LEWISTON — Surviving, then standing up to bullies, and devotion to protecting animals — that advocacy has earned Hope Rubito of Lewiston and Isla Wilson of Freeport the latest round of the Berman & Simmons Youth Leaders Award. The law firm award recognizes Maine middle and high school students for their outstanding service to their communities with $500 toward the student’s educational needs and a $250 donation to the nonprofit of their choice.
As the chairwoman of the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council (LYAC), Rubito has worked closely with municipal staff, local officials and members of the community to address issues surrounding bullying, something she knows about personally. Rubito was bullied in middle school, which led her to attempt suicide at age 13. As a survivor, she became an advocate for anti-bullying efforts.
She was integral in creating the “Listen Up Lewiston, Anti-bullying Forum” and served as a panelist for LYAC’s program, “A Call for Kindness,” where students and adults shared emotional stories about their own experiences with harassment and bullying.
By spreading her inspirational message, Rubito gained the attention of Lewiston Superintendent Todd Finn, who is now expanding policy on bullying districtwide, with a focus on restorative justice and prevention. As she finishes her junior year at Maine Connections Academy, Rubito is considering studying counseling in college and plans to continue her advocacy work with teenagers.
In Rubito’s name, Berman & Simmons will donate her $250 sponsorship award to Green Dot Lewiston/Auburn, a group of local volunteers teaching safe, effective strategies to reduce harassment, assault and interpersonal violence.
Wilson has a life-long dedication to caring for animals. Visits to Wolf Neck Farm as a child created a connection to wildlife that she continues in her own community. As a freshman at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland, Wilson directed her interest in animal welfare to a volunteer position at Midcoast Humane a few summers ago. She started there as a dog caretaker, cleaning kennels, socializing them, making dog food and doing some training. From there, she learned behavior training and modification, a discipline she really loves.
Wilson has volunteered more than 300 hours to Midcoast Humane. Last fall, Wilson was instrumental in organizing and running a fundraising event as part of Freeport’s three-day fall festival. She worked with shelter staff and several dog-friendly business partners to create a scavenger hunt through their shops. She also created promotional bandanas for the dogs to wear during the event.
With a goal of becoming a veterinarian, Wilson is interning at Brunswick Veterinary Clinic. At her request, Berman & Simmons will donate her sponsorship award and her educational award ($750 total) to Midcoast Humane.
Berman & Simmons welcomes nominations for the next Youth Leaders Award, open to all Maine students who are enrolled in middle or high school and who have been championing a cause they’re passionate about. Learn more and nominate a youth leader at https://www.bermansimmons.com/youth-leaders-award/.

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