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It’s been a while since we last posted to the blog or sent a message, so we thought we’d reach out and let you know what we’ve been up to. We sure have been busy the past two months; whether it’s been building strong partnerships within the community or making individual teacher-volunteer connections, our days have been filled… Keep reading for a more detailed update on what we’re doing in the community, what we have in store and, most importantly, how you can help us get there.

What have we been doing?  

For starters, with the enthusiastic support of their superintendent, Jeanne Crocker, we have officially partnered with the Portland Public School System for the 2015-2016 year. We could not be more excited for this partnership – it is a critical step in working together to ensure students, teachers and community members connect in meaningful ways.

To top that off, we were thrilled to receive an incredibly generous donation of $2,500.00 from accomplished Portland High School and MIT ‘05 alumnus,Tommy Pelletier.  He credits his path to success to teachers who pushed and challenged him to achieve more than he thought he could, helping him to persevere through the challenges of foster care and becoming a father in college to ultimately managing his own trading book at a private investment management firm.  “I think I saw education as a way out,” he said in an interview with MIT Technology Review.  You can read more about Tommy’s inspiring story here.  The School Square team could not be more humbled to have his support; he is an incredible example of the power of teachers and mentors.  We are excited to support other students like Tommy and help them uncover their passions, too!

Just when we thought this month couldn’t get any better…it did!  We have partnered with another incredible organization here in Portland, SidexSide (side by side), to support their programming throughout the Portland School System.  At School Square we are committed to supporting teachers and students across a diverse range of subjects and disciplines and can’t wait to see the budding artists that will be inspired by this collaboration!

While we’ve been busy forging lasting relationships within the Greater Portland Community, we’ve also been hard at work making teachers’ requests come to life!  Our amazing crew of educators have asked for (and the School Square team furiously raced to find) a stellar line-up of some of the best Portland has to offer:

Here is a peek at the great things happening at Portland High School…

  • Christine Braceras (Earth Science) wanted classroom enrichment opportunities and we connected her with Kevin Kimball, Physics and Astronomy Teacher of Southern Maine Community College and Arthur Hussey retired Bowdoin Geology Professor and The Geological Society of Maine Historian.
  • Ericka Lee-Winship (History) needed a sleep expert to engage students in her Freshman Seminar about the importance of sleep, so we connected with her with Martine J. Eon of the Maine Sleep Institute. Ericka also needed an expert in the role of social media in employment and connected her with Quinton Porter of Zoomph.
  • Arthur Mosen (Jobs for Maine Graduates) needed five area professionals to do mock interviews with students and provide them with insight and feedback. We received commitments from Lianna Doane-Dellatore, Abbey Hutchins, Kenny Joyce, Betsy Nelson, and Cameron Wright. Through School Square, Arthur also connected with Silas Haggerty a local filmmaker who looks to share his love for film with high school students. Special commendation goes to Arthur who was the first to use our website to make a direct connection with a volunteer without the aide of School Square staff. This is proof that sometimes you don’t know what you want until you see it. People in the community, presenting their passions not only opens the eyes and minds of students, but their amazing teachers as well.

Just down the street, equally amazing things are in the works at Deering High School…

  • Erika Schneider (ELL & Culture & Linguistics) requested an expert in linguistics, so we connected her with University of Southern Maine’s Professor of Linguistics Dana McDaniel.
  • Helen Sturgis-Bright (World Civilization & Global Issues) needed an expert to speak on global issues and we received a commitment from the Director of University of Maine Graduate Law and Center of Ocean & Coastal Law Programs, Professor Charles Norchi. Helen also wanted to have a community member to come and speak to her students about the different religions and cultures of the world. We connected her with Maine College of Art World Religions Professor Dana Sawyer and local pastor Josh Phillips of the Paupers’ Church.

We couldn’t let the high schoolers have all the fun, so we’re making some magic happen at Lyseth Elementary School, too…

  • Karen Stockman (Second Grade) needed literacy support and we connected her with Officer Coreena Behnke of the Portland Police Department who eagerly looks forward to reading with the kiddos.

Phew!  That’s a lot of incredible connections happening and memorable learning experiences on the horizon…and we are just getting started.  This is our inaugural group of teachers and mentors, and we are both excited at the caliber of community members engaged and also eager to learn and improve to make this the best experience possible for all.  The enthusiasm and interest of those we have contacted in our initial outreach effort is palpable and contagious, reassuring us that there is a need and a desire for this kind of work in our community. People want to share with our community and we’re providing them just the way to do that.  That feels good!

What’s next for School Square?

Well my friends, you’ll just have to tune in for our next post to find out…