Posted April 23, 2012
A graduate of Raymond, Maine's public school system, Caroline Blake '14 (Government & Legal Studies/Spanish) came to Bowdoin with one goal – to improve education in Maine, particularly by increasing the likelihood that Maine high school students go to college. Since her arrival on campus, Caroline has sought opportunities to both inform and act upon this passion, embracing service, fellowship, course and travel experiences that have well positioned her to make a difference in her home State of Maine – now and in the future.
Caroline started by volunteering with the student service group College Students for College, hosting Brunswick High School students on campus for visits and conversations about college planning. As a sophomore, she has taken over as leader of the group and learned the skills of organizational planning and coordination of other student volunteers.
She signed up for a January 2012 Alternative Winter Break trip which focused on immigrant and refugee education. After leading a three-day workshop on goal setting and college planning for immigrant and refugee children at a Portland middle school she realized that improving education in Maine doesn't just mean improving Maine's public schools. It means making sure that all of Maine's residents have the educational resources they need to prepare for bright futures. Intrigued by this new perspective, she was able to build on some of the work she did over winter break through a Community Based Course with Professor Genie Wheelwright where she and her classmates were able to connect their course to the community by tutoring immigrants in English at Centro Latino, a community center for Spanish-speaking immigrants living in Portland.
As important as engaging in communities through service, Caroline understood the importance of addressing problems at their root causes and she became interested in a career in public policy – especially after she took a course on public policy with Professor Jeffery Selinger in the Government Department where she learned not only how policy is developed, but the effect it has on the American people. Through her Alternative Spring Break trip to Washington, D.C. this past March - where she and fellow trip members looked at issues of hunger and homelessness while volunteering in D.C. soup kitchens and community centers - she learned more about public policy and its impact. Meeting with Senator Olympia Snowe to discuss the impending federal budget cuts and the consequences they may have for poor Americans, Caroline saw where service, activism, policy and politics intersect.
This summer Caroline will serve as a fellow in the Mckeen Center’s Community Matters in Maine Summer Fellowship Program with a placement at Community Financial Literacy, a non-profit organization that offers personal finance courses to immigrants and refugees in the Portland area. Here she hopes to learn more about the obstacles Maine students face and the resources and assistance they need overcome them – and ways to once again inform her passion for making a difference in Maine.
"In my Government classes, I’ve learned a great deal about the social issues that exist in our country and the policies we have in place to help combat them. I have learned that before we can fix a problem, we have to understand it."
“We must spend time with the people that the issue affects; we must listen to their stories and hear their concerns.”