Facebook screenshot

TOPSHAM – Ararat TEAN is using the power of social media to assist students in Maine School Administrative District 75 that may need a helping hand.

The Ararat TEAN (The Emergency Action Network), is a Facebook group formed at the beginning of the school year to connect the community with students that may need help. Residents of Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham are invited to provide any support they can to students looking for clothes, school supplies or athletic gear.

“A resource such as this can support students with basic needs such as food, clothing, school supplies, athletic gear, and help eliminate barriers that can either distract or create road-blocks for students, as they set goals or seek to participate in programs that have associated costs,” said Mt. Ararat Principal Donna Brunette.

“Requests will focus on supporting students and breaking down barriers for students who have whatever challenging circumstance,” Brunette said.

At the high school level, Brunette pointed out students are taking on more responsibilities as young adults. To succeed in the classroom, they need supplemental items for their everyday life. She gave the example of a student that may have found a job but needs a specific uniform to go to work.

The challenge for older students is providing resources that help them achieve the independence they need or want. Brunette noted personal aspirations, homelessness, or simply economic factors may increase a student’s need for independence.

In MSAD 75, most recent data from the Maine Department of Education shows 37 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, a common measure of student poverty. The need has been met with impressive response so far.

Murphy and fellow parent organizer Amy Saxton were inspired to model a program in MSAD 75 after the success of the Brunswick program. The Brunswick group began two years ago, and the non-profit hosted its first ever fundraiser and live auction in October.

As winter approaches, Ararat TEAN organizers hope to raise awareness for community members that want to help and for the students that may need assistance

How it works

School administrators, a guidance counselor or teachers can pass along the requests to the group.

Parents who run the TEAN Facebook group can reach many people in a short amount of time once a request is posted, according to organizers.

“I had a list of items I posted for a student,” said parent organizer Emily Murphy. “It only took a couple of minutes to get volunteers willing to fill the requests.”

The group’s involvement has extended beyond those identified by staff within the schools. Earlier this year, Ararat TEAN helped fill the snack closet at Harpswell Community School. The alternative according to Murphy would have been teachers or parent groups taking money out of their own pockets to pay for the snacks.

“It’s another way to help,” said Murphy. “The PTOs and parent-teacher organizations are usually picking up the slack.”

The Facebook group now has grown to over 400 members, who can all see when a request is made. It is a closed group, meaning that its page cannot be publicly. Membership has to be requested and approved through the Facebook.

No personal information is exchanged between school staff and organizers.

[email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: