Teen has sense of community service


NORWAY – Jason Dignan believes that working isn’t always about getting paid. The Oxford Hills teen says working sometimes carries more intrinsic rewards.

Dignan, 19, volunteers his time and skills to the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce for about eight hours per week, helping the chamber revamp its Web site. He also volunteers for a two-year vocational program at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School that introduces students to law enforcement, a program Dignan completed before graduating from OHCHS in 2005.

“People ask me all the time why aren’t you getting paid, you should be getting paid,” he said Tuesday. “I would rather work for the work, not the money.”

Dignan, who is taking classes at Central Maine Community College in Auburn, does need to make ends meet, so he has a paid job at Wal-Mart in Oxford, where he stocks groceries.

But he said he would like to see more people his age get involved in volunteer work that benefits the community. “There’s nothing stopping anyone from doing it,” he said. “Community service is extremely rewarding. People really should focus more on it. Not everything needs to be paid with money.”

Dignan grew up in Norway and Paris and now lives in Mechanic Falls. His parents, Thomas and Paula, were in the Air Force, which taught him the value of giving back to one’s country.

At this point in his life, Dignan is focusing on giving back to his community, hence his work at the chamber and his alma mater. “I really enjoy giving back to the community,” he said.

He describes the chamber as “an interesting and different atmosphere.”

“It’s homey,” he said. “You get a closer look at what’s going on around the community.”

His volunteer work at OHCHS isn’t quite as cozy. He serves as a training leader once per year for a small platoon of students enrolled in the introductory law enforcement program, which he said is a lot like being at military boot camp. “We yell and scream at them and make them unhappy,” he said, freely admitting that he can’t help but like the role.

Dignan credits the program with instilling a sense of community service in him. “That’s where I got a lot of that,” he said.

He plans on attending a four-year college in Maine and is considering a career in law enforcement but said he’s also thinking about teaching, moving into a management position at Wal-Mart or opening his own business. “I’m trying to decide among those four things,” he said.

Rich Livingston, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said Dignan’s special set of skills has been invaluable in helping the chamber revamp its Web site. “Without Jason’s skills, it might not get done or it might not get done in a timely fashion,” he said. “Our Web site is a gateway, a portal that connects people who are looking for goods and services with people who provide goods and services.”

Livingston added that recognizing young people who are involved in community service could encourage more of them to do the same. “Kids who do it deserve recognition and thanks,” he said.