Area students come together to promote positivity
DEXTER — For the second year in a row students from across the region wanting to make a difference in their schools and communities came together to share what they are doing and brainstorm ideas to carry forward at the Positive Action Team Summit on March 6 at Dexter Regional High School. The day-long event featured about 100 pupils from student-led teams representing high schools and/or middle schools in Dexter, Greenville, Guilford and Milo.
Piscataquis Community High School junior Max Richards has been taking part in the Positive Action Team since her time in middle school. Mentioning her family has been affected by drug abuse, Richards said she likes group members’ optimism and having this be the focus of their efforts.
“Just putting that positive twist on everything, even in our school community we have noticed a huge change,” she said. Richards said she and her classmates hosted the inaugural summit a year prior as part of their efforts.
“Every year we have a mental health day, we are trying to do a week this year,” she said. “When you do drugs it releases dopamine into your brain so we are going to do activities with the school that also release dopamine but without putting those harmful chemicals into your body. We have done that for the last three or four years and everybody loves it. We have a dunk tank for teachers so students can throw the ball and dunk the teachers — everybody loves that.”
Richards said everyone attending the summit is happy and full of joy. “I have a huge network of people now,” she said. “My network is growing and I can surround myself with people who share the same values as me and that’s what I feel a lot of people get from this.”
The PCHS junior is excited to see her younger peers taking part and she is excited to see that they will be doing to make a difference. In the meantime Richards hopes to gain even more connections across the region and learn new see what everyone else is doing.
“We have all these posters out so I have been walking around and taking notes to try and get some ideas,” she said. “We bounce ideas off of each other so that we can bring something back to our school.
“I love the Positive Action Team, it’s a great thing to be in.”
The morning featured keynote speaker Michael Forst, program director for Maine Youth Action Network. Based in Portland, per its website Maine Youth Action Network strategically collaborates, convenes and partners to build: 1. young people’s leadership on issues of social justice, restorative practices and public health; and 2. the capacity of adults, organizations and systems to use positive youth development and social-emotional learning principles in their work with youth.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity to see young people from several area high schools come together and learn from one another, talk about the work they are doing and be inspired to continue making positive change in their communities,” Forst said after his presentation in the gym. “They are doing really exciting work and it is really awesome to be here watching them talk about it.”
“The work that young people are doing spans a lot of different areas but what I talked about this morning is how young people can find their passions and the things that make them joyful and be willing to take risks to make positive changes in their communities,” he said. “So really trying to promote a message that cuts across all the topic areas that they are working on to really to think about how they can continue to be positive influence for their schools and their communities”
As examples he said students are in the midst of campaigns to prevent vaping in schools, reduce bullying, eliminating the use of derogatory terms and “all kinds of things to create school climates that are more open to everyone and that are safer to students.”
“I think the model they have here is amazing and I am excited to be a part of that,” Forst said about the Positive Action Team Summit. “I would describe (the participants) as passionate, as caring and really motivated to make positive changes in their communities.”
“I hope that they remember that they are connected to each other, that there are other people here that are doing similar things, that care about similar things and they can rely on each other to see that positive change,” he added.