Empty Bowls Fundraiser at Messalonskee High School

Empty Bowls has been a fundraiser at Messalonskee High School for the past several years. The purpose of this project is to raise money for local food pantries. It’s also about raising awareness about some of our community members who are struggling to provide food for their families.

Students and faculty members of Messalonskee High School, under the direction of ceramics teacher Sherrie Damon, have been crafting ceramic bowls to be sold as part of the dinner. The menu for the evening consists of homemade soups, salads, breads and desserts. The pottery bowls will be on display for diners to choose and take home with them as a reminder of the event and what it represents.

This year’s Empty Bowls Dinner will be on Friday, March 6, from 5 to 7 p.m., in the high school cafeteria.

Cost is $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. This year we will have a silent auction for people to bid on.

Diners can complete the evening by attending The Tempest, performed by the Messalonskee High School Players. Tickets for the play may be purchased at the door.

For more information contact Susan Perrino at 465-9135 or email Sherrie Damon at sdamon@rsu18.org.

Williams Elementary School honors first responders

Williams Elementary School students displaying their support for first responders during the school’s Hearts for Heroes program. (contributed photo)

Hearts for Heroes program presented by students

by Mandi Favreau

On January 24, Williams Elementary School, in Oakland, celebrated local first responders with a special Hearts for Heroes event.

The entire school came together in a community assembly to show their gratitude and appreciation for local responders and all they do to keep us safe. Members of the Oakland Police Department, Oakland Fire Department, Belgrade Fire Department, Rome Fire Department, Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department, and Delta Ambulance were welcomed into WES through an elaborate balloon archway.

Some of the students with first responders who attended the event. (contributed photo)

“This event was wonderful,” said school board member Laura Tracy. “From the moment we walked in the door, we could feel the excitement and enthusiasm from the kids as well as the adults. I was also pleased to see that our schools are teaching students to be appreciative, respectful and most of all, to honor others for acts of service.”

Each grade had a special role in the ceremony. The fourth-grade students sang songs, specially chosen by music teacher Amy Peterson, to honor these men and women for their service. The three songs were T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U, Gratitude Attitude and We Appreciate you, all by Teresa Jennings.

“Throughout the preparation, the students kept up an energy level that clearly demonstrated their excitement for being able to thank our first responders through music,” said Mrs. Peter­son. “We are so fortunate to have these incredible men and women keeping our community safe, Thank you again to all of our area first responders. We definitely have a “Gratitude Attitude” for you!”

The fifth-grade students read beautiful, heartfelt poems they had written about “What Makes a Hero,” in order to show their appreciation, and the third-grade students gifted each guest with a heart they had made under the guidance of art teacher Ellen Gronlie. The hearts illustrated why first responders hold such a special place in the students’ hearts. All of the presentations were a hit with their special guests.

“I thought it was great,” said Dave Coughlin, a member of the Oakland Fire Department, “The enthusiasm of the kids and the work they put into the event, the poems and songs – it was all very well received by the first responders.”

WES will also mail out scrapbooks they created with copies of the student artwork and poetry for each department to keep and share with colleagues who were not able to attend the event. After the presentations, guests mingled and enjoyed snacks, and students were able to have their pictures taken with their favorite heroes in front of a special photo booth.

Police Chief Mike Tracy was in attendance both as a board member and as the head of the Oakland Police Department. He thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the students and staff. “The Hearts for Heroes event at the Williams School was simply incredible! It was very obvious that everyone put a lot of time and effort into the day’s activities,” said Chief Tracy. “All of the first responders that I spoke with, while at the school and after the event, were touched by the Hearts for Heroes experience! Thank you all so much for everything!”

The Hearts for Heroes event was funded by the RSU #18 Lifestyles Team Gratitude Grant, which is designed to encourage teaching the values of being gracious, thankful, and giving.

New location for Candy Hollow in Oakland

Candy Hollow owners Jason and Lydia Stevens pose with their children on the occasion of their relocation to 54 Main St., in Oakland. (photo courtesy of Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce)

The Candy Hollow, in Oakland, has moved to a new location at 54 Main St.

Owners Jason and Lydia Stevens opened at their new location on December 6, 2019.

The recent ribbon cutting at Candy Hollow’s new location.

Oakland mom chosen Maine’s Mother of the Year for 2020

Adrian Phair

Adrian Phair, of Oakland, was recently announced as the 2020 Maine Mother of the Year. She was nominated for her contributions as a mother in her home, workplace and community. She is the 59th woman in Maine history to hold this honor.

