County leaders wanting to tackle the problem of youth outmigration see SERVICE as their saving grace. Organizers of the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative are launching a first ever countywide day of service event.
Sealed with a handshake, the Heidi’s Hope Serv-a-Thon is set to begin this fall with six county schools in the communities of Easton, Fort Kent, Houlton, Mars Hill, Washburn and Wisdom (representing St. Agatha/Frenchville). It’s a day of service performed by nearly a thousand middle and high school students, led by county business and community leaders…all aimed at spurring youth civic engagement. Organizers of the Aroostook Aspirations Initative say the formula for turning youth outmigration around in the state of Maine is ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT + SERVICE=SUCCESS in keeping kids around. April Flagg is the Executive Director of the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative and says “Service is critical to our economic recovery in the county, when kids provide service for their community they gain ownership, their self esteem rises they learn that civic involvement is an important part of our process here. “When students do community service work they are not only learning lessons but they are bonding with the community, and when they bond they’re more likely to stay in the community,” adds Sandy Gauvin the President of the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative. Leaders of the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative say the servathon will be a memorial event honoring Heidi Graham, who last year lost a courageous battle with breast cancer but in life spent countless hours volunteering for many service projects around the county. Her family was onhand for Friday’s announcement. Dusty Graham is Heidi’s son and says this project is a great way to honor his mother’s life. “It would have been something that she would have put all of her efforts into made sure the opportunity was there for young people.” MMG is a strategic partner for the Initiative. MMG President and CEO Larry Shaw says academic excellence is important, but stressing that youth have some sort of service resume is critical in ensuring the next generation of county leaders are well rounded. Larry Shaw is the President/CEO of MMG Insurance and says partnering to promote youth service and success is a critical priority for companies like MMG. “Its starting to drive home how we all have to think about our future workforce what the workforce of the county overall is gonna be and initiatives like this really drive focus,” says Shaw. Servathon organizers are hoping students will transfer the lessons learned through participation in these activities back into the classroom and of course enhance the communities they serve. Businesses looking to help the mobilization of Heidi’s Hope serve-a-thon:A Cause for County Kids can contact the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative for more information.