2017-08-31 / Editorial

Local scholarships encourage new leaders

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

There is a well-known quote, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” This couldn’t be truer.

I am a big believer in empowering the next generation of leaders. One thing I’ve noticed growing up was that young people never felt listened to or had a seat at the table. When you turn that magic number of 18 and earn the right to vote, you don’t all of sudden acquire the knowledge to be an active and engaged citizen. Moreover, there aren’t many elected officials today that will take the time to mentor individuals who will ultimately replace them down the road. We must involve youth in to the process sooner rather than later, not just politically, but from a community perspective as well. The Rotarian ideal of service above self.

This is why I make youth involvement a key element in everything I do. I reach out to students to get them to volunteer with me on community projects, offer internships on my campaigns, and even drive students up to the statehouse myself to make sure they see government up close and personal.

At my nonprofit, Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, we have a scholarship that aims to encourage and assist the next generation of community leaders in achieving their educational objectives. This is my favorite thing to do every year; to give away scholarships to very deserving students.

The Spirit of Service Scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior from each of the following schools: Thornton Academy, Old Orchard Beach High School and Biddeford High School. The individual must have demonstrated a passion for helping others, strong leadership skills, and worked to improve the community outside of the school’s campus. This year we were able to offer three scholarships to area high school students pursuing a higher education. Here are our 2017 recipients:

Kayla White of Old Orchard Beach is a recent graduate of Old Orchard Beach High School. She completed almost 300 hours of community service before graduation. Students have a 20-hour requirement, so the fact that Kayla went above and beyond to help people in her community is the true epitome of why I started the Spirit of Service Scholarship in the first place. She is off to do great things down at Fisher College in Boston where she will major in criminal justice.

Thornton Academy graduating senior Shania Rodriguez is the 2017 Saco recipient of our Spirit of Service Scholarship. Shania is truly inspiring from her passion for helping others in the community to caring for her mom who is going through cancer treatment. Her personal story fuels her drive to do better and be better. She will attend Southern Maine Community College in the fall on her way to becoming a nurse. I have no doubt that Shania will do wonderful things in the future and lead a life of giving back. Let’s all have her mom in our hearts and prayers on her difficult road ahead. Shania’s light and grace no doubt helps immensely.

Austin Dutremble is our Biddeford recipient. Austin is not just an all-star athlete, but really cares for those around him and devotes time to give back to others. He will attend the University of New England where is he already making waves being on its first ever football team starting up this fall.

My hope is that through this small connection to up and coming leaders of tomorrow, we can make a positive impact today. Congrats to this year’s recipients and best of luck to all students heading back to school this week.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president/CEO of the Saco Bay Center of Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or www.Facebook.com/ JustinChenette.

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