Program Involves Local Students In Grantmaking Process

Nine local students served on the Empower Coös Youth Grantmaking Committee during the 2020-2021 academic year. The program is accepting applications from Coös, Essex, and northern Grafton county students until Thursday, April 15 at 5 p.m. (Courtesy photo)

A Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund program that gives students from Coös and surrounding counties a voice is accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year.

The Empower Coös Youth Grants Committee consists of nine high schoolers from Coös, Essex, and northern Grafton counties who learn about grant-making, non-profits, decision-making and philanthropy. At their final meeting in March, the committee awards up to $50,000 in funding to area non-profits.

Jean Clarke, Tillotson funds manager for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, said Monday that the program began three years ago because the Tillotson Fund is very interested in giving youth a genuine opportunity to impact their community in a positive way.

The Empower Coös Youth committee meets once a month from September through March for two hours.

“What students tell us that they like about [the program] is that it’s very hands-on,” said Clarke. “There’s a lot of interaction and we give them real examples and case studies through the process. But at the end, the culmination is that they are really making grants into the community.”

Clarke says the final meeting is led by the students, with staff serving as a support system for their process.

Grants made by the student committee last month amount to $46,500 that are headed to seven area non-profits located in Coös, northern Grafton and Essex counties. Clarke said that 14 grant proposals were received.

Projects chosen for funding this year include $10,000 to the Bethlehem Trails Association to continue designing and building a mountain bike skills park; $10,000 to Canaan Schools to expand outdoor winter recreational opportunities for students; and $10,000 to the NH Teen Institute for Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Inc. to provide camperships for 32 Coös-area middle school students to attend their Leaders in Prevention Program in 2022.

The grant-making program is accepting applications from students who would like to serve on the committee for the 2021-2022 school year.

Eligible students are those who will be entering ninth through 12th grade this fall and have the time and interest to participate in the committee. A one-year commitment is required, though Clarke says a two-year commitment would be ideal.

“We’re looking for someone who would want an actual hands-on experience,” said Clarke. “This really opens up new ways of looking at your community and how non-profits actually work.”

“This committee has a huge awareness piece that most students do not have access to and our participants have really gotten excited about,” she added.

Student applications are being accepted until Thursday, April 15, at 5 p.m.

Questions and applications can be directed to Clarke at

She says the program is looking for students who are kind of off-the-radar.

“You have your class presidents and people that do every sport … we’re hoping for those students who are off-the-radar,” Clarke said.

While each of the nine seats on the committee are filled by students from different high schools, home-schoolers are eligible to serve on the committee as well.

Applications for a seat on the committee are competitive, and Clarke is looking forward to reviewing them.

Area non-profits can apply for a grant through the program each January.

More information can be found on the New Hampshire Charitable Fund’s website at

The vision of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund is “to serve as a catalyst for the region to move toward sustainable community and economic development in Coös County and surrounding communities in the United States and Canada.”


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