Kayla Kalel: Addressing Injustice in the Community
Working towards community betterment is an extremely important aspect of Kayla Kalel’s life. “For as long as people in my community that I love and care deeply about continue to die preventable deaths from overdoses, and for as long as some of my friends, family members and folks that I have met in the community are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, leaving their children alone to fend for themselves,” she says, “I consider it my obligation to advocate to ensure our community creates the type of community connection and resources all of us need to be our best selves.”
On top of working towards a degree in interdisciplinary studies with intersections between criminal justice reform advocacy and public policy at UMA Bangor, Kayla is involved with numerous organizations and projects that work to improve the lives of community members. She serves on the board of directors for Food AND Medicine, the Maine Coalition for Sensible Drug Policy, and the Maine State Breastfeeding Coalition, and is co-founder of the Birth Justice Collective. Kayla also volunteers with the Bangor Area Recovery Network and helps to increase access to Narcan Kits. Additionally, she is the project co-coordinator for “Stories of Incarceration: The Penobscot County Jail Storytelling Project” and was recently featured on a podcast discussing how the carceral system impacts families and parenting.
To Kayla, “civic engagement is taking the opportunity to give back to the community. It’s seeing a need or an injustice, and then taking steps to make others aware of the injustice, and advocating in various ways to ensure it’s changed.” She adds that “civic engagement also means noticing voices in the community that are not being heard for various reasons, finding out why they are not being heard, and then creating equity and creating space to ensure these folks are part of the conversation and are part of decision making within their community.”
Alicia Bell: Sharing Skills and Giving Back
Alicia Bell is pursuing a BA in Art at UMA and spends her time between both the Augusta and Bangor campuses. She is also using her creative and artistic skills to help her community as the secretary of the Bedtime Quilters in Bucksport and a member of the Pine Tree Quilting Guild. Alicia says that, when creating a quilt, “every member in the group makes a block, and it is put together with hard work, dedication, and lots of bright colors for love” before the quilt is donated to a local community shelter. By sharing her skills, Alicia has been able to give back and help people in need. “Giving back to the community is essential to me,” she says, “because the community helps me live a safe life.”
UMA students returned from a six-day Service Trip to Fayette County, West Virginia last week
While there, they painted the porch of a local woman and cleaned, organized, and painted the volunteer dorms for the Southern Appalachian Labor School – a local non-profit that provides resources to address food insecurity, housing, emergency shelters, and afterschool programs in the area. Amanda Griffin, Anaïs Gallaudec, Cassie Bates, Charlene Beringer, Juliette Heno, Léa Blanchard, and Lori Summers participated.
In addition to their service work, they took a tour of an exhibition coal mine, rode a jet boat up the New River Gorge, and learned all the verses to John Denver’s “Country Roads, Take Me Home,” which they sang on stage with a local musician, Billy Payne.
Amanda Griffin reflected on the experience, “The UMA service trip to West Virginia was eye opening to the situation of what people are experiencing down there and the great need the communities are in. We experienced a lot of different excitement from various painting projects, playing with the local kids, and a day of adventure exploring the area. We all worked well together and bonded as a group from the beginning to end, and fond memories and friendships were made.”
Students from 6 Maine institutions of higher education volunteer with CA$H Maine
For Alex Ozols, a student at Colby College, and the other student volunteers at CA$H tax sites around the state, volunteering with CA$H Maine this year provided both a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Students from six schools came together virtually this year to provide free tax preparation and share money management resources with Mainers statewide. CA$H Maine worked with partner programs at colleges across Maine to recruit the students’ support. University of Maine at Augusta (UMA), University of Southern Maine (USM), Colby College, Bates College, Central Maine Community College (CMCC) and University of Maine Farmington (UMF) all participated in this year’s effort to provide free tax preparation to community members.
Students at UMA found CA$H Maine through the Accounting Program and Professors Thomas Giordano and Gary Page. Jessica Parks and Leah Kovitch, both students in the accounting program, are interested in going into the accounting profession after graduation. Jessica reflects that her favorite part about volunteering was “getting to meet others who had worked in the accounting field and getting to ask them questions.” Through her volunteer work, Jessica was able to do an informational interview with a volunteer working in her field and practice her accounting skills.
Professor Giordano shares that for UMA Accounting students, “It has been a great opportunity for students to actually prepare tax returns while engaging with real tax data.” Giordano also says that “volunteering is an important aspect of being a responsible accounting professional.”
Rockland Center Activities
- The Rockland Center held a food drive for Thanksgiving.
- The Rockland Center was visited by the Veteran’s Mobile Vet Van.
- The Rockland Center hosted voter registration from the League of Women Voters.
- The Rockland Center build a holiday tree from books.
- The MOOSE was in the Festival of Lights Parade, where onlookers “vote” on the best float with canned goods.
UMA EDU Pathways Program
- Each spring semester, UMA EDU students help collect children’s books at the various UMA campuses and centers. They donate these books to public schools in Maine to support their summer reading programs. As of May 2020, approximately $1500.00 in donations have been disbursed to public K-12 school districts in southern and central Maine.
