Sunday, August 24, 2014

Young Life looks to help teens on their home turn - By Sue Arsenault and contributions by Michelle Libby

Last Wednesday, over 57 parents, business owners, pastors and those who just have a heart for teenagers filled the Windham High School library to learn about how the Young Life organization has been impacting teens across neighboring communities.

Founded in 1941, Young Life is a non-denominational Christian ministry committed to making a positive difference in the lives of teens through clubs located in nearly every corner of the world.
Wednesday night’s informational meeting was opened by WHS Principal Chris Howell. “I am excited about the opportunity to work with an organization whose goal is to build positive relationships with teens in the community,” he said. 

Young twenty-somethings are the leaders who feel called to work and help teenagers on their playing field. They set up a mentoring program and network with other students in classes or on the sports field.
The club, as it’s called, will meet once a week for a “party with a purpose”. “It’s fun on their turf and they come as they are,” said Sue Arsenault. 

"Young life leaders are caring adults who invest in high school students, supporting them during life’s difficult years and listening to what’s important to them. Young Life leaders help kids consider the direction of their lives, and they offer hope for their future," said Kati King, local Young Life area director. 

This was followed by the perspective of Adam Hawkes, a recent graduate from Saint Joseph’s College and Young Life leader Dave Hudson, who both shared how the Young Life ministry has impacted their lives in the college setting. 

Darcie Brown, a senior at Gorham High school explained how being involved with Young Life has impacted her. “I wasn’t really interested in God because I lost my dad to MS when I was nine. I resented God for taking him and I didn’t see the point in trying to have a relationship with him,” said Brown.
 “But I talked to a woman at Young Life camp who lost her dad. She told me that she was able to see the way God blessed her even through her Dad’s death. It got me thinking about how I have been blessed too.” Through Young Life she found a way to raise over $17,000 for Multiple Sclerosis research and turn her father’s death into a blessing for others. 

Windham will be combining with the established Gorham group. They have similar goals, said Arsenault. Each Young Life club raises money to support a salaried staff member and fund the activities they do as a group. 

Even though Young Life is especially for teens, parents and other adults in the community are important to Young Life. In each community, the local “committee,” comprised of parents, alumni and civic leaders, provides a foundation of financial, administrative and moral support for the local Young Life team. Gorham parent and committee member, Drew King said, "One of the hidden or indirect benefits of Young Life is that it can have a ripple effect - positively impacting not just high school kids but their families and friends as well.”

Adults can support Young Life in a variety of other ways — by becoming a volunteer leader, by attending a Young Life fundraising event or supporting the ministry financially, by hosting a Young Life event or by simply telling others in the community about Young Life and its commitment to teenagers. Parents are usually in the background of the club. 

Windham parent, Kristine Delano said, "I am involved in making Young Life successful in Windham because it authentically demonstrates what caring for others is all about. The leaders don't just talk about God's love but they build trust by entering the exciting and sometimes messy world of teens on their terms and on their turf."

Young Life is not church, but it is a place where teens can be introduced to it and develop relationships and be themselves, Arsenault said. “It’s a way for them to get the support they may not be getting at home.” 

Young Life is also established in Gorham, Freeport, Portland, Sanford and soon will be in Falmouth.
The next meeting for those interested has not been set at this time, but for more information about The Sebago Lake Area Young Life, visit

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sylvan Learning Center opens satellite location in Windham

Sylvan Learning Centers of Maine is proud to announce the recent opening of its new satellite location in Windham. We are especially thrilled with the newest additions to our Sylvan instructional team in Windham: Jessica Carle and Jennifer Breton. Both teachers are graduates of the University of Southern Maine, and hold professional certifications in elementary education. They will be teaching our Academic Reading, Math Essentials, and Academic Writing programs, which are aligned with the Common Core standards. These well respected educators came highly recommended and we are very excited to have them on board!

Artwork by John R. Sell and doll collection on display now

Artwork by John R. Sell, a resident of Gray, are on exhibit at the Windham Public Library, 217 Windham Center Road now through October 31st. The abstract pieces on display are mixed media, with found objects incorporated into them. The vibrant colors accentuate the shapes and designs, giving the viewers plenty to take in. John is a Fellow Artist of ASAA and a member of many artist organizations and his work is displayed at various museums. Stop by the library for a look at these colorful pieces. Visit us online at for more information, or call the library for hours or for directions at 892-1908.

