Leonard to lead Sagadahoc County Maine Working Communities Challenge Initiative

Betty Q. Hixson

Raye S. Leonard, of Bath, was recently hired to be the director of the Sagadahoc County Maine Working Communities Challenge Initiative. She will begin her position June 6.

In March, Midcoast Youth Center, along with a team of Sagadahoc County community partners, was selected by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to receive a $375,000 grant to strengthen workforce opportunities among youth ages 16-24.

The Maine Working Communities Challenge is a three-year initiative supported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, state of Maine, national, state, and local philanthropy, and private sector employers.

The Sagadahoc team identified a disengaged youth and young adult community, struggling to find success in school or in the workplace, with high rates of depression and anxiety, substance use, and involvement in the juvenile justice system. According to a press release, in 10 years, they hope Sagadahoc County youth will be thriving, well-equipped, and eager to enter the workforce, resulting in a flourishing local economy and a healthy community.

“We are thrilled to have Raye joining our team. Her knowledge, connections, and passion for adult education are just what is needed to help us develop this thriving network of opportunity and support for Midcoast youth and young adults, as we work to reduce youth hopelessness in Sagadahoc County,” Midcoast Youth Center Executive Director Jamie Dorr said.

Leonard participated in the grant application process last summer as the Ward 4 Bath City Council representative. Leonard earned a Master’s of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine in 2006. She is currently at work on a Master’s in Adult and Higher Education from USM. She holds Maine professional certifications in English language arts, grades 7-12, and assistant director of adult and community education. Her director’s credential is conditional pending completion of certification requirements. Leonard is a Learning Resource Center Certified Program Planner.

“I look forward to applying all that I have learned as a teacher, administrator, and parent to creating meaningful opportunities to thrive for the young people of Sagadahoc County,” Leonard said.

Six Maine Working Communities Challenge teams received three-year, $375,000 grants to begin implementing proposals that address local economic problems, including poverty and lack of work opportunity.

All 16 Maine counties were represented in the 22 applications the challenge received from teams hoping to enter its design phase. A jury made up of a subset of the Maine Working Communities Challenge’s local steering committee selected eight teams to enter the design phase, and the six teams are the final implementation grant awardees.

“We are truly grateful to be one of six Maine teams selected by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to participate in the Maine Working Communities Challenge,” Dorr said. “We know the issues before us are complex and large and will require a different way of working together to create change at the systems level. If you do the same things, you get the same result. We are ready to do things differently, and are confident with Raye at the helm.”

The Maine Working Communities Challenge is under the umbrella of the Working Places initiative at the Boston Fed. Working Places focuses on improving life for residents in New England towns, regions, and its smaller post-industrial cities. Its model unites people from various community sectors around a common vision for change.

Midcoast Youth Center, located at the former Bath Youth Meetinghouse & Skatepark on Old Brunswick Road in Bath, provides programs and services designed to improve the lives of youth and prevent youth suicide in Sagadahoc County, Brunswick, and Harpswell.

Through the Merrymeeting Homeless Youth Project, MYC provides outreach services to children and youth up to age 24 to increase school attendance and stabilize community life. Youth receive assistance with access to healthcare, food, clothing, shelter and in navigating complex systems to obtain health insurance, stable housing, college enrollment and employment.

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