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Stories of Engaged Maine Youth

Female, 15, Farmington:

I improve the community by helping others.  I have helped out by helping other students with their work that they have a hard time with.  I help out with more than one student with their work.  I have helped old men and women with their bottles, groceries, holding the door for them, and much more.  I also help out by picking up trash, and leaves, and sticks.

I help kids with problems ex: home problems, school problems.  I tell people not to pick on the kids in the special education room.

When I do this stuff I make the people feel more important.  I help them feel and do things better.  I help them figure out their problems.  Thinking and helping out the community makes me feel great to know that I’m making a difference in this world.

I will help in the future by becoming a cop so I can help other people in trouble.  I really want to help people so I’m more likely going to college to enroll for criminal justice.

I have helped out this community.  I’ve learned some of my skills by being a young marine.  It is a good program.  It helps teach us skills, and we help the community with stuff.  I hope you like my letter, thank you.

Jake, 16, Portland: 

Two years ago I was stuck in an MTV consciousness. I got bored a lot, roamed the mall, and smoked far too much ganja. I was curious about world events and, having progressive parents, I couldn’t help but pick up some liberal rhetoric. But even so, I didn’t understand much about how society worked.

One hot summer day as I was returning from a friend’s house I looked across the street and saw a dozen people in a driveway painting a school bus. I watched with what must have been a curious expression on my face and a smiling, dread-locked girl beckoned me over. She and several of her friends had moved in right across the street from my house. To my surprise, she told me to go help myself to the food in the house, make myself at home, and help paint the bus if I was interested.

It turned out the bus belonged to an organization called the Peoples Free Space, a local activist group. It had couches, a kitchen, and a library on board and was destined to run on vegetable oil. The Free Space was based on values like liberation from oppression of all kinds, although this meant nothing to me at the time.

I felt like I really connected with the people who lived in that house. They were all open and loving and would always encourage me to stop by, which I did often because it was so close. I was impressed with the peace in which they lived and the willpower they had to get things done. Although most of them were only 10 years older than me, they seemed smarter and more aware than most adults I knew.

The house had an extensive book collection that I eventually borrowed from. I read books by people like Naom Chomsky and Howard Zinn. This was my turning point towards the activist culture because, not only was I educating myself, but I was becoming aware of just how much this world needed to be saved.

As I internalized this information and got angry at society, I also became more clearly aware of the work my father was doing. He had been deeply involved in the labor movement for years and I had previously been ignorant about the social change that it implied. I would bring him questions about revolution, social evolution, and the like and he never ceased to amaze me with the ideas he had and the work he’d done. When I started to work on larger projects I would run into people everywhere I turned that had worked with him on social change endeavors.

One of the projects my neighbors were working on was a food security initiative called the Winter Cache Project. They did a work trade for garden space on a farm in Cumberland, Maine, and every week people would carpool out there for a work party. Everyone involved received installments of root vegetables they grew throughout the winter. Some real learning took place during the work parties.

Over that growing season I became passionate about farming and food. I was, and still am, appalled at the corporate food system we have in place today. I came to understand that food insecurity, be it genetic engineering, fossil fuel dependence, or economic oppression, is a fundamental obstacle to any hope of a peaceful future. Food, I realized, as a basic necessity of existence and such a large definition of who we are, is a foundation for further social change.

Over the next year I helped organize Winter Cache, and worked on helping the Free Space open an actual space in a building down town. During the summer I went to gatherings of activists that opened my eyes to what people are capable of when organized. I spent some time living and working on a farm down east as well. There I fell in love with the simplicity of life and closeness with the land.