Mrs. Phair is a former Child Protective Services social worker and mother of two. She is being recognized for her leadership as Board President and Camp Director at Camp To Belong Maine, a nonprofit organization that works to reunite siblings that have been separated from each other while in foster care.

Mrs. Phair, along with honorees from states across the US, will be recognized during the 85th National Convention of American Mothers, Inc. in Washington, DC, April 19 – 21. She will also serve as an ambassador for Maine mothers during visits with members of Congress. One honoree will be named the National Mother of the Year during a gala fundraiser for the American Mothers’ “Golden Rule Grant Fund” on April 21.

“For 85 years American Mothers, Inc. has held the responsibility of searching for and selecting the Mother of the Year in every state, district and territory in our country,” said Connell Branan, Board President. “Like all of the honorees before her, Mrs. Phair now joins the ranks of Maine history, with the opportunity to become a part of American history as she represents the mothers in her state and is considered for the honor of 2020 National Mother of the Year.”

For more information about the organization, visit AmericanMothers.org and look for @AmericanMothers and #MomNation on social media.

Unsung heroes: our amazing school librarians

Each school is staffed by dedicated professionals who give so much to the students

by Mandi Favreau

If you go into any school in RSU #18, it doesn’t take long to find the hub of the action. There are a few common telltale signs: the space is always welcoming, it’s full of books, and each one is staffed by dedicated professionals who give so much to our students. Our librarians and library assistants across the district do a wonderful job providing classroom support and bringing educational opportunities to everyone from our pre-k students to our community members. They are there for our students in so many ways, and we cannot say enough about all the good they do.

For the last four years, Kathryn Bailey has overseen the libraries at our elementary schools in Oakland, Belgrade, and Sidney. During that time Kate has been instrumental in creating reading spaces, developing opportunities for families to read together before and during school, and organizing and finding funding for numerous authors’ visits. “Kate works hard, at each school, to provide a functional and inviting library that supports school curriculum and recreational reading,” said Belgrade Community School Principal Gwen Bacon.

“She somehow finds the time to collaborate on projects and develop relationships with instructional coaches, building administrators, teaching staff and other district library staff.”  Kate works with a gifted team of library assistants across much of the district. In each location, they provide learning displays and activities, coordinate the student choice book awards and the scholastic book fairs, and support teaching curriculum.

Atwood Primary School is where the weekly Rise and Read program was first started by Kate Bailey and Amy Grenier. “All Atwood students and their families are invited into our library where they are warmly welcomed and they get to listen to a wonderful story to begin their day,” said Jennifer McGee, Atwood Principal. Recently, the Atwood library has also started hosting a monthly reading event with the Snow Pond Senior Center where senior volunteers come to read with the students.

At BCS, Rita Daniels is at the helm of day-to-day operations. This year, Rita’s focus has been on coordinating with teachers to encourage increased library time for students. Rita is also a dedicated staff member who is always coming up with new ways to improve morale and goes above and beyond to help anyone at BCS. “Rita is integral to our building and student success,” said BCS Guidance Counselor Jamie Wade. “With her positive mindset and team approach, she is a pleasure to work with each and every day!”

Lisa Dugal, the James H. Bean School library assistant, wears many hats. She works with the kindergartners during the daily intervention block, assists teachers by gathering books and videos to augment their units, and is always the first to volunteer if a recess or lunch duty needs covering. She even makes sure students’ birthdays are special through the “Birthday Book Club.” “She goes above and beyond with everything that she does,” said Principal Erica St.Peter. “It is impossible to capture all of the little things that Lisa does on a daily basis to ignite the love of reading in our students at Bean.”

The Williams Elementary School library is run by Rose Smith. Smith and Bailey facilitate book talks during W.I.N (What I Need) time to provide practice in active listening, processing, and comprehension. They do so much to get students excited about new books that come in. “Our librarians offer read-ins to our students and teachers which incorporate read-alouds, book trailers, and independent reading,” said WES Principal Melanie Smith. Students even get to wear their pajamas at read-ins to give them that cozy and festive feel.

Sonja Boudreau, the librarian “par excellence” at both China schools, does so much to instill the love of the written word in her students. “Last year, author Lynn Plourde read her books and conducted writing workshops with our students,” said China Primary School Principal Darlene Pietz. “What a great experience for our children!”

