From Whence We Came…

An educational needs assessment conducted for the City of Concord in 1970 revealed that Concord was in need of a comprehensive adult education program. According to the 1970 Census, 42% of Merrimack County’s adult population had not finished high school. In response, two educators, Ruth Hooke and Nancy Callahan, took up the challenge. After several months, they were able to secure small grants from the Spaulding Potter Trust and the State Department of Adult Basic Education.

With $4,000, two part-time staff members, a babysitter, and a handful of volunteers, they opened the doors of Second Start in the basement of the First Congregational Church in February of 1971. The program operated two mornings a week providing instruction in basic reading, writing, math, and life-coping skills.

In September 1971, the childcare program was licensed by the State as a daycare provider. In September 1972 one part-time business teacher was hired, and with two donated typewriters, the clerical training program began to provide adults with employable skills.

Continued Development in the Seventies…

In 1974 Second Start was awarded a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education to further develop literacy programs. The first full-time staff was hired and the scope of the agency’s services expanded.

The program outgrew the facilities of the First Congregational Church and in the spring of 1975 moved to the recently vacated West Concord Firehouse.

second start alternative education

The First Half of the Eighties (1980-1985)…

In the spring of 1980, the Adult Basic Education, Office Skills Training, and Daycare Programs moved to the Walker Building on the New Hampshire Hospital grounds. This move made possible the expansion of the daycare program from 15 children part-time to 55 children full-time.

Additional support services for welfare mothers were added, as well as English as a Second Language classes to serve the influx of Asian refugees, and a volunteer tutorial program.

September of 1984 saw the addition of the Transition & Employment Training Program designed for adolescents who have been unsuccessful in finding and maintaining employment. A substance abuse program was also added for adolescents who are experiencing drug and alcohol problems or are from families where drug and alcohol abuse is a problem.

In 1986 Second Start was cited by the United States Department of Education as an outstanding example of excellence in Adult Education.

By 1987, over 1,800 children and adults were served by Second Start.

Second Start 1985-1990…

Second Start negotiated a sale with the Concord School Board (May, 1987 to January,1988) for the purchase of the Garrison School for nominal consideration.

The City of Concord applied for and was awarded, on Second Start’s behalf, two Community Development Block Grants from the Office of State Planning in 1987 & 1988 in the amount of $231,000 to assist with these renovation projects.

The Board of Directors conducted Second Start’s first ever Capital Campaign in the spring of 1988 and raised approximately $600,000 from the Greater Concord community and $100,000 from private foundations.

The Adult Education Office and Training and Childcare programs moved from the Walker Building to the newly renovated Garrison building in time for September classes. The Daycare was expanded to over 100 children and the space provided much improved classrooms for Adult Education.

Second Start in the Nineties…

In 1990 Second Start’s Adult Literacy program was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the ten best literacy programs in the country. The agency name was changed from Project Second Start to Second Start because we no longer felt we could be described as a project.

In 1994 Second Start was able to upgrade its instructional computers in the Office Program with $15,000 from private foundations. The placement rate of the Office Program was 100% of completers for the second year in a row.

Second Start again received the Secretary of Education’s Award for Outstanding Adult Education and Literacy Programs in September 1996. September 1996 also marked the beginning of Second Start’s 25th year of service to the Greater Concord community.

In the Fall of 1997 the Office Program began the huge task of becoming an accredited program for Title IV government funds. This would enable our clients to use federal student financial aid to attend the program. In August of 1998, the office program was accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training. (ACCET). In August of 1999 the Office Program received full accreditation from the Department of Education to administer federal financial aid (Title IV) money.

During the Spring of 1998, Second Start was awarded a statewide contract to provide intense employment counseling services to welfare recipients. This program was based on a model that was being used at Second Start on a smaller scale only in Merrimack County since 1993. The program expanded to serve the communities of Concord, Manchester, Nashua, Salem, Plymouth, Littleton, Colebrook Keene, Claremont, Lebanon, Conway, Berlin, Rochester/Dover and Portsmouth/Exeter.

