Bath, Maine. With high-fives and fancy handshakes, students from Bath Middle School and Woolwich Central School welcomed eleven local community leaders to a special “Waypoint Community Panel” on January 22 at Bath Middle School. The event was designed to engage students in civic life, and help shape their understanding of the work it takes to make a community strong.
Each leader spoke briefly about her or his work and how it supports the whole community. City Councilor and nutrition specialist Susan Bauer noted that through Head Start, “We feed 300 children breakfast and lunch every day.” Police Chief Michael Field outlined some of Bath’s biggest challenges, including mental health problems and drugs, which he is always working to address. Jamie Dorr, president, Midcoast Community Alliance, and head of the Bath Skatepark, helps create opportunities, such as the skatepark, for teens and young adults to connect in positive ways and places outside of school and home.
The students in attendance are all members of the Chewonki Waypoint Program, one of seven youth development programs participating in the Aspirations Incubator, a six-year mentoring-based initiative aimed at raising and sustaining the aspirations of young people in rural Maine communities. The Aspirations Incubator is funded and supported by the Emanuel & Pauline A. Lerner Foundation. For more information, please visit lernerfoundation.com.
According to Austin Muir, Chewonki Waypoint Coordinator, the event was “a great way for students to learn about the needs of the community and for those leaders to connect with young citizens.”
The group broke into small clusters to get to know each other better. Students asked leaders questions such as, How did you choose your profession? (School counselor Trundy: “I was a resident advisor in college and discovered I really liked supporting people.”) What is the hardest part of your job? (Principal Varney: “I have to hold people accountable but also support them and help them be better.”) What part do you like most? (Police Chief Field: “Being out and about in our community.”)
Students tallied up points for the group by gathering data on things they share in common; how many people have a pet; have read a book for fun this month; have paddled a canoe; have helped a family member by doing a chore or task in the past week, etc.
A common theme that emerged was the commitment and affection these leaders have for their work. They like supporting citizens, solving problems, and making their community better. As Fire Deputy Chris Cummings put it, “I like to help people and that’s what my job is about…Nineteen years in, and I still feel like it’s a great job.”
For Jamie Dorr, young people are the focus. “I want kids to know that when you have a problem, you know whom to turn to and where to get help,” she said Jamie. Teacher Stephen Foster enjoys teaching students about cultures around the world as well as what it means to be an American citizen.
Mari Eosco, who helps raise funds for some of Bath’s biggest public events says, “There is something for everyone to do” in a community. She urged students to get involved and share their talents.
City Manager Peter Owen described his work as overseeing “the things you take for granted, including police protection, firefighting, water, and garbage pick-up.” Those crucial services happen because dozens of people labor around the clock, he explained.
Several leaders stressed the importance of volunteers who give their time to local needs. Serving others enriches everyone, they said. “In my own life, I’ve really enjoyed service projects,” said Leslie Trundy, Morse High School counselor. “Volunteering leads to learning and making connections in the community where you live.”
Waypointers listened attentively, spoke clearly, and joked in a friendly way with their guests. They were impressed by the scale of activity going on in Bath. “There are so many layers of people doing things!” said Margaret. Dylan, however, was more surprised to learn that City Manager Peter Owen runs triathlons.
Young and old left the event with a stronger appreciation for their community and the deep connections required to make the community thrive. “This is one of those days that makes me realize why I do what I do,” said Chief Field. Let’s give a high five for that.
Local Community Leaders in Attendance:
- Susan Bauer, Waypoint volunteer mentor, Bath city councilor, and nutrition team leader at Midcoast Maine Community Action Head Start
- Chris Cummings, deputy fire chief, City of Bath
- Jamie Dorr, president, Midcoast Community Alliance, and head of the Bath Skatepark
- Mari Eosco, Bath city councilor, city council chair, and interim director of Main Street Bath
- Michael Field, chief, Bath Police Department
- Stephen Foster, teacher (9th- and 11th-grade social studies), Morse High School
- Peter Owen, city manager, City of Bath
- Leslie Trundy, school counselor, Morse High School
- Eric Varney, principal, Morse High School
- Larry Barlett, Waypoint volunteer mentor and Morse High School debate team coach
- Eileen Beasley, Waypoint parent
- Austin Muir, Waypoint Coordinator
Waypoint members in attendance:
About the Chewonki Waypoint program:
The Chewonki Waypoint program is a six-year-long youth development opportunity for students in Maine Regional School Unit 1, which includes Arrowsic, Bath, Phippsburg, and Woolwich–towns that share the midcoast community with Chewonki. Every year in a student’s life is important, but studies have shown that pivotal choices made by students in grades 7-9 have major life-consequences for their careers and personal growth. The Chewonki Waypoint program is a comprehensive effort to steward young people through this vital period by providing mentorship, training, and place-based outdoor challenges as a catalyst for self-discovery, aspiration, and leadership development. Learn more at https://waypoint.chewonki.org