LEWISTON — When Mohamed Aden heard about the vandalism at Gov. James B. Longley Elementary School last month, he questioned why someone would want to destroy a school many hold dear.

“My heart just got broken,” said Aden, an eighth-grader at Lewiston Middle School.

He attended classes at Longley back when it was an elementary school and still holds many fond memories of the experience.

“I met my best friend here,” he said.

On Thursday, Aden was one of a diverse group of students, school staff, elected officials and community members lending a hand to improve Longley. More than 70 people helped paint walls, clean classrooms, garden and complete other outside work.

Aden, along with his friend and fellow Tree Street Youth squad leader, Abdullahi Ibrahim, helped pull grass and weeds from neglected flower beds, sowing a variety of wildflower seeds in its place.


The event was held in response to a strong outpouring of support from community members wishing to help put the school right following vandalism last month which left furniture, appliances, computers and more destroyed, and paint splattered on the walls and floor.

Four juveniles — two 12-year-olds, one 10-year-old and one 14-year old — were charged with burglary and aggravated criminal mischief following the incident.

Among the volunteers were some, but not all, of the students responsible for the vandalism and their family members, Superintendent Jake Langlais said.

“We have quietly found ways for the students involved (and their parents) to contribute,” he said, adding “They wanted to do something.”

The volunteer event isn’t the end to their restitution efforts, Langlais said, rather it’s an ongoing process.

Many of the volunteers held personal connections with Longley: some were Next STEP staff members, students or alumni, while others had attended elementary school there.


Next STEP is a middle and high school program in the Lewiston school district created in partnership with Tree Street Youth.

Josianna Spearman, a graduate of Next STEP, was one of several students to volunteer. The incident had her feeling “a bit devastated,” and she worried for the doors she and her classmates had painted this past year.

She hoped she would get the opportunity to fix one door in particular — painted black, with stars and planets throughout — which was marred with green spray paint.

“I knew I wanted to come back,” she said. “I know it was worth my time.”

For her, the mural on the door was about more than art; it was her mark on Longley and a gift of inspiration for the students who follow her.

“I knew this was going to be my one inspiration to the school,” she said.


Several students and staff members shared that they saw the clean-up efforts as an opportunity to start anew, allowing the Next STEP students and staff within Longley to make the building their own.

“We got a fresh start,” said Oren Stevens, associate director of Next STEP.

Volunteers expressed a desire to make Longley even better than it was before it was vandalized, a goal shared by Langlais.

“This is an opportunity for the community to come together and make it better,” he said.

Langlais confirmed that insurance will cover the damages, adding that the district is earmarking some funds from its budget to make additional improvements to the school, possibly including boosting the building’s security with motion sensor alarms.

Additionally, several local businesses have reached out to offer free materials and services as the district continues to repair Longley school, according to Langlais.

Comments are no longer available on this story