Program teaches girls community building, leadership

NORWAY – Eight girls from Norway spent six weeks learning about concepts that strengthen leadership skills and community building.

Their classroom was downtown Norway.

Their teachers were Jeanie Stone, adviser for the Respect Team at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School; Debra Partridge, town recreation director and president of the Chamber of Commerce; some of the town business people and in the end themselves, because the girls spent much time on personal introspection and reflection.

The theme for the first two weeks of the three-day, half-day sessions was “Be a Proud and Responsible Citizen.”

Stone said sessions focused on character building and doing kind things for the community.

The girls were asked “What Do You Stand for?” and pondered concepts such as fairness, friendship, responsibility, honesty and courage.

They were challenged to build a code of ethics. They talked to the town manager, some selectmen, business people and the police chief.

On the fun side, they worked in a hike up Streaked Mountain, a scavenger hunt and a nature walk.

“I liked the scavenger hunt most of all,” said Jia Ling, 13. “There were so many stores I discovered, so many I had never been into.”

In the third week the girls focused on being kind to animals and the earth and in week four, trust in self and others was the topic.

The girls visited Responsible Pet Care and learned about gardening from Barbara Murphy of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

The trust theme and the fifth week theme of friendship and teamwork were presented by Jeff Hawes and Katina Columbodas from Community Concepts Inc. of Paris.

During the last week of training the girls celebrated their success and distributed a poster of Community Guidelines around Norway.

For graduation, the girls had a pizza party at Ari’s Pizza on Main Street.

The program was fashioned by Stone with input from Community Concepts, a guidance counselor at the Rowe school and town officials.

Stone said 18 months ago some kids were responsible for some “mischief” on Main Street. So, the thought was why not have a program to benefit all children.

“We decided to try to do something positive for all kids; try to get them to establish some positive relationships on Main Street and improve communications with merchants,” Stone said. “This program is about character building.”

Stone said that Norway provided space at town office to hold the class sessions and Community Concepts provided most of the funding for the summer program.

Partridge said established programs with the same goals were investigated, but the cost was prohibitive.

So, Stone took on the challenge of molding what they call The Norway Summer Program.

Ashley Barker, 11, said she learned through the program that she stood for fairness.

“I try to be fair and try hard to make other people understand what that means,” Barker said.

Trisha Mitchell said in her perfect world there would be no terrorism or use of illicit drugs.

“People would stop stealing stuff and kidnapping,” Mitchell said. “A lot of families get hurt if their loved ones are gone.”

Jalice Cotton, 12, said she learned about responsibility.

And Allycia Bryce said the Golden Rule “Treat others like you want to be treated” came home for her.

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