2018-05-17 / Editorial

Promote childhood literacy and active lifestyles

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

This week the Masons, Saco Lodge No. 9, delivered dozens of bikes to students at Fairfield, Young, and Burns schools for the third year in a row.

I was honored to be there alongside the Masons as the bikes were randomly distributed at school assemblies to some very deserving kids. It was especially neat to see how the kids cheered for their fellow peers even when they knew they weren’t going to get a prize. It demonstrated that it wasn’t just about them, but about seeing their friends succeed and be happy – such an important life lesson for all.

The Saco Bikes for Books program achieves two very important missions. Number one it promotes childhood literacy and gets kids excited for reading tangible books. Young School, for instance, reads a combined total of well over 500 books. Keep in mind this is above and beyond any work currently being done in the classroom. Number two it gets kids outside. In this day and age of smart phones and eyeballs glued to some type of device, these bikes represent a catalyst to get outside, breathe the free air and smell the roses. Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the point. It’s the idea of being kids again and not reliant on technology to keep yourself entertained.

This all culminates into the Saco Community Bike Rodeo this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Saco Public Works Facility on North Street. It’s a fun, free, family event with bike safety checks, a bike course, helmet safety station with free fittings, Touch a Truck, raffles, wellness vendors and and more. The kids who won bikes at school can pick them up and everyone is encouraged to bring their bikes to participate. If you would like to donate a bike or scooter or nonperishable food, organizers will be collecting donations to distribute to those in need. I’ll be there with Saco Main Street, so be sure to stop by and say hello.

Over the past year and a half, I have visited more than a dozen classrooms throughout Saco and Old Orchard Beach, including fourth and fifth graders at Loranger Middle and Burns schools and first and second graders at Young School. Some I read books to and others we chat about important issues and how the Legislature works. With each visit, I feel like I learn more from them than they do from me. They truly give me hope for the future. It’s important these students know that they have a voice, that their opinions matter. So often young people get sidelined. I make a point of every visit to hand them my legislative business card. Why? Because I work for them just as much as I work for their parents. I encourage them to speak to their parents if there is an issue they want solved and to work with them to contact me. This direct connection to civic engagement is critical to establish early on in life.

Programs like the Saco Bikes for Books are great ways of connecting with and empowering the next generation. I applaud our local Masons for the important work they are doing in our community. See you at the rodeo!

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 of Saco Main Street. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or follow updates at www.Facebook/JustinChenette.

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