Second Start’s Student Assistance program grew in 1998 to include drug, alcohol and violence prevention services at the elementary level.

Second Start in the New Millennium…

In 2001, the ESL population for both day and evening classes almost doubled. Also, the agency implemented a major technology upgrade with the purchase of 92 new and upgraded PCs and the installation of its first Local Area Network connecting both its buildings. A Capital Campaign from businesses and individuals if finishing up to pay for the computer network at a cost of approximately $225,00.

In 2002, the Alternative High School was re-certified by the NH Department of Education as a Special Education Program for three years. The number of individuals served in the statewide Step by Step Career Guidance program and English as a Second Language program continued to increase. The first annual report to the community is published.

2003 saw the addition of a College Transition Program for adults. This program is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and is aimed at preparing adults for success in post secondary education programs.

The major development in 2004 was the transformation of The Office Program to the New Hampshire Career Institute. Part of this transformation was the relocation of the program to a new facility at 130 Pembroke Road and a shift in curriculum to focus on healthcare related office training. The program offers training in Administrative Support, Medical Billing and Coding and Medical Assisting. Also in 2004, the contract with the State for the Step by Step Career Guidance program ended and a new program called Working Futures was created in its place. The goal of Working Futures is to assist individuals in the move from public assistance to self-sufficiency. Working Futures has ten sites in the State of NH.

In 2005 the Alternative High School received 5 years of program approval as a special education program for adolescents. Seventy-five percent of the Alternative High students either retuned for another year of school or graduated.

2006 saw the addition of the Hopkinton Middle and High School to the other schools served by the Student Assistance Program (SAP).

In 2007 the Working Futures program, in collaboration with the State of New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, redesigned program content to meet the federal TANF reauthorization guidelines and to afford statewide TANF recipients the training and skills so necessary to succeed in the today’s job market.

New Hampshire Career Institute graduated their final student cohort with the graduate and placement rates well above the established national benchmarks for career training schools.

As our community becomes more culturally diverse, the need for English instruction has increased, and in 2008 Second Start’s outreach efforts expanded to include satellite programs across Concord. Additionally, The English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services were extended to include new partnerships with private sector business to bring ESOL classes to the workplace and enrollment in the Adult Learner Services Tutorial Program increased significantly.

With a rise in referrals and new programming, enrollment in the Working Futures Program increased significantly across our eleven locations statewide, providing career development skills to welfare recipients. Conway, Laconia and Berlin offices were relocated and new offices were opened in Keene and Littleton.

A successful fundraising campaign in 2009 enabled Second Start to complete sorely needed upgrades to its computer systems and hardware, enabling each of our programs to provide cutting edge technology to our participants while enhancing our curriculum and teaching modalities.

In 2010 with the support of the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA) Community Development Investment Program, the City of Concord Community Development Block Grant monies and the generous support of many dedicated corporate and business leaders, Second Start launched the Energy Improvement Initiative – a blueprint for a building improvement plan that will allow us to manage our energy use more strategically and save money.

In 2011, Second Start completed the energy improvement renovations that help us to manage our energy use more strategically and save money. Improvements such as new multiple pane low-E glass windows and added insulation throughout our buildings, installation of energy-efficient lighting and Energy Start appliances, and a new furnace and baseboard forced hot water heating units served to reduce operating costs and improve energy efficiency. Additionally the children’s center playground surfaces and subsurface drainage systems were removed and restored.

Between 2012 and 2014, our enrollment of adults in our English as a Second Language classes surpassed our total number of adults enrolled in all of our adult education classes for the first time ever (51% to 49%). These immigrant and refugee students come from over 30 different countries.

Starting in January of 2014, the HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) replaced the GED (General Education Development) test as New Hampshire’s official high school equivalency exam.

In June of 2014, Second Start paid off its mortgage for the former Garrison Elementary School and took outright ownership of the building.