Mrs. Boudreau also facilitates several structured study halls, oversees reading interventions, and teaches a library skills class to all the fifth-grade students. “When students arrive at middle school for the first time, they welcome the familiar friendly face of Mrs. Boudreau, who has already instilled the love of books in so many of them at the primary school,” said China Middle School Assistant Principal Meghan Murphy. “Her enthusiasm for books and learning is truly contagious to all that enter her library.”

“Libraries are the cornerstones of our schools,” adds Messalonskee Middle School Principal Mark Hatch. He describes the MMS librarians, Rebecca Cobban and Denise Rivard, as “masters of information” and a great resource and support for MMS students. They are dedicated to helping teachers find the right information to tackle any topic and teaching students to recognize bias and false information so they can get to the true facts. He adds that librarians can be “the key holders to the love of reading” by finding the right books to spark students’ interest. “For all these reasons and more our librarians should be the ‘Most Sung Heroes’ of our schools.”

The Messalonskee High School library has long been the domain of Sylvia Jadczak and Kiri Guyaz. The two women create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that many students seek out. The space is set up to make it possible for group work, club meetings, class lessons, and independent reading or study to happen comfortably all at the same time. Anyone can request a book, whether for reading or pleasure, and Jadczak will find a way to get it. She often takes extra time to write grants to supplement the book budget for this very purpose. The library also hosts various education opportunities during lunch, including basic healthy cooking lessons, the ever-popular lunchtime music series, and guest speakers on any topic imaginable.

The latest addition to these activities is the return of Lunchtime Forums where students learn how to discuss tough topics in a diplomatic way. “Sylvia is an advocate for all our students and will go the extra mile to help a student in need,” said Paula Callan, MHS Principal. “Kiri has worked with students outside of the library through her photography club. Both ladies play an integral role in our school.”

There is absolutely no way to fully capture the scope of what these amazing people do in our district. From daily operations to taking the time to connect to a student in need or working to instill a love of reading in all our students, our librarians are true educational heroes and we are grateful for them.

Getting the upper hand

Katelynn Shores, 8, of Benton, grappling with Kayla Joseph, 8, of Oakland, at the Maine Skirmish Grappling Tournament on November 10. (photo by Missy Brown, Central Maine Photography staff)

Hunter Smart competing on Assumption men’s track & field team

The Assumption Department of Athletics, in Worcester, Massachusetts, has announced that Hunter Smart, of Oakland, has been named to the 2019-20 Assumption Men’s Track & Field roster and is competing during the indoor season.

The 2018-19 Men’s Track & Field team matched its best indoor finish in program history at the 2019 Northeast-10 Championships by placing fifth, accumulating its highest point total ever, and four short of fourth place. Overall, the team broke nine school records during the season.

Shine-On Oakland benefits school food pantries

Colby Charette with some of the food recently collected during the Shine-On Oakland Day that will go to the Oakland School Food Pantries.The Shine-On Cass Foundation again partnered with the town of Oakland’s summer festival “Oakfest,” which featured three days of community events. (Photo courtesy of Monica Charette)

by Monica Charette

Oakland’s “ShineOn Oakland Day,” on July 27, collected a bus load of donated school snacks, bringing awareness to child food insecurity and the support needed for local families through Oakland School Food Pantries. The ShineOnCass Foundation again partnered with the town of Oakland’s summer festival “Oak­fest,” which featured three days of community events including an outdoor movie night, food and art vendors, local bands, a car show, triathlon and a “stuff the bus” event, where Oak­fest attendees climbed aboard a school bus to donate snacks that will be distributed to local students in need this fall.

The ShineOnCass Foundation organizes a kindness event to both support local families and give children the experience of giving back to the community as part of “ShineOn Oakland” Day at Oakfest. In addition to collecting hundreds of snacks, Foundation volunteers also hosted a “Kindness Matters Bookmark Project” where kids created positive messages on bookmarks to be placed anonymously in books in local libraries to help spread kindness. For information about the Kindness Matters Bookmark Project and other ShineOnCass initiatives, visit shineoncass.org.

The ShineOnCass Foundation was created to honor the spirit, continue the work, and encourage others to live the legacy of Cassidy Charette, whose kindness and passion for others Shines On. Cassidy was a 17-year-old Messalonskee scholar and athlete, and a devoted community volunteer who died in a hayride accident in 2014. The organization’s mission is to educate, inspire and empower youth to make their world a better place through volunteer charitable activities.

