Urban, rural students gather in Lewiston to break stereotypes and brighten windows


LEWISTON — When the late-morning hush in the Lewiston Public Library was interrupted Saturday, it was for good causes: broken stereotypes and brightened windows.

A handful of library patrons had to give up their window-side seats to make room for the students, 15 young adults from rural Maine, New York City and Lewiston High School. With tables moved and tarps laid out, they began painting a mural in the windows along Lisbon Street.

“We just wanted to create an image that showed what we’ve been talking about,” said Lewiston High senior Megan Beliveau. 

The images they settled on were a globe, a candle and the state of Maine with Lewiston emphasized. It was led by the caption “Diversity is what makes the world a beautiful place” and spread out over three windows. In the fourth window, the students signed their work — the 15 artists and 30 other students in the group who spent Saturday either volunteering at the Good Shepherd Food-Bank or at Habitat for Humanity building projects.

The program, Operation Breaking Stereotypes, brought 45 high school students together to learn about each other and about the stereotypes they carry.

Students from the Brooklyn, N.Y., School for Democracy and Leadership and Maine’s Deer Isle-Stonington High School  in northern Maine have been part of the pr0gram for three years.

“They’ve gotten to be great friends over the past few years,” said Deer Isle-Stonington English teacher Lee Lehto. “The Deer Isle students would spend a week with the Brooklyn students in their homes, and then they’d all come to Deer Isle for a week. They’d become very familiar with each other, so this year we wanted to do something different. We wanted to take them someplace none of them were familiar with.”

They’d initially wanted to take the program to New Orleans, but decided a service project in the South would be too expensive. Instead, they picked Lewiston and selected 15 local students to join the project.

“They wanted to bring rural kids and urban kids together because they thought we were so different,” said Samantha Mills, a Deer Isle-Stonington High School senior.

But that wasn’t the case, said Mills’ classmate, Martin Tainter of Brooklin, Maine.

“We’re alike in so many ways,” Tainter said. “That’s one of the first things we learned. We talked; we listened. And we’re alike in so many ways.”

The students have been in Lewiston since Wednesday. They attended a class at Bates College on Friday and discussed what they would do next and what their mural in the library should say.

They wrapped up the program Saturday afternoon with a downtown scavenger hunt.

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