Did you miss our Girls Rock! Awards this year? It was incredible!! On March 2, 2018, 300 people gathered with us at the Maine Girls Academy to celebrate girls and support our year-round programming for 1,500+ girls. This annual event honors amazing girls from around Maine who are leaders in community organizing, entrepreneurship, health advocacy, STEM, athletics, and challenging adversity.
It was wonderful to be in a room filled with strong, intelligent, and empowered girls. For [my daughter], she was most excited about feeling so supported by caring people. [My husband] and I both felt a sense of relief and hope that the next generation will be bold and relentless. Equally important, we were thrilled that both [our daughter] and our boys got to hear from and be with girls willing to work for change, equality and ultimately a better society. Needless to say, our whole family left the event feeling excited and impressed. [Our daughter] is already looking forward to participating in your programs once she is in the 4th grade!
For our keynote, we were wowed by:
Amanda is the inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. A 19-yr-old sophomore at Harvard, Amanda has worked as a U. N. Youth Delegate, a HERlead Fellow in training with girl leaders in D.C. and London, and an Ambassador for the feminist platform School of Doodle. She is a poet, community leader, and commissioned speaker. To read more about Amanda, you can visit her website.
Her inspiring poetry was followed by speeches from our award winners:
COMMUNITY ORGANIZER – This girl sees the importance of a united community and is making it happen by bringing together her school, peers, and/or community. She is not afraid to start changing the soil, especially for other girls!
BRENDA VIOLA – Portland – Grade 12, Age 17 – Brenda came to Maine from a Kenyan refugee camp five years ago. Now a senior at Deering High School, she does public speaking events about the environment through Environmental Changemakers, tutors elementary school children through Teen Trendsetters, is part of the Maine Medical Explorers program and sings in a choir of immigrant youth. As well as volunteers on Maine People’s Alliance civic engagement and Know Your Rights project in Portland, coordinated to share legal rights information to immigrant communities of Portland. She’s also a member of the Sisterhood Club at DHS, ran on the track team, and worked on a social media campaign for Portland Public Schools. She led her own project interviewing homeless people in Portland. She is part of Make It Happen! at her high school. Brenda was named one of the ten Mainers We Are Most Thankful For in 2017 by the Portland Press Herald.
TITLE IX CHAMPION – This girl is an advocate for girls’ equal access to sports, including athletic facilities, coaching, education or equipment.
KAHLER MARSH – Scarborough – Grade 3, Age 9 – Kahler Marsh, in the spirit of Title IX, uses sports to help break down barriers for girls. This past spring, Kahler was the only girl in Scarborough to play for a Little League baseball team as well as the only girl to play on the boys’ youth lacrosse team. Likewise, this fall, Kahler was the only girl to play flag football in our town. When people ask why she wants to play traditional boys sports, Kahler simply asks why not. Kahler has gained the respect of teammates and shown people that girls can indeed compete with boys. By having the courage to challenge the status quo, Kahler is letting other girls, as well as boys, parents and coaches, know that a female athlete should have every right to play any sport. Simply by being a young girl determined to play, Kahler is inspiring other girls to follow their dreams regardless of the antiquated expectations for females.
AGAINST THE ODDS ADVOCATE – This girl refuses to be limited by what has traditionally been known as a physical mental health or developmental challenge. She is busy redefining “able” and making positive changes for girls in Maine along the way.
EMMA FOSTER – Orrington – Grade 12, Age 17 – At two days old, Emma was diagnosed as deaf. Since she was young she’s advocated for successfully mandating the insurance companies in Maine provide hearing tests to newborns. She has conducted a “Diversity” class for future social workers, principals and students majoring in special needs at the University of Maine. Emma has participated for several years in an American Sign Language course at UMO to work with students to learn to work with deaf children. In July 2016, she was nominated to the Board of Commissioners for the Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing, Late Deafened/Blind at the State House. She is the State of Maine’s “Student Ambassador” and represents all the deaf/HOH children in the State of Maine. In August 2016, she was appointed to the Maine Educational Center for the deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (Baxter School for the Deaf) School Board and recently has been part of a subcommittee for Legislature issues at the state level representing the school board.
HEALTH PROMOTER: This girl supports and/or works on wellness policies or programs that promote healthy lifestyles and choices, such as mental, emotional and/or physical health.
RILEY MAYES – Portland, Age 17 – Riley has a particular skill and interest in unifying all genders toward a school and community climate of safety and healthy sexuality by preventing gender based violence among young people. At Waynflete, Riley became a member of the RAPS (Raising Awareness & Providing Support) program: a group that focuses on the physical and mental well-being of the students. She has developed and delivered the Safer Sexuality Program to Freshman students as part of her leadership role within the program. Riley spent a summer abroad studying sexuality in Amsterdam. Shortly after her summer experience, Riley began volunteering for Maine Boys to Men. She spent the last two summers meeting with Boys to Men staff to review and write their 12 Hour High School curriculum specifically in the areas of healthy sexuality, healthy relationships, online harassment, sexting and technology respect. Additionally, Riley assisted Maine Boys to Men create the RSVP Rally program, is a member of the Youth Advisory Council, served on panels and facilitated events at other schools. She participated in a Train the Trainer Model and then was responsible as the Lead facilitator of a three hour training to 40 students. She seeks authentically to partner men and women, boys and girls in dialogue that opens hearts and changes actions.
STEM-GINEER – This girl succeeds in science, technology, engineering or math. She rejects the idea these subjects are not for girls and has created a counter narrative with her accomplishments. She could be an inventor, a competition winner, or a pioneer in her field.
MARINA MOHAWASS – Bangor – Age 16 – Marina is originally from Egypt. Her father sent her to the United States with the hopes of safety and a chance to pursue her education. And she has! Marina has excelled in a highly competitive and elite level academic program at Bangor High School. The STEM program at BHS has a highly successful student research program that has resulted in multiple and successive prize winners in the nation’s most prestigious science competitions. She is the leader of BHS’s State of Maine Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) program, a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded program that seeks to engage underrepresented students in STEM related education and potentially careers. She is currently working on a research project designed to remove heavy metal pollutants, E. coli, and phosphorus from contaminated water supplies. Her novel approach uses mycorrhizal fungi to remediate the water. Last year she designed an “ecological diaper” using cellulose nanofibers to eliminate plastic from the