A recently established organization moves forward to offer more stable opportunities for children from lower income families.

Keene Housing Kids Collaborative was created as an independent entity out of Keene Housing which offers subsidized, affordable housing. Executive Director of the collaborative Liz Chipman said, “We’re working to build the foundation for successful adults and provide the opportunities and experiences that will help them succeed.”

Chipman said the organization was first spoken about in December of 2014.

She explained that it was Executive Director of Keene Housing Josh Meehan who made the decision.

“He’s just a progressive thinker and wanted to expand on the stuff we already had been doing for [the] kids,” Chipman said.

“Our ultimate goal was to help the kids become economically successful adults, so to break that cycle of poverty.”

Chipman said the group went about partnering up with other organizations such as the YMCA, Miracles in Motion, Keene Ice and Moco Arts Dance Studio.

“So one of the barriers for kids in Keene Housing to all of these things is financial…so we as an organization are removing that financial barrier. We partner with all of these organizations to give our kids stuff,” Chipman said.

Their first project was “The Ties that Bind,” a blanket making fundraiser to get donations and raise awareness for six Keene Housing Kids Collaborative children at MoCo Arts Dance Studio.

This event was held Wednesday, March 23, in the student center at Keene State College.

Colton McCraken / Equinox Staff

Colton McCraken / Equinox Staff

Program Manager for Diversity & Multiculturalism Initiatives/NEASC Kim Schmidl-Gagne helped organize this fundraiser by bringing KSC American Democracy Project to partner and strengthen their efforts.

Schmidl-Gagne said that this particular event was about getting MoCo Art scholarships available for the children involved since there are many expenses associated with performance arts.

“What we’re doing is fundraising to get the kids the other stuff that you need to be able to participate in the show like my daughter does. Why shouldn’t these children have the same sort of specialness that happen around performances?” Schmidl-Gagne said.

Schmidl-Gagne explained the long-term goal is a longitudinal study that involves current data on these children incorporating their test scores and opportunities offered.

“We’re trying to fill the opportunity gap, and we have two students who are beginning the longitudinal research to see if these studies have an effect,” Schmidl-Gagne said.

One of these students, KSC Senior Alli Mensh, said she got involved because she’s doing an independent study.

“We’re doing [this] longitudinal study, which is going to [help] figure out if there is statistically significant data that can kind of determine if kids are going to fall into this path of poverty or whether they can escape it,” she said.

Mensh said that since she’s a senior, she’s working hard to leave viable information behind.

“What I want to do is set up this longitudinal study because it can’t all be done right now,  and make it so it can be replicated in the future and actually…set it up so that people can continue to work because the data still needs to be gathered in the future, but we won’t be here to do that,” Mensh said.

For the time being, Mensh said she enjoys what she’s doing.

“It feels so good to give back to the community and also Liz Chipman, the executive director of Keene Housing Kids’ Collaborative, is a great asset to have,” Mensh said.

“We haven’t done a ton yet, but, as the data comes in, we’ll start to delve in and see what we want to find to help these kids.”

“One of the things we are trying to do since we’re a new organization is to get the word out, you know say we’re here,” Chipman said.

Chipman said there is a graphic design class taught by Yuan Pan at the college that has been helping to build their website.

“And then, I have a Sociology class under Peggy Walsh…which [is] doing some community outreach for us,” Chipman said.

“We’re very excited about the way that students and faculty and [the] Keene State [College] community has welcomed our organization,” Chipman said.

In particular to this event, Chipman said the group American Democracy Project has helped considerably.

Program Manager Kim Schmidl-Gagne said the mission statement of the American Democracy Project is to “help create the next generation of active and engaged citizens,” and that they had a goal to bring author Robert Putnam on campus.

Putnam wrote a book called “Our Kids,” which demonstrates how changes in society make it that much harder to succeed and have social mobility.

“So it’s full of research, it’s full of data but it doesn’t provide a whole lot (and this isn’t a criticism), but he doesn’t provide a whole lot of solutions,” Schmidl-Gagne said.

“So we’ve taken that to heart and said ‘okay, we’re going to find a way to try to really change things and not look at the margins, let’s get in deep, let’s see what these children need, let’s get engaged.’”

Chipman said that any students who want to get involved like Mensh can contact her at lchipman@keenekidscollaborative.org or call her office phone at 603-283-5464.

Dorothy England can be contacted at dengland@kscequinox.com

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