Recently I’ve felt really empowered to make change. I’m a core organizer of the Peoples Free Space and started our Youth working group. I’m on the board of Youthink, a youth philanthropy group, and participate in Blunt youth radio. I’m also bringing my passion and experience to my peers through a sustainable agriculture course a friend and I organized for my high school. It’s a year-long, 4 credit course with two team teachers that explores our modern food system that will debut in the ’07-’08 school year. Lastly, as part of the class, and as a community building tool, I’m working to get a community garden set up near the high school so that others can learn to be actively engaged with their existence. I agree with Alice Walker when she said “Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”

Male, 14, Farmington:

I have recently helped put on a community benefit supper for one of my fellow classmates. The benefit supper helped raise money for his wheelchair.  He had surgery for his MS, he had a tendon cut in his leg so he could walk better.  Thinking about the other people helps the community because you are doing a good deed for someone who needs help.  I think this will help me out in the future because if I ever need help I will know we will have another great turnout.

Katie, 14, Sanford:


I am who I am,

I stand, individual and proud.

You may assume things,

Yet my meek voice will ring aloud.

The girl with the dark eyes

Who seems subdued and mild

Will overcome these assumptions

And finally run wild.

As so to many

I’m smart and that’s all

Yet the ambitions I have

Overcome this mighty wall

Hopes of culture

And hope of music’s bliss

Float as if a potion,

Deep in my minds bliss

Longing for satisfaction

Yet knowing too little.

Of fate itself

And solving life’s ultimate riddle.

Who am I know?

And what shall I become?

Are questions to be answered

In pieces of each one.

Philosophies and insights

No longer my justifications

And add all its modifications,

For I am one person

Not just a living multitude.

I choose my own beliefs,

Even if I stand in solitude

Misunderstood and deceived by many

Gives you a chance to unlock

The riddle ever so canny.

How can you live

Without knowing the truth?

Without what’s popular

Who are you?

At the beginning of 7th grade (August 2004), I moved to Maine with my family to take care of my sick grandmother.  The thought of a whole new town and school somewhat inspired me to join tons of clubs and meet as many people as I could.  The beginning of 8th grade I decided to join the Junior High's Leader's Club along with Youth Ministry, jazz band, concert band, drama and chorus.  In leader's club we devote most of our time helping our community and becoming good role models for our peers and younger children.  So far this year, the leader's club was able to stop the local Rite-Aid from providing tobacco coupons and are working on the whole chain to do the same.  I also was a councilor for Camp Frosty this winter at the YMCA and we are beginning a unit on child lures awareness.  Although I try to be the best I can, of course there will be somebody who will try to put me down.  It’s the strong moral values I was taught that allows me to be proud of who I am and try to influence others to do the same.

Anonymous, Farmington:

I have helped out the school by helping out a teenager understand his homework.  And he ended up passing with an A+!  It helps teenagers understand how to do their homework and pass by teaching kids.  I’m proud of it!

Kimberly, 16, Bucksport:

My name is Kimberly.  I’m a 16-year-old Christian, and I go to church every Sunday.  I’m a sophomore at Bucksport High School.

I help out with the public suppers at Bucksport Church of God on the racecourse road.  I got involved in this because this is the church that my family and I attend.  We have Senior Citizens Banquet every year in December.  It is open for any senior citizens in the area to attend.  They get dinner and everyone leaves with a gift.  The gifts are donated by people and businesses in the Bucksport community.

I was motivated to do this because I wanted to be more involved with my church.  I like to do things that are helpful to others and that make God look down on me and be proud.  I do my best to live my live for the Lord.

I also help with the Children’s Church during the morning service on Sunday.  After the offering, one of the ladies that go to my church takes all the children downstairs while the Pastor is preaching.  And I go down as a helper.  I like to work with the kids. 

Male, 15, Farmington:


I am typing this report to tell you all the ways that I make my community better.

All the things that I do for my community are small but it makes it one step further to a better community. 

Sometimes when I am skating I see trash and I’ll pick it up. 

When I’m at the skate park with friends and somebody falls down I go over and make sure that they are ok. 

Or if someone lands a cool trick I will praise him or her but to a skater that means you’re giving him or her props. 

At school when somebody needs help with any type of work I always help them out, or if a teacher wants help with something then I never have a problem with helping them out.  I am always asking my neighbor if he needs help around the farm, or I’ll see if he needs his lawn to get mowed.

If my dad’s friends every need their lawn to be mowed then I always do it for free.

Thank you,




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