Oakland Public Library opens Cassidy’s Corner

Atwood Primary School kindergarten teacher Maggie Solis reads and leads a discussion about kindness at the dedication of “Cassidy’s Corner,” a new, outdoor reading space developed in memory of Cassidy Charette at Oakland Public Library.

Text and photos by Monica Charette

Storytime is part of most preschool and kindergarteners’ day, but it’s made even sweeter when a book is read outside in the sun, surrounded by flowers, friends, and topped off with jelly donuts.

“I am kind when I share my ice cream with my friend,” kindergartner William Mitchell shares with his 14 classmates from Atwood Primary School who came to learn about spreading kindness at the Oakland Public Library on Friday, September 20, as part of the opening of “Cassidy’s Corner,” a new outdoor reading space created by the ShineOnCass Foundation.

Kindergarten teacher Maggie Solis read aloud author Maria Dismondy’s kindness book, The Jelly Donut Difference, while her students and a group of homeschool and preschool-age children gathered around the new stone platform in the corner of the building outside of the library’s children’s room. Kids discussed ways they could be nice to their family and friends, and shared how they can help others in need. The group sampled jelly donuts and created ShineOnCass “Kindness Matters” bookmarks, leaving messages of how they will shine tucked away in children’s books for unsuspecting readers to find at the library.

“It’s a special day when we can shine Cassidy’s light by sharing her message of kindness and her love for reading with young children,” Mrs. Solis told the children after leading a discussion about the book’s characters and asking how each student there can show kindness today.

William Mitchell proudly displays his artwork on a ShineOnCass kindness bookmark he later tucked into a book to be discovered at the Oakland Public Library.

Cassidy’s Corner was developed to support the Library’s summer reading program and give local families a place to read outside throughout the year. Monica Charette, Cassidy’s mother and executive director of the foundation, said the project was a labor of love for the community that has supported their family the last five years.

“Cassidy’s love for reading was nurtured at a very young age at the Oakland Library,” Charette said. “Seeing children enjoy books and share their ideas about spreading kindness in the world fills our hearts. This is how Cassidy’s Light shines on.”

The project also includes plans for a free-standing “Little Lending Library” in the community, where families can borrow books after library hours. Funding for the project came from the ShineOnCass Foundation, with support from Waterville Area Women’s Club and an “Employee Ideas that Matter” program at SAPPI, in Skowhegan. Additional in-kind support was provided by Get Etched, of Portland, which created the ShineOnCass garden marker, and stonework by Somerset Stone and Stove, in Oakland.

The idea for Cassidy’s Corner came from Oakland Librarian Sarah Roy, who knew Cassidy since she was a toddler attending summer reading programs 20 years ago. Cassidy was a longtime member of the library and devoted community volunteer. She lost her life tragically at the age of 17 in a hayride accident in 2014. The ShineOnCass Foundation was created by her family to celebrate her life and legacy of kindness by supporting local programs and organizations close to Cassidy’s heart, and to encourage youth to give back to their communities.

For more information about “Cassidy’s Corner” at Oakland Public Library or the ShineOnCass Foundation, visit www.shineoncass.org, or email shineoncass@gmail.org.

Maggie Solis reads to children at Cassidy’s Corner, a new outdoor reading space created by the ShineOnCass Foundation.

Atwood Primary kindergartner Luna Ripa creates a Kindness Matters bookmark to hide in a book at Oakland Public Library. The bookmarks were part of a kindness program held Sept. 20 by the ShineOnCass Foundation.

Peyton Belyeu raises her hand to share how she shares kindness, along with her classmates from Atwood Primary School, on a ShineOnCass Kindness Matters field trip to Oakland Public Library.

Wyatt Murphy, left, shares a pinky promise with ShineOnCass volunteer and Messalonskee student Nathalie Poulin at the dedication of Cassidy’s Corner at the Oakland Public Library.

Super Sunday: opening day for youth football

Messalonskee Youth Football quarterback Parker Doucette (7), runs with the football as Winslow Youth Football team members Michael Loubier and Zander Dickey move in for the tackle. (Photo by Beth Fisher, Central Maine Photography staff)

Super Sunday kicked off the PAL football season on September 1. Here, VFW and Sonny’s Pizza line up for a play from scrimmage. (Photo by Beth Fisher, Central Maine Photography staff)