Sophomores Connect with the Common Good: McKeen Center Launches Initiatives for the Class of 2024By Jane Godiner ’23
On Friday, September 10, the McKeen Center for the Common Good hosted “Meet the McKeen Center!"—an outdoor kickoff event tailored to the sophomore class. McKeen Center Director Sarah Seames believes that for most members of the Class of 2024, these introductions were long overdue.
"Even though the sophomores were here last fall, their options were very limited,” Seames said. “We thought, over the summer, about how in particular we could connect with the sophomore class, given that they didn't have the same opportunities within the McKeen Center that most students do.”
For an hour on Friday afternoon, McKeen Center staff, as well as volunteers from the Classes of 2023 and 2022, awaited curious sophomores with knowledge, eagerness to share their experiences, and plenty of snacks.
"It has been nice to meet first-years and sophomores,” McKeen Center Communications Assistant Song Eraou ’23 said. “I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities from the McKeen Center, and I’m excited to get them interested."
This introductory event is one of the McKeen Center's many initiatives for connecting with the Class of 2024. In August, with the support of the Forest Foundation, the Center's staff launched the Sophomore Community Action Network: a group of five sophomores who will complete seventy hours of service with Maine community partners over the course of the school year.
"This is the first time that we've tried something like this,” Seames said. “It's a small group, but I think that will lend itself to being a great cohort feel, and, hopefully, set students up at an early point in their career to be future leaders in the McKeen Center.”
In 2020, during the transition between the fall and spring semesters, the McKeen Center also created the Winter Break Community Engagement Fund, which awarded students grants to engage with their respective communities, wherever they might be located, during their winter break. While the program's initial intention was to keep students tethered to the McKeen Center during the pandemic, Seames said she's excited to continue awarding these grants during the winter of 2021.
"I'm excited that something came out of us just getting creative during the pandemic,” she said. “Now, we're going to build a program that we're hoping to do continually in the future.”
Grant recipient Luke Taylor ’24 spent his last winter break doing free, virtual SAT and physics tutoring for students at his hometown high school.
"I didn't really have too much else to do that winter break, and we were still in one of the worst parts of the pandemic,” Taylor said. “I'd be in my room and I’d just do one-hour sessions with my students. It was a lot of fun.” He attended the Friday event and discussed future opportunities related to healthcare with Seames.
While the pandemic has reduced the wingspan of the McKeen Center, Seames views the upcoming school year as an opportunity to rebuild and restructure the Center’s programming—and to receive student input in the process.
"We're really open to hearing from the sophomore class about what they want from the McKeen Center,” Seames said. “We want to know, directly from members of the class, what they are interested in and excited about taking ownership of."