An assortment of dolls from the collection of Lydia March will be on display through October 31st at The Windham Public Library, 217 Windham Center Road. Nearly two dozen dolls are shown, representing the history of the United States and various cultures from around the world. Lydia began collecting them when she was 6 years old, after a great-aunt sent her some of the dolls. Lydia thought "they were the coolest thing ever." The dolls on exhibit display a variety of colors, styles and materials. Stop by the library for a look at this interesting collection. Visit us online at for more information, or call the library for hours or for directions at 892-1908.

Monday, August 11, 2014

D.A.R.E. - ing to expand - Opinion by Brianne Fullerton

DARE is a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program taught in the Manchester School to all fifth graders. It is a great program to teach kids decision making skills and how to resist drugs and violence. I remember going through fifth grade as a shy kid, and every time Officer Matt Cyr threw the tennis ball to me as part of the name game, I tried catching it with a giggle and smile and responded eagerly, bringing me slightly out of my shell. 
In seventh grade at Windham Middle School, Officer Cyr returns to your new class and you’re refreshed on those decision making skills, and the education is furthered on drug and alcohol abuse. What happens after that? 

The DARE to Adventure program is a selective program of twenty-two seventh and eighth grade students nominated and interviewed by teachers and past DARE participants. Those twenty-two students are extremely lucky and envied. The program teaches students leadership and outdoor skills through kayaking trips, white water rafting, cliff propelling, and many other adventures. It shows the alternative to making bad decisions. Many of my friends who were chosen loved the program and said it was one of the best times of their life, some still talk to Officer Cyr as a friend. For other hundred or so students of that year that don’t get chosen? Those adventures that could change their life are never offered. 

Once you graduate from the middle school and head on over to the high school, the entire DARE program is mostly forgotten about, unless you were one of those chosen twenty-two students. I didn’t fully come out of my own shell until the middle of my sophomore year, and I wish there were more opportunities for someone like me to have life changing adventures earlier in my life to guide me in the right direction. This program should be available to more young students to help them come out of their shells and discover who they are before peer pressure and real life can attack, and should be continued into high school to help students grow even further avoiding drug or alcohol abuse. 

Adventuring is every young persons’ dream, and should be offered easily and affordable to students all through the year. I know I am not the only high school student who sits at home plenty of days throughout the summer not sure what to do, and often boredom leads to experimenting with drugs or alcohol by some teenagers. If the DARE program was expanded and furthered, it would be very successful, and drug and alcohol abuse would surely go down. The lazy days would be replaced by the next adventure, and kids can always look forward to something to do, drug free.

How Maine's juvenile correctional system works - By Scott K. Fish, Department of Corrections

Juveniles under age 18 who commit crimes in Maine have basically two paths to follow. One leads through Maine’s Court System to Maine’s Juvenile Correctional Facilities. The other path stops short of courts and incarceration. Both paths start at the same gate. What makes Maine’s Juvenile Community Corrections Officers (JCCO) unique? They are the Gatekeepers.
The system was explained to me by Regional Correctional Administrator David M. Barrett who has worked over 28-years with the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC). We sat in Dave Barrett’s office for hours. He walked me through two fictitious cases: First, a juvenile with a minor offense like shoplifting. Second, a juvenile committing a serious offense like a Class A or B Felony.

“If law enforcement arrest a youth, they have two hours to tell us. We determine if a youth is detained or not,” says Barrett. “Rehabilitation is the primary process for working with juveniles in our Juvenile Justice System,” he explains.

“Once we receive a police report we schedule a preliminary interview with the family, juvenile, and a JCCO,” Barrett continues. When a juvenile admits to the offense, the JCCO studies the severity of the offense, any prior history, the juvenile’s education, family circumstances, other factors. Then the JCCO “can make a decision that can divert the case from court,” says Barrett.

Most juveniles admit to their offense. “About 75 percent of our first time offenders get diverted from court. Better than 90 percent don't come back into the system,” Barrett says, reminding me, “We don't determine guilt or innocence. If the juvenile says, ‘I didn't do it,’ they will have their day in court.”
One option to court is the informal adjustment, “a written contract with the juvenile, legal guardian, and probation officer, to do things: Public service work, counseling, restitution, probation. If those consequences are satisfied, the case goes no further,” Barrett says, and the juvenile has no criminal record.

