Sammy Potter has a modest goal as he graduates summa cum laude from Yarmouth High School.

He’s unwilling to bend to the negative politics he witnessed last spring in Washington, D.C., where he worked as a U.S. Senate page, appointed by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. And he’s inspired by his experience this spring, working as an intern on Democrat Zak Ringelstein’s campaign to unseat Maine independent U.S. Sen. Angus King.

“I want to do something about the big problems in our community and in our world,” said Potter, 18. “I am absolutely daunted by the tenor of politics today. But it almost gives me more hope because there’s so much opportunity for change and progress.”

Potter completed his coursework at Yarmouth High in December, leaving him free to work on Ringelstein’s campaign. When he was in Washington last spring, he attended U.S. Senate Page School, achieving high honors despite 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. classes.

“I never took a study hall (at Yarmouth High). I always took courses every period,” Potter said. “When I was working full time as a Senate page and going to school every morning, I was sleeping about four hours a night.”

Potter said he was encouraged by the heated but thoughtful discussions he had with some of the 27 other pages from across the country. Despite a wide range of political beliefs, most agreed on criminal justice reform, common-sense gun regulations and gay marriage, he said.

After a five-week trip to Israel last summer as a Bronfman Fellow, Potter organized a Day of Hope that was held at the high school last fall. The afternoon event featured seven TED-style talks by Maine leaders such as two-time gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler and Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling. More than 250 people attended. Potter hopes it becomes a yearly event.

Through the years, Potter’s extracurricular activities included cross-country running, mentoring a student who has autism and building trails for the National Park Service. He also co-founded the Entrepreneurship Club, was elected student body president as a junior and won Spanish, citizenship and Phi Beta Kappa awards, among many others. He’ll round out his high school honors as a graduation speaker.

Potter plans to study public policy and computer science at Stanford University in California. His long-range goal is to return to Maine and work as a community organizer to make the state more welcoming to young people, entrepreneurs and innovation.

“It’s grass-roots organizing that ultimately makes the biggest difference,” Potter said. “If we run away, the problems only get worse.”

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