2009 Community Action Fellows and Their Placements
J.B. Chun '11 (Economics & History) worked with the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) to advance their core mission of advancing public policy that helps Maine people prosper in a strong, fair and sustainable economy. He was actively involved executing research related to the TABOR and the estate tax initiatives. J.B. also contributed to the State of Working Maine 2009 report and hosted an episode of the State of the State on MPBN featuring other Bowdoin College summer fellows.
"I never imagined the amount of influence politics, numbers, and seemingly minute policy decisions have on people. I’m humbled every day by the genuine passion and talent of those who are involved in this work. They are integral in actively creating more just, equitable, and prosperous lives for all Mainers. It is why my role in advancing MECEP’s goals have been so very eye-opening and tremendously rewarding."
Martha Clarke '11 (Government and Legal Studies) helped the Maine Volunteer Lawyer’s Project (VLP) advance their mission of providing sound legal advice to low income residents of the state. She spent much of her time completing in-depth phone interviews with clients regarding their legal problems and providing one-on-one assistance to clients at the Portland and Lewiston District Courts. Martha also developed her own project in which she explored the recent trend of home foreclosures both nationally and in Maine, and then updated the housing section of VLP's volunteer training manual.
"The justice system can be confusing even for educated and well-off individuals. Poverty makes a complicated system even more difficult to navigate. I now have a greater understanding and appreciation for organizations like VLP that work to lessen the inordinate impact that poverty has on access to the justice system."
Maina Handmaker '11 (Environmental Studies & Visual Arts) spent the summer working with Bowdoin Professor Wiebke Theodore and The Maine Building Materials Exchange on the concept of a year-round farmers’ market space for Brunswick. The project addressed a community need while examining building preservation and fulfilling an environmental responsibility to salvage and reuse building materials. Maina interviewed community members and incorporated their thoughts with her analysis of the site to developed a more unified vision. The program she has put together – for a space in support of small farmers, access to local food, community partnerships, and preserving a piece of Brunswick’s history, can now be used to inform the design and, perhaps eventually, the creation of the market.
"I’ve been taught that design has the power to solve problems – that creation of spaces can bring together community. I’ve spent this summer doing research and building community connections. In talking with Brunswick’s farmers and eaters, developers, planners, teachers, business managers, and organizers I have learned how indispensable community collaboration is to any design decision, or any grassroots change."
Annie Kass '11 (Psychology) spent the summer working with the Oasis Health Network to bring free health care to the low-income and uninsured population of the greater Brunswick area. Throughout her internship she worked one-on-one with patients to help them apply for and obtain MaineCare and various prescription assistance programs. Annie served as staff for the biweekly mental health clinic, spent time researching the availability and standards of care of mental health services at other free clinics, and attended strategic planning meetings with the Board of Directors.
"There is nothing like having the opportunity to give back to the community that has raised you. I met incredible people and heard remarkable stories while helping a part of the Brunswick community that is sometimes overlooked by those of us in the Bowdoin Bubble. I learned something new every day about the needs of the nation’s healthcare programs, the strengths and challenges of a nonprofit, and the different ways there are to serve the members of our community."
Katherine Stewart '12 (undecided) spent the summer working at Preble Street learning about issues of homelessness and hunger in Maine. By assisting with the Breakfast program, she gained valuable insight into the daily lives and struggles of the homeless in Portland. Katy also reorganized the organization’s Clothing Closet, creating a more effective system for getting clothes to those who need them.
"Working at Preble Street, I’ve come to more fully understand and appreciate the everyday trials of homeless men and women. These people face extraordinary obstacles, whether due to socioeconomic status, mental health, or a language barrier, yet they maintain their dignity and are wonderful to know."
Morgan Taggart-Hampton '11 (Africana Studies & Sociology) worked with Bowdoin Professor Craig McEwen and the Brunswick Housing Authority (BHA) to advance the literature surrounding low-income housing. She helped to finish interviews with residents in Perryman Village, a 50-unit public housing complex in Cook’s Corner, Maine. After completing the interviews, Morgan finished a report on the stigma, social support networks, and future housing preferences of the residents, stemming a quantitative analysis of the data collected from the interviews to share with BHA and the members of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"Through my fellowship, I had the opportunity to participate and learn about the practical applications of the information that I have been learning in my sociology classes surrounding the issues facing those in poverty. It helped me focus on figuring out what I may want to do after graduating from Bowdoin concerning issues of low-income housing, health care, and public policy."
Elaine Tsai '10 (Economics) interned at The Mitchell Institute. Dedicated to increasing the likelihood that young people from communities in Maine will aspire, pursue and achieve a college education, the Mitchell Institute provides scholarships and conducts research on the obstacles that may stand between Maine students and higher education. Elaine produced a literature review on workplace education for the Maine Employer’s Initiative, which she presented to the advisory board. She also helped update the “Indicators of Higher Education Attainment in Maine” report for 2009 and began the researching process for the Barriers 3 report.
"At the Mitchell Institute, I was able to experience first-hand the process of policy research with the intention of providing better and more informed advice to policymakers and other programs. This fellowship has allowed me to apply the academic knowledge and research skills learned in the classroom to projects and initiatives that are directly working towards addressing the issues of higher education attainment."
Samantha Waxman '10 (Classics & English) interned with Five Rivers Arts Alliance (FRAA) a nonprofit organization that connects Midcoast artists with the people who live in and visit the region. She used her marketing experience to help FRAA with various membership development projects, including the use of new media and the creation of a membership information packet. She also documented FRAA’s Friday ArtWalks in Brunswick and Bath, led a workshop for children at the Harpswell Festival, and had the opportunity to meet various Midcoast artists and art professionals.
"Working with Five Rivers has given me a snapshot of the challenges and triumphs of running a small nonprofit with ambitious ideas and limited resources. I have gotten to know the truly amazing Midcoast artist community and gained an understanding of the importance of arts advocacy, especially in these troubled economic times."