- Each fall semester, UMA EDU students help to collect winter coats, hats, mittens, and scarves to donate to public schools in Maine. As of May 2020, approximately $1500.00 in donations have been disbursed to public K-12 school districts in southern and central Maine.
- During each fall and spring semester all UMA EDU students, who are completing their student teaching internship at a K-12 public school in Maine, participate in some type of community engagement project at their school site. Typically, the UMA student-teacher develops and executes a project that supports their school site’s mission of serving the school community as a whole. Examples of projects include: inviting the member of the American legion to a middle school social studies classroom; a community poetry evening event; an academic support network for students struggling with Biology; and a family mathematics enrichment evening event.
- During each Fall and Spring semester a group of UMA EDU students volunteer their time to support K-12 students who attend an after-school program at the Tree Street Youth facility in Lewiston, ME.
Bangor Student Life
- Bangor Student Life & Student Development/Counseling collaborated to host a series of activities/sessions (“Pizza & Pinterest”, “Tell Us About it Tea Party”) aimed at providing stress-relief resources and support to students.
- The Bangor SGA supplied snack baskets in buildings across campus the last two weeks of the fall semester, ensuring that UMA students were not making presentations or taking exams on empty stomachs.
- The Bangor SGA has a “Grab & Go” snack cupboard in Eastport Hall that students can grab snacks, soup or other light meals should they forget lunch or need some additional help.
- (Lori Googins) Worked with Good Shepard Food Bank as a Mobile Distribution Site and hosted the UMA Health & Wellbeing Fair.
- (Leslie Devine) hosted Denim Day & Community Screening of “Gridshock”
- Bangor Student Life hosted a Bone Marrow Drive in February to provide education and the opportunity to register with the organization Be the Match.
- Bangor Student Life/SGA hosted “Friendsgiving”, a free meal for the UMA Bangor community aimed at celebrating community and reducing the feelings of loneliness and isolation which sometimes arise during the holidays
Augusta Student Life
Spring Break Service Trip
- During the Trip
12 Students and two Advisors will fly from Portland JetPort to West Virginia to Work with Southern Appalachian Labor School/Appalachian Community Partners (SALS) where they will stay for 6 nights. They will play a role in various projects including, working on Coalfield Housing Project and Youth build mentoring. We will explore past and future projects and learn more about the history of the area. SALS will organize educational/community members to speak about the history of the area.
- Trip Reflection
Students will be randomly paired each morning to work throughout the day and come together at the end of the day to present to the group some reflections from their experience, thus encouraging them to contemplate on everything new they learned. “Structured opportunities for reflection can enable the students to examine their values, opinions and assumptions, gain a deeper understanding of them and construct their own meaning and significance for future actions.” (Moon, 1999, as cited in Conner & Seifer, 2005)
University Credit Union presents checks to University of Maine at Augusta Campus Food Pantries
University Credit Union (UCU) presented checks to the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) totaling $1,710.00 for the student-run food pantries on UMA’s Augusta and Bangor campuses.
The Augusta Campus check of $1,010.00 was presented to UMA’s Student Government Association officers Salvatore Cardinale, Bethanie Lovely, and Cole Winslow for its student-run campus food pantry, the Community Cupboard. A check in the amount of $700.00 was presented to Alissa Gervais, UMA Coordinator of Student Life and Alex Smith, UMA Pantry Student Worker for the student-run Bangor Campus Food for Thought pantry.
Through its Ending Hunger on Campus in Maine campaign, UCU raised $11,433.88 in donations for University of Maine System student-organized and campus-sanctioned food pantries. UCU matched this amount for a total donation of $22,867.76 to eight food pantries on campuses within the University of Maine System.
This marked the third year of UCU’s Ending Hunger on Campus in Maine campaign “to bring attention to student food insecurity in Maine and to recognize student food pantries for tackling the problem head-on.” From November to December 2019, community members were encouraged to donate online through UCU’s website, or by stopping by or mailing a check to any UCU branch. Donors could choose to specify a campus food pantry and non-designated contributions were distributed among the eight pantries.
The donations from UCU will allow the Community Cupboard and the Food For Thought pantry to supplement their offerings. Current supplies are obtained through funding from the Hunger Dialogue Grant, as well as SGA funds allocated to the Community Cupboard and in-kind and monetary donations to the Food for Thought pantry.
UMA Bangor Garden
- The UMA Bangor Campus Community Garden partnered with the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine to build a 60’ x 60’ circular garden labyrinth. The Bangor campus garden grows hundreds of pounds of food annually that are donated to six local pantries and shelters, including the Food for Thought pantry on the Bangor Campus.
- The Bangor Garden Club hosts educational gardening events, such as workshops on starting seedlings and composting.
- The UMA Bangor Campus Community Garden and Labyrinth are operational in the 2020 season with a COVID-19 safety plan. The garden provides and essential service to the community by growing food that is donated to food insecure Mainers.