For nearly 30 years, New Heights in Portsmouth and Exeter has made adventure one of its primary offerings in both its school and summer programs. More than simply taking participants on random excursions on hiking trails or on surfboards in the ocean, New Heights adventure programs place youth in situations where skills like leadership and teambuilding are actively developed and encouraged.
For Joanie Dickinson, whose son Drew has participated in overnight programs in which he canoed in the Adirondacks and backpacked in Utah, the programs are life-changing.
“New Heights is inspirational to children and their parents,” she said. “The New Heights programs and staff are consistent but also changing by being open minded and adding programs as need be.”
Tracey Tucker, longtime executive director at New Heights, said adventure programs “demand accountability from youth in supportive environments,” which she said is crucial to their emotional development.
“Research is very clear that well-designed adventure programs enable youth to experience risk in acceptable ways that can teach them life lessons they cannot learn in a class room setting,” she added.
In addition to helping youth develop leadership and teambuilding skills, Adventure Coordinator Sally Gregory said their staff design activities that help them overcome personal fears and hardships.
“Adventure programming can help kids reach their potential and build a sense of self-worth,” she said.
Current participant Drew Dickinson agrees with Gregory and added, “My favorite part about New Heights is to have the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone in a fun and encouraging atmosphere and push my limits comfortably. “I also love that I’m able to travel around the country and see sights like Arches National Park in Utah and hike and climb in areas I would have never had the chance to do before.”
Expressing excitement at the upcoming Summer Adventure Program, which features a High School ‘Surfin Safari’ trip in Cape Cod and a trip to the Adirondacks among other expeditions, Gregory said New Heights continually tries to “raise the bar.”
“We don’t rest on our laurels,” she said. “We are committed to each and every group of kids that come through here.”
The staff’s commitment is obvious even to the participants, according to Drew. “New Heights is awesome and worth giving a shot because it’s fun and the people running the programs are awesome and love to have fun,” he said. “By going to New Heights, you have the opportunity to do essentially whatever you like in a fun and encouraging setting.”