Teens look to help others through DI

MILFORD – The Milford High School Destination Imagination team, seeking to fill a need in its community, has come up with a way to lend more support for children in the foster system.

Specifically, the group hopes to create “grab and go” bags with essentials for teens removed from their homes on short notice.

“We chose to help teenageners because they have been forgotten,” said team member Mikayla Rush, a Milford High School senior.

She said there are other charities that help babies and young children, but that teens need support, as well.

“Our main goal is to aid foster children in transition,” said Ariana Devine, one of the seven Milford high seniors who developed their own nonprofit called Project Empowerment to help carry out their mission.

Every year, Destination Imagination teams choose from one of seven types of challenges such as technical, scientific, structural, fine arts, improvisational or service. There is also a noncompetitive early learning challenge. Devine said they chose the service challenge.

Aside from the grab bags of items, such as personal care products, a constant need of teens in the system is socks and underwear. The team plans to keep supplies at the Division for Children, Youth & Families offices and at police departments to be readily available.

“We’re actually going statewide as we make more and more bags,” Rush said.

Part of the reason for going statewide is that most of the need comes from outside Milford, the team members said.

“Fortunately, there is not a lot of removal in Milford,” said Michael Frederico, another team member.

The project is still coming together, with a presentation set for March as part of the New Hampshire Destination Imagination regional competition. The open-ended New Hampshire DI challenges are evaluated on creativity and innovation. State teams can advance from regional tournaments to qualify for the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tenn., in May, which include the top teams from every state and 20 countries.

“Then we could have the opportunity to bring the project to a global scale,” Devine said.

The team must present its idea in a theatrical way, using costumes, scenery and a script, team member Geena Ciardelli said. Fellow team member Evan Ryan said they plan to express the community need and their team’s solution through a family of birds affected by addiction.

“We will be showing a transition from a dark place toward something more positive,” Devine said.

While the team can’t receive help executing its project, team members consulted experts at the New Hampshire Foster & Adoptive Parents Association, DCYF and Southern New Hampshire Health Services in the early planning stages.

As team members move on to college next year, they hope the next generation of Milford High students will keep the project alive.

The idea for the project’s theme, Rush added, was inspired by a real story.

“We have someone we know who is struggling through that, and seeing her experience, there are a lot of things they need that they can’t get on a whim,” Rush said.

The team hopes to attract community attention to its GoFundMe page to bring the project to life. “Our goal is $5,000. We’re at $88 right now, but that’s not to say we haven’t gotten gracious donations,” Devine said, noting handmade blankets from parents, among other community donations and sponsorships.

Rush said donors can adopt a bag for $61.

“That will pay for the entire bag, and we will buy supplies and pack the bag,” she said. “People say, ‘If you can’t be a part of the process, it’s a good way to say involved and make a difference. Even $1 can buy a bottle of water or shampoo.’?”

The team also includes, Evan Ryan, Nick Ryan and Adam Johnson.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-1246, tforbes@cabinet.com.