“Dinebari has grown into a hardworking, caring and responsible young man. This is reflected through his dedication to academics and a strong work ethic. In the NH-JAG program, Dinebari has grown and he has shown that he has the drive to be successful in life after high school,” said Manchester Memorial High School Guidance Counselor Joanne Cockerill.
He has proven this to be true. And as Dinebari pursues his college degree, he is also looking to the future, one where he not only improves his own life, but also the lives of others. “I have seen the devastation caused by negative role models on other children, and as a result, one of my dreams for the future is to create a non-profit organization that will be designed to provide a resource center for lower class children to be leaders in their communities and to pursue their dream career.” He will pursue this vision with many of the skills gained through participation in NH-JAG.
31st Annual Career Development Conference
On April 2nd 55 NH JAG students attended the 31st Annual Career Development Conference at the Derryfield Restaurant in Manchester. The conference and awards luncheon is the culmination of competitive events the students have taken part in for several months. The events included interviewing competitions, public speaking and community service project presentations.
We were pleased to have Randy Pierce—founder of the charitable organization 2020 Vision Quest,entrepreneur, adventurer and philanthropist—share his story with us. Randy is totally blind. Always embodying the 2020 Vision Quest theme of “Achieve a Vision Beyond Your Sight,” he has continually forged ahead to experience an amazing variety of adventures and accomplishments such as, winning a National Marathon Championship, run in four consecutive Boston Marathons; has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Machu Picchu in Peru, all 48 of the New Hampshire White Mountains’ 4,000-footers twice and has competed in three Tough Mudder events.
Eight students representing various high schools and out-of-school programs throughout the state were honored for their outstanding leadership qualities. Students were selected by faculty at each of their schools for best exemplifying true leadership skills. Susan Huard, Chair of the NH JAG Board, presented each honoree with a plaque.
One of the highlights of the annual event was the presentation of academic scholarships by Bishop Jason Sanderson. 10 students received scholarships toward their post-secondary education from the Jason Sanderson/Bobby Stephen Scholarship Fund.
Congratulations to all who participated!
Thank you to all the special guests who attended the CDC and all who support the NH JAG program! And a special thank you to the many judges who volunteered their time to rate the individual events.