As the old saying suggests, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Living in Naples and working in Gray, having worked with teens from these towns and the neighboring towns, I have been lucky enough to get a close-up look at two different school systems in the southern and western parts of Maine and how the various array of New England towns in Maine have supported the hopes, dreams, and adventures of their young people. Although two of my children are now in college, all three of my babes attended school in the Lake Region district and having taught for 23 years in Gray-New Gloucester, I’ve witnessed the way in which the different towns of Bridgton, Casco, Naples, Sebago in SAD 61 and Gray and New Gloucester in SAD 15 have combined and consolidated their resources in attempts to maximize the opportunities offered to students. Local libraries, adult education programs, and the communities’ close proximity to a variety of colleges, universities, and extended educational programs add to the diverse education programs available. Opportunities abound for the young people in the schools of Maine. However, there is a particular quality of school districts that I have long attributed to the increase of student success–the fostering of school spirit. It has been incredibly pleasing to see the spirit within school districts in our south western Maine area. A most satisfying aspect of being involved with different school districts is witnessing the camaraderie of an entire community, no matter where the town lines fall. It’s a beautiful part of life to see first hand, just as I did last weekend when the girls Lake Region High School basketball team won the Class B State Championship. The stands were filled at the new Cross Insurance Center even though it was a good three hours away, and when the girls’ bus brought the champions home, parents, teachers, former coaches, neighbors, and other community members waved signs and balloons on the Naples Causeway cheering for the 15-18 year olds. Living where school spirit abounds, where people of all ages are excited and cheer on the achievements of the student athletes, dramatists, musicians, mathematicians, or scientists in the making is representative of what it means to live in a true community. The cheering we do today for the winning team is the service we’ll provide tomorrow for our neighbor in need. The world can sometimes be a harsh place to navigate on our own, and a long Maine winter can make us all desire to stay close to home, but when we come together, we are a strong force indeed, and if I might harbor a guess, we’re also happier for our efforts at the end of the day.
–Written by: Anne Freeman Walker, a resident of Naples, Maine for the past 22 years.