Brewster Academy

New Hampshire Student Leadership Program

What is the New Hampshire Student Leadership Program?

Launched in 2018 at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., the New Hampshire Student Leadership Program is a collaborative effort between independent and public school communities designed to nurture, develop, and guide the leadership potential of middle school students.

Brewster’s Head of School Craig Gemmell said, “Brewster’s vision compels us to work in partnership with our larger community. There are so many kids in this area—and rural America more broadly—who are falling through gigantic cracks in the system. And the impulse was to close as many cracks as we possibly could.”

Data from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation backs these observations. According to recent information from the NHCF website, 11 percent of N.H. kids (28,000 kids) live in poverty and 27 percent (44,000 kids) are eligible for free and reduced-price school lunch. In some districts, more than half of all children qualify. New Hampshire’s young people also have among the highest rates of substance use in the country.

2019 Summit August 2019 welcomed forty 7th and 8th graders from across N.H. to the second annual summer summit at Brewster. Holderness School was the first partner school to join, bringing a 7th grade cohort of their own. 

Student participants are nominated by guidance counselors, teachers, coaches, and youth group leaders based upon their character, drive, and leadership potential. They are invited to participate in NHSLP free of charge. The first two years of the program were funded through a generous grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation, as well as matching donations from a group of Brewster parents and alumni.

The summit was filled with energizing camp activities, including kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking. Students were immersed in classroom activities that cultivated skills in social-emotional literacy, leadership, values, and interpersonal dynamics. Each day the 8th grade group performed community service work. In the evenings, the students enjoyed explorations in art. The week culminated in student presentations: 7th graders illuminated “Why I Am a Leader” and 8th graders shared LEd-Talks (Leadership in Education) in a TED-Talk style format.

“As a leader, sometimes you have to do things that no one else wants to do,” explained NHSLP participant Bella. “People might rely on you to make tough decisions. Respect, empathy and kindness are some characteristics of a leader that I want to bring back home.”

The middle schoolers, who take up service projects in their home schools and communities, were then paired with high school students from Brewster and Holderness for ongoing mentoring throughout the school year, which will include three return visits to Brewster’s campus.Scaling the Program According to Gemmell, “The immediate impact for these kids is that they are more engaged in being fully themselves in their schools. With the guidance of their families, support from their schools, and through the NHSLP, these students gain the tools that will carry them through their tender years and galvanize them to actively seek opportunities to do right in the world on behalf of others. In the coming years, we aspire to partner with all New Hampshire boarding schools to host their own cohorts of local students. We believe we can materially change a generation of our state’s most vulnerable students for the better.”


For more information, contact Kristy Kerin,