Weekly Column

Recent Weekly Columns

  

            All around our state, junior and senior high school students are making a difference in their schools and in their communities.  According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, more than 15 million students between the ages of 12 and 18 participate in volunteer activities.  Students who volunteer are more likely to perform better in school, and they are more likely to continue volunteering in their communities as adults.  This commitment to helping others is impressive.

 

One of the greatest privileges of serving Maine in the United States Senate is the opportunity I have to meet outstanding young people from our state who are devoting part of their lives to community service.  Whether we meet in Washington or at home, I always come away from these meetings inspired by their commitment and encouraged for the future of our state and our nation.

 

I recently had the opportunity to meet two such remarkable young people - Carly Osgood and Andrew Hayford.  Both of these students are from the York County town of Cape Neddick, and they were in Washington to receive the 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community award.  This recognition honors students for exemplary community service.  From more than 26,000 nominees nationwide, only two students from each state are selected for this recognition, so it was a particular honor to meet these two young people.

 

Although Carly and Andrew have dedicated themselves to different types of civic involvement, they are united by a desire to make their communities better, to encourage others to get involved, and to grow personally from their experiences.  It is a pleasure to share their stories today.

 

Carly, 14, is a member of the Girl Scouts and an eighth-grader at York Middle School.  She volunteers as a mentor in the elementary school after her own school day is finished, and she spent her past two summers as a volunteer Girl Scouts camp counselor.  She also helped grow a garden that has produced more than 17,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables that were donated to local food pantries.  When I asked her why she enjoys volunteering, she told me that she just likes helping people. 

Andrew is a 17 year-old senior at York High School-preparing to graduate in just a few weeks.  It's clear he has a very bright future ahead.  Like so many Mainers, Andrew cares deeply for the ocean and our beaches, and he is committed to doing all he can to help keep them clean.  He developed an education program to teach elementary school children about ocean pollution, and he has led several local beach cleanup events.  But Andrew knew he wanted to do more.  He proposed a "Keep Our Beaches Clean" campaign for local elementary school children, securing a financial grant, devising an art contest, and teaching young people about ocean pollution and endangered ocean species.  Maine's economy, and so many jobs, is dependent upon the health of the ocean.  Andrew's commitment to keeping it clean, and to teaching others the importance of protecting this precious resource is extraordinary.

 

The energy and determination demonstrated by both Carly and Andrew benefit their communities today and will for years to come as the youngsters that Carly inspires grow into happy adolescents with a love of learning and as the environmental awareness Andrew advocates takes root and spreads.  And both benefit as well from learning the self-reliance and sense of accomplishment that come from taking on responsibilities and meeting them.  As Carly says, "Each project I get involved in, I participate with all my heart, because each project impacts a part of a life when they need it most."

 

Carly and Andrew both possess great compassion and integrity, and their desire to serve others is inspiring.  But they are not alone.  These two young people exemplify the tremendous capabilities of our youth.  Communities across Maine and all of America are brimming with young people making a positive difference.  I see it everywhere, and it continues to reaffirm my faith in our next generation of leaders and in our country's future.