IMPACCT Academy students begin their 14-week program by working together on a team-building activity that also fosters many of the "soft skills" employers value. (Photo courtesy of Granite State Independent Living.)

IMPACCT Academy students begin their 14-week program by working together on a team-building activity that also fosters many of the "soft skills" employers value. (Photo courtesy of Granite State Independent Living.)

A profound difference

Program officer Kirsten Scobie on how one component of one small grant had a profound impact on the lives of young people

I read a lot of grant reports. They are a critical piece of every partnership that the New Hampshire  Charitable Foundation undertakes with nonprofit organizations. Grant reports help us understand the impact of the work, track how funds were disbursed and build on partnerships to come. Every once in a while I read one that delivers something so unexpected and profound that I just can’t get it out of my head. I read one like that recently, one that called to mind the simple, yet often exceedingly difficult, lessons that can make our lives better.

In 2016 the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund made a $2,000 grant to Granite State Independent Living (GSIL), which is primarily funded by NH Vocational Rehabilitation, to offer additional trainings and workshops for North Country youth. GSIL promotes independence for people living with disabilities statewide.

When it comes right down to it, this grant was helping kids to learn some basic life skills that many of us take for granted, and that all of us need to be successful adults: how to dress for an interview. How to figure out and ride the bus. These kids, for whatever set of reasons, just did not have lives that had thus far afforded them such lessons. Granite State Independent Living has a way to help: IMPACCT Academy.

In addition to some of the more obvious (and critical) “life skills” lessons, this program also offered these kids a course in the practice of mindfulness with local instructor Erin Woo.

This was just one component of what one small grant made possible, but it had a profound effect on young folks who really needed it. One young woman with Down Syndrome said that her “favorite part of the week was when Erin came and that she practiced what she learned from Erin daily. She uses some of the breathing techniques to calm herself when she feels overwhelmed and anxious, and she does the body scan to help her fall asleep.” She said she sleeps much better now. Another student who sometimes has trouble with anger began to slowly change his reactions and shared that he was practicing “taking five” before reacting to students or administrators when he felt like something was unfair or frustrating.

“The most significant lesson we learned because of this grant is how incredibly valuable teaching mindfulness to young people can be,” wrote Lynne Grigelevich, who works with kids at GSIL. “Offering this to teenagers provides them with these techniques and this approach from a young age, empowering them to take hold of their own experiences for the rest of their lives.”

These reports from our nonprofit partners give us the benefit of learning alongside the organizations that are doing such great work in our communities — about the good and the bad, about the smashing successes and about the times when regrouping was in order. We appreciate the time people take to write these reports, because they truly help us to be more strategic grant-makers and funding partners.

And sometimes, what we learn from them just kind of makes our day.