With a Class A or B Felony, Barrett says, “The severity of the offense supersedes any ability to divert. We give a Notice of Rights to the juvenile and family: Whatever they tell us can't be used against them.” But again, a JCCO’s initial work is similar. “At this point, we're looking at demographic information: Where are they living? Are they going to school? Who are their peers? How are they doing outside of this one incident?” says Barrett.

At some point before sentencing - called adjudication in the Juvenile System - the Court will ask the JCCO for a recommendation on what to do. Nothing in law forces a juvenile to speak or work with JCCO’s, but, Barrett believes it is in their best interest to do so. 

He says, “As much as 50 percent of our work is done before the youth is found guilty or adjudicated. We're going to have to make a recommendation to the court if this juvenile is found guilty. You have kids where neglect, abuse is occurring. They don't have homes, they're couch surfing. A lot of these kids come with trauma, history. That's not an excuse. It puts together a story where, one can understand why they did what they did. That's the critical rehabilitation piece. We don't just lock them away, throw the key away. We give them multiple opportunities,” Barrett explains.

Probation is another recommendation option. Juveniles found guilty and sentenced to a Maine Juvenile Correctional Facility may receive suspended sentences or an indeterminate commitment to include probation. 

When a youth is committed, says Barrett, “One of the JCCO's first responsibilities is creating a Post-Dispositional Report” delivered to facility staff. The Report tells the juvenile’s story, what got them to the facility, why, and mitigating circumstances such as education, home situation, and mental health issues.

Facility staff makes their own assessments. Meanwhile, “at team meetings,” explains Barrett, “responsible people provide input in creating a case plan” for the juvenile which answers the question: What tools and programs are needed for the youth to be successful

Barrett says, “But less than five percent of kids involved with Juvenile Justice have any contact with our facilities. And most often juveniles come out of a facility on community reintegration or probation.  

“We consider somebody coming out of the facilities as high risk for their first 90 days. We have regular contact with that kid. If there are warning signals the youth is starting to slide, we're able to pick that up,” he says.

In closing, I ask David Barrett to tell me how he thinks juveniles in Maine’s Correctional System think of their Juvenile Community Corrections Officers. Barrett answers, “I think most kids would say their JCCO is fair. You've got to establish trust, be honest, upfront, and have very clear boundaries with kids. Your role is to be a positive adult influence.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

You know what grinds my gears? - By Jeffrey J. Thivierge

You know what really grinds my gears…?


Picture it… A world in which an electronic device is programmed to decipher what you were attempting to type as a word (or words) that actually make sense.  Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  It is.
If you’re over the age of 30, there’s a good chance that you went to school without the luxury of a school-provided laptop.  There’s also a good chance that, at one point or another in your elementary school education, you had regular vocabulary and/or spelling tests that would test your mastery of American English.  (We all know that Canadian English adds the letter “U” in words that we Americans have managed without… words like “flavor” and “color”.)  

I know that my daughter, who managed to survive Westbrook Middle School, had a few vocabulary tests with her favorite teacher.  I question, however, her ability to spell words like “onomatopoeia”  (which is a noun that means:  The formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to) without any help from her MacBook Air.  In her defense, it did take my daughter an extra couple days to learn how to spell our ridiculous last name.
As a man of a certain age, I did have the weekly test of 10 to 20 words throughout my youth.  I pride myself in knowing that I won a few spelling bees way back in the day.  As an aside, I don’t even think they hold regular spelling bees in public schools anymore.  I think the cost of getting trophies for everybody was becoming excessive.  But I digress…

As a retired Army Sergeant First Class, I’ve been known to use language that some might consider “coarse” or “salty” at times.  My iPhone, however, has yet to realize that I’ve never once intended to text the word “ducking” and I can guarantee that my use of the word “shut” is far less than what my phone thinks it should be.  Today, it even suggested that I meant to type “beach shirts” when I wrote “bwahahaha”.  (I hate writing “LOL”.  If it’s worth laughing at in real life, I’ll let you know with the text of actual laughter.)

I wonder what will happen to the next generation of children.  The proliferation of technology throughout education will, no doubt, cause a generation of adults that are completely dependent on those very devices to ensure that they are spelling everything correctly.  Either that, or we’ll have a generation of people that both speak and write things like “LOL”, “YOLO”, or “IDK”.  (LOL = Laughing out Loud.  YOLO = You Only Live Once.  IDK = I Don’t Know) Just writing those things has taken a year or two off my life.