“With a Little Help From My Friends,” a song by John Lennon, emphasizes that life is made easier when we lean on one another. Never has this been more true than in the past year and a half, when many children and adults have felt the impact of the isolation created by COVID.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected]

Many of us discovered that life is a lot easier when we work together to support one another during good times and bad. As we return to school, we continue to find new ways to support our students in RSU 5.

Last spring a newly created Freeport High School Scholarship Foundation was formed. The foundation’s goal is to raise money in order to provide scholarships to Freeport High School students annually. The scholarships will also provide mentoring to students during their post-secondary years. Recipients must have strong potential, demonstrate significant engagement in their communities and require financial assistance in order to go on to higher education. These scholarships have the potential to alter the course of students’ lives and create ripples of positive change throughout our community. Research has shown that providing mentoring to post-high school students enhances academic performance and improves the likelihood of students completing a course of study. The mentoring provides the “little help from our friends” by guiding a student through the complexities of a post-secondary experience.

The foundation’s scholarships are unique in RSU5, both in the size of the awards and allowing eligibility to 11th graders to help incentivize their post-graduation plans. Two scholarships, in the amount of $5,000 per year for up to four years, were awarded this past spring – one to a graduating senior and one to a junior at Freeport High School. Foundation President John Paterson said, “Our long-term goal for the foundation is to raise $2 million so that we can extend our impact to more students.” To learn more, visit fhsscholarships.org.

We are creating other opportunities to support our RSU 5 community this year. As we proceed from this past year, we are looking for ways to teach our children skills on how to confront and reduce the negative impacts of anxiety, stress and depression at school and home. Under the guidance of Lynn Lyons, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in childhood anxiety, staff and parents will learn about ways to support the emotional health of our students during uncertain times. It is important for us to talk to our children about what they are most proud of or have managed in the past year rather than the negative impacts of COVID. We need to model for our kids how to ask for help when they are feeling sad or anxious.

Lynn will be sharing these strategies and more in a workshop for parents on Oct. 7, and for staff on Oct. 8. The strategies that she will provide are relevant far beyond COVID times in managing and preventing anxiety and depression in our children.

We hoped COVID would be behind us by now, but it’s not. We will get through this year, as we did the last, by making life easier with a little help from one another.

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