The Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skate Park. (Nathan Strout / The Times Record)

BATH — A local organization is working to give kids a place to spend time after school, a place that will keep them active, learning and motivated.

Last fall, Jamie Dorr organized a meeting of the Midcoast Community Alliance to present her Big Idea: creating a youth resource center at the current Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark. The idea was met with strong support and in the intervening months the Alliance and its vast network to flesh out exactly how it can provide the benefits of a resource center and after-school programming to the greater Bath community.

Inspired by the Tree Street Youth Center in Lewiston, the original vision was to transform the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skate Park into a youth center, with staff on hand to help students and after-school programming. While that’s still a long-term goal, said Dorr, the Alliance is aiming for more low hanging fruit in the immediate future. For the Alliance, that means providing after-school programs for students where they can and connecting families with the services and programs already available in the community.

JAMIE DORR is the president of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse & Skate Park and president of the Midcoast Community Alliance. (Nathan Strout / The Times Record)

The Alliance is working to create after-school programming focused specifically on K-8 students by partnering with community organizations. Dorr said the group wants to develop interrelated programs that focus on academic improvement, health and wellness, and developing social and emotional skills.

“We’re looking for their social and emotional well being as well as their physical well being because both of those together make for a happy kid, if you will,” said Chief of Police Michael Field, who has been active in the Midcoast Community Alliance.

“So one other program that we are going to implement is a homework diner, where parents can come in once a month and work with their kids with homework, but also have teachers and people that are there that can help parents,” said Dorr.

Regional School Unit 1 has offered its facilities for food prep, and volunteers have stepped forward to make the meals. Now the group is just looking for restaurants or other businesses to help offset the food costs.

Dorr said the idea for the program came from a similar program in Arizona.

“We would like to see a very strong support network for families, where families are part of the after-school programming. It’s not just students and youth workers, but also families and community,” said Dorr.

In addition to the diner concept, the Alliance is piloting healthy activities and youth leadership program at the skate park. The program sends two high school mentors visit the skate park, where they spend time with middle schoolers, helping them with homework and keep them active.

Other ideas include a bike club, a homework club and an art club run by volunteers, Field added.

“I’m confident that it’s going to be a sustainable, awesome program for the future,” he said.

Addie Hinds, a 7th-grade student at Bath Middle School, praised the efforts that have been so far.

“I think that it’s really important, especially for kids my age … that they have a space where they can just go and be themselves and know that there are caring adults and older high school students who will be there for them and offer to talk,” said Hinds. “Since the skatepark has started having some after-school programs, there’s definitely been kind of a connection with the middle schoolers and the adults that come there.”

Hinds has worked closely with the Midcoast Community Alliance for the past year, helping to raise mental health awareness at her school.

“I’m excited for the future of the skatepark. I think the programming that we have now is great, and I know that Jaime has lots of wonderful ideas and I’m excited to see the response from that too,” she said.

In order to get these projects and others started, the Alliance is applying for a 21st Century Learning Center grant. That grant will help pay for staffing and other program expenses and is really necessary to get more programming off the ground.

“This would give us the boost to get up and running very quickly,” said Dorr.

The Midcoast Community Alliance was founded over two years ago when community members came together to address youth suicide. Since then, the group has grown and evolved to address youth mental health and the overall health and wellness of students. The 2017 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey shows that students in Sagadahoc have experienced suicidal thoughts, depression, bullying, and self-harm at higher rates than the Maine average.

Jordan Cardone, Teen Center Coordinator at the Brunswick Area Teen Center, said that there is a need in the community for after-school programs or spaces for teens, especially middle schoolers. The Brunswick Area Teen Center serves students from Grades 6-12, but the greatest need for a teen space and after-school programming is with middle school age students who are too old for daycare but not yet old enough to be at home alone.

“The majority of kids over the past few years have been a high rate of junior high students,” said Cardone. “That’s where the need really starts.”

“The teens will tell you that they don’t want to be home alone. After school, they want to have fun and see friends. They can’t do that when there’s no parent at home,” said Cardone.

[email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: