More Play for Downeast Children

More Play for Downeast Children

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Stop by any of the seven EdGE afterschool programs and one finds Downeast elementary students busily learning and playing. EdGE kids routinely engage in STEM, arts and crafts, and physical activities, and play is crucial to EdGE afterschool too.

Color photo of two white female children stand inside a play area dome. It is a sunny day and they smile at the camera.

An important part of a healthy and active childhoodstructured and unstructured play fosters imagination, cognitive growth, emotional growth, literacy, independence, and physical fitness. Since its founding in 2002, the Mission’s EdGE program has prioritized recreation to reinforce and complement classroom curricula. 

Color photo of a white child wearing a bright yellow jacket stands on monkey bars at an elementary school. Trees are in the background and it is spring.

As a part of the Mission Downeast Capital Campaign, Maine Seacoast Mission will build two play areas on its 63-acre campus in Cherryfield. Placed in two separate areas of the property, the Sunbeam play area will be boat-themed while the other will be sunflower-themed in memory of long-time EdGE program employee Suzie James. Ms. James was known for her belief in the restorative power of play for children, her energy and devotion, and as a tireless advocate for the families she served. 

Yet the Mission recognizes that EdGE afterschool programming takes place primarily on site in local schools to promote accessibility, student learning, family support, and success of the program. Play areas are crucial to the success of students. The Mission has chosen to award the es $35,000 for play area development to the seven elementary schools currently participating in EdGE afterschool education programming.

A color photo of two students with their arms around each other's shoulders

Each school will receive a $5,000 award, including Beals Elementary, Cherryfield Elementary, D.W. Merritt Elementary in Addison, Harrington Elementary, Jonesport Elementary, Milbridge Elementary, and Rose M. Gaffney Elementary in Machias. The grant awards for the play initiative will be disbursed to EdGE elementary school partners in 2023.

Our community partnerships are our strength,’” says Mission President John Zavodny. “Our school partners do an amazing job of balancing a thousand priorities all at once. Through this program, we want to honor the inspiring schools, communities, families, and children of Downeast Maine.

Color photo of four children playing on a snow-filled slide play structure during winter.

The principal of each school will determine how to best direct the funds, such as replacement of aging or broken playground equipment, playground materials, or application of the funds toward the larger cost of a new playground.

Throughout 2023, the Mission will share news about the equipment elementary school partners select. On the Mission’s Cherryfield campus and on school grounds, greater learning and development is guaranteed for Downeast children.

Get an EdGE on Your Summer Plans 

Get an EdGE on Your Summer Plans 

Students in last year’s EdGE summer camp in Milbridge

Kids in EdGE summer camps create art, explore science, learn skills, get their energy out playing games, make friends, and have fun. Registration is now open for students in kindergarten through eighth grade in Washington county for five, week-long camps running from Monday, June 26 until Friday, July 28.  

This year’s three summer camp locations are:  

Parents can sign up their child week-by-week and register for as many weeks as they wish. At camp, kids will rotate through a variety of activities during the day. “We’ll have regular EdGE activities to choose from,” says Isaac Marnik, the Mission’s EdGE Primary Program Director. “Over the summer, campers will also go on field trips and have multiple opportunities to visit the ropes course on the Mission’s Downeast campus in Cherryfield.” 

Camps are $30.00 per student per week and scholarships are available. The camps are open to any student who was in kindergarten through eighth grade during the 2022-2023 school year who live in these towns. Students do not need to be enrolled in EdGE programming during the school year to attend. Breakfast and lunch are provided for all campers. Bus transportation is not available this summer.  

Families can enroll their children online and for help with registration please call (207) 546-4466. For questions about summer camp scholarships, contact Maria at or (207) 546-4466. 

Middle and High School Students Can Apply for Downeast Exploration Fund 

Middle and High School Students Can Apply for Downeast Exploration Fund 

Starting on April 1, young adults living in Washington and Hancock counties, and on Maine’s outer islands, can apply for the Downeast Exploration Fund. The fund, started by Gigi Georges, author of Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America, and her husband, Jeff Oxman, provides scholarships for students to explore their own passions and pursue experiences not otherwise available to them. The first fund awardees, who received scholarships last year, went to immersive summer camps, developed their artistic skills, took piano lessons, and more.  

Any student in grades six through 12, including rising sixth graders and just-graduated seniors, within the Mission’s service areas may apply for an award. The Downeast Exploration Fund provides up to $1,500 for awardees’ participation in camps, outdoor learning experiences, and lessons in music, art, sports, or equestrian pursuits. Additionally, the scholarship covers registration fees for enrichment activities or programs as well as materials, equipment, or supplies.  

In 2021, Gigi Georges published the non-fiction book, Downeast, with HarperCollins. Following the first edition printing, Georges and Oxman founded the Downeast Exploration Fund with Maine Seacoast Mission to celebrate the continued strength and resilience residing in the young people of the Downeast region of the state. Georges says, “The Fund honors of the book’s five young women. They played a central role in developing the Fund’s objective, which is to expand opportunities beyond the classroom for Downeast children.” The couple actively involved the five young women in developing the Fund.  

Maine Seacoast Mission President John Zavodny says, “The Downeast Exploration Fund is a result of Gigi’s and Jeff’s generosity and their appreciation for the incredible spirit of Downeast young people. We’re excited to hear about and help fuel their passions. The Mission’s education and youth development work in Downeast Maine makes the Fund a perfect fit.”  

Interested applicants may apply through Maine Seacoast Mission’s website or through a school guidance counselor. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until funds for the 2023 award year are exhausted. 

