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DreamCatchers NH partners with SNHU and GSIL for leadership

Updated: Apr 17, 2018

DreamCatchers NH high school programs are focused on leadership. In order to ensure the program addressed this skill, we partnered with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and Granite State Independent Living (GSIL) to pilot this powerful program.

DreamCatchers NH believes it's important to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations as we all work towards the same cause. We partnered with SNHU and GSIL, like-minded organizations, to create a powerful leadership program that connects students living with disabilities to college students and watched the magic happen.

The Pilot

"I never thought I could go to college because I have a disability but now I am going to try." - GSIL student

The premise of this program started with a question: what does leadership mean to a High School student living with a disability? That's when Executive Director, Dena Stahlheber, met with Andrea Bard, a professor and communications department head at SNHU. Together, they hatched a plan to work with Andrea's college students to create activities around leadership that provide a hands-on experience of what it's like. But how would they know if the activities were effective?

Granite State Independent Living

Granite State Independent Living is a nonprofit that helps individuals living with disabilities have a variety of resources across the state. One of their programs is an earn and learn program that allows struggling students with an IEP or disability to have an alternative program that focuses on their needs to graduate.

DreamCatchers NH reached out to GSIL to see if the high school students from their earn and learn program would be interested in piloting this new program with SNHU and a wonderful partnership began.

The Power of Communication

Communication can be defined as the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs. -

As the definition clearly outlines, as we partake in communication something is imparted or interchanged. We believe this is what happened by bringing together students who are adept at communication with students who may not think they are or perhaps have a challenge in this area. In this community, we can see those with strengths in one area helping others who perhaps have a deficit in some, but abundance in other areas. I believe this is community at its best.

These college students met with the GSIL high school students 3 times for at least 2 hours each time. During the debrief, all the college students said there was not enough time spent with the GSIL students. Many of them saw themselves in the students they met and were deeply impacted and inspired by the high school students who didn't have many opportunities for leadership but discovered they were leaders.

The Magic

At the debrief with Andrea's communication class, the students shared how impacted they were by this experience. Some of the students had tears in their eyes as they related to some of the challenges the GSIL students faced and saw themselves in the struggle. They realized that they had been leaders to these individuals and that they saw leadership in these GSIL students.

The GSIL high school students wrote thank you letters to the class, expressing their gratitude for this experience and how many of them were now going to consider college. During the sessions, they also expressed their understanding that they too have leadership skills in some areas which they hadn't realized before.

The goal of this program was to let the students experience leadership for themselves while connecting with peers who can provide further insights into not only leadership but college life.

The Future

We are now looking to roll out a similar program with interested colleges and high schools. We will continue to partner with SNHU and GSIL, as well. If you are interested in learning more please reach out to Dena at

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