BRYANT POND — Cohorts of students from Bethel and surrounding towns have arrived at Bryant Pond in recent years to participate in a pilot program that aims to expand horizons, increase self-resilience, and showcase leadership skills for young people in rural communities. It’s a program that has seen its impact and success continue to grow.

The NorthStar program is a hands-on mentoring program that engages young people with adventure challenges and leadership. It’s a model that follows students over six years that starts in the seventh grade and ends the summer after high school graduation.

NorthStar is part of the Aspirations Incubator initiative in Maine, created to design a youth development model that could be implemented to positively affect young people in small towns throughout the state and one day, perhaps even nationally.

An ongoing supporter of the Bryant Pond facility, Norway Savings Bank was pleased to commit an additional $120,000 to fully fund the NorthStar experience for students at Telstar Middle and High Schools in Bethel from 2022-27.

‘Cultivating a program that helps young people in rural areas discover their passions and purposes while raising academic performance and community engagement is of particular importance in Maine, and the future benefits for our state are beyond measure,’ said Dan Walsh, President and CEO of Norway Savings Bank. ‘We’re grateful for the opportunity to help build the next generation of leaders who can make a real difference in Maine communities, small and large, in the years ahead. It’s an investment in a youth mentoring program but most importantly, our youth.’

The University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond provides a beautiful and ideal location for this educational experience. The facility has long inspired young people from a variety of backgrounds to appreciate social, economic, and environmental sustainability through collaboration and the development of life skills. The dedicated staff and volunteers carry out the programming necessary to ensure Maine children and youth have the chance to reach their highest potential.

The initiative, program, and financial commitment are working in tandem to help youth recognize and seek healthy relationships with the community, the environment, and each other.

‘It has helped me learn to make new friends in different ways. I have learned many valuable life skills, like how to give a speech publicly without looking confused or nervous. This program is amazing,’ said one eighth-grade student.

‘To see the ways NorthStar teaches and encourages effective communication, conflict resolution, and goal setting is meaningful and has proven to positively impact the students exposed to this program,’ said Janice de Lima, VP, Community Reinvestment Act Officer at Norway Savings Bank. ‘The enthusiasm of both students and adults as these life lessons are passed on in nature is offering the young people a new appreciation for what Maine and the world have to offer.’

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