Planting Seeds of Hope from the Sunbeam

Planting Seeds of Hope from the Sunbeam

In 1949, Edith Drury traveled up and down the Maine coast visiting 40 schools with a small notebook in hand. As part of her job as a staff member of the Maine Seacoast Mission, Edith was tasked with teaching children about creating gardens and growing vegetables. In her notebook, she kept track of the seeds she distributed, from radishes to nasturtiums. Each school had its own page on which she wrote each child’s name, age, and the kind of seeds they received. Later, she made another note in the margins of each page about how well the plants grew. While most have check marks, she also comments on bad soil, and a dog that dug up a family’s garden.  

74 years later, Maxine Porter of Cutler still remembers “Miss Drury” visiting her school to teach children how to garden. In 1949, Maxine was nine years old, and according to Edith’s notebook, she received carrots, cucumbers, and snow peas. Her future husband, Verlan’s name is written down a few pages earlier. He received squash, carrots, and cucumbers. Maxine remembers Edith teaching the students how to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, and take care of what they planted. Even with instruction, Maxine notes that her flowers did not really flourish. But Edith’s visits were a favorite of the students. They were excited to see the Sunbeam coming into the harbor. Maxine says Edith “always had a story to tell us or a joke.”  

Gary DeLong, the Mission’s former President, who grew up Downeast, fondly remembers Edith’s visits, “In her role at the Mission she came to the school on Beals—where I grew up—talking about the importance of fresh vegetables. She handed out seeds and advice about starting a garden all of which made a big impression on kids.” When Edith passed away in 1987, a resolution honoring her mentioned her visits to more than 70 schools. While there she “distributed garden seeds and plants in the schools and encouraged the children to plant gardens.” 

Find out more about Edith Drury 

Journey Offers Office Hours for Seniors

Journey Offers Office Hours for Seniors

Every Wednesday from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Mission Journey Coordinator Briana West’s office door is open for seniors in the Journey program. This fall, Briana began offering this two-hour block as a time to drop in for help with college applications, learn about scholarships, or just hang out. 

This time provides an easy way for students to receive any assistance they might need from a trusted adult. These office hours also mimic the office hours professors have at college. By introducing them to the idea, Briana hopes students will be more likely to seek out support if they choose to go to college.  

“Seeing how many students have taken advantage of the hours offered has been amazing,” Briana says. “This space gives them a consistent time and place where they know they can come work on anything they might need help on, a quiet space to focus, along with just having conversations, especially the hard ones around leaving home.” 

For many, the office hours have provided time for them to figure out their post high school path, a central tenant of Journey. For those attending college, they each received help completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and submitted it before November. A month later, all 11 Journey 12th graders had all applied to at least one college. Altogether, the seniors submitted applications to 42 colleges.  

Now, acceptances for colleges are rolling in and Briana helps the students celebrate their successes. If they need help figuring out their college choices or understanding their financial aid packages, she is there. She is a neutral sounding board for those weighing their choices.  

One Journey student says, “The Journey open office hours are super helpful for many reasons. It allows a safe space for students to vent, somewhere to go do homework, and work on scholarships or any part of the college application process.” 

As these students get closer to graduation, the program is already supporting the 11th grade students as they embark on their new journeys. “The Journey program’s goal is to provide opportunities for students to explore potential careers and college pathways beginning in 7th grade. We believe the more college campuses they step foot on and the more career professionals they speak with during middle school and high school, the more confident they will be in deciding which pathway is the best fit for their future.” 

The Journey program provides students in grades 7 through 12 deep mentoring with professional staff, community members, and older peers. Downeast youth participating in Journey explore the outdoors and their communities to develop the tools needed to successfully transition to high school and through higher education and career pathways. 

Ace Barrera Takes the Helm of the Davis Maine Scholarship

Ace Barrera Takes the Helm of the Davis Maine Scholarship

A color photo of three people, two women and a man, smiling at the camera
Ace (center) with Mission Downeast Director Jenny Jones (left) and EdGE Secondary and Post-Secondary Dakin Helwett (right) at the University of New England

The Mission welcomed Silverio (Ace) Barrera as the new Davis Maine Scholarship program Director earlier this winter. Ace comes to the Mission with 18 years of experience in college admissions, transition and orientation programs, and student advising.  

In his role, Ace will provide support for Davis Maine Scholars to ensure a smooth transition to and success in college. The Davis Maine Scholarship is a partnership between Maine Seacoast Mission and the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund. The program offers full, renewable, four-year scholarships at three partner colleges for first-generation students from eastern Hancock and Washington Counties. Students in the program can attend Clark University, University of New England, or Wheaton College.  

“The Davis Maine Scholarship provides life-changing opportunities for students in Downeast Maine,” says Andrew Davis of the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund. “I am confident that Ace will find working with these remarkable students and their families very rewarding.” 

“We are excited to welcome Ace to the Mission. With his knowledge of student success and his perspective as a first-generation college student himself, we knew he was the right person to work directly with first-generation students from Downeast Maine through the Davis Maine Scholarship,” says Mission President John Zavodny. 

The first cohort of six Davis Maine Scholars will complete the first year of college this spring. The second cohort of Scholars will graduate high school this June and applied to their colleges of choice. They will select their colleges by May. The Mission is currently recruiting its third cohort who will graduate high school in 2024. 

“I am very happy and excited to serve as the new Davis Maine Scholarship Program Director. I view this role as a continuation of my personal and professional passion to assist students and their families in their transition to higher education,” Barrera says. “It is also a great honor for me to serve our Downeast communities as a member of the Maine Seacoast Mission.” 

Learn more about the Davis Maine Scholarship Program and the students it serves in Washington and eastern Hancock counties.  

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