Christian Hallowell, 12, writes “I AM” poetry at Midcoast Community Alliance in Bath.

BATH — The Midcoast Community Alliance operating out of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Stake Park is offering all-day programming to support 35 Regional School Unit 1 students on the days they are not in school due to COVID-19.

Students come to the youth center and skate park and do their school work during the morning with employees there to help guide students if needed. After lunch, students can participate in a variety of activities or use the skate park.

Volunteers bring hot meals for students three times each week. Snacks and groceries are available for students who need them.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the nonprofit welcomed 70-90 students ages 6-24 after school. The youth center provided adult mentors, homework clubs, art classes as well as free snacks provided by the Bath Area Backpack Program, donated clothing and warm boots for children who need them, and volunteers bring in free meals twice a week.

According to Tim Harkins, RSU 1 food service director, 41% of RSU 1 students qualify for free and reduced lunch.

After Maine school buildings closed to students due to the pandemic, Jamie Dorr, executive director of Midcoast Community Alliance, said the nonprofit began “trying to adapt to what our teen community needs and meet the need we see.”

This summer, Dorr launched an all-day summer program in which Bath children and teens participated in educational activities as well as enrichment activities like yoga, ukulele lessons and learning to cook.

Dorr said she started the remote learning program to stretch beyond helping students stay focused and providing meals when needed. She said the core of her mission is to give a safe place where they feel enriched, supported and loved.

Emily Bradford chops ingredients during a cooking activity at the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skate Park. Photo courtesy of Jamie Dorr.

“For the teens I work with, it has been a tough couple of months,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing an increase in depression, anxiety and substance use and we’re doing our best to connect teens with help.”

Dorr said the simple way she strives to help students feel less anxious and alone when social isolation is rampant is to keep them “engaged and connected, because if they’re engaged in something, you never know where that will take them.”

Alonzo Phillips, 14, said he has been coming to the skate park for four years and keeps coming back because “It’s really fun and they give you opportunities to become something.”

He said he thought if he didn’t come to the skate park, “I’d probably be a little hoodlum and get in trouble.”

Phillips said he used to get into fights at school, but Dorr has helped him simply by talking to him, what he called “giving me therapy.”

“Whenever we need something she’ll help us get it,” said Phillips. “We needed school clothes this year, and Jamie helped us get them.”

For 12-year-old Christian Hallowell, his reason for going to the skate park every day is simple: “They have fun activities and my friends go there.”

Jamie Dorr, executive director of the Midcoast Community Alliance in Bath. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

For Hallowell’s mother, Jennifer Buckingham, knowing he’s at the skate park doing his schoolwork gives her a sense of relief.

“I know they genuinely care about my son and are invested in him,” she said. “They truly make all kids feel important.”

Buckingham said the organization’s distance learning program helps her “feel less bad about being a working parent.”

“He’s going to be more successful when he’s with his peers and has more structure during the day than I could give him,” she said. “I know where he is, he’s making good choices, and he’s with people who care about his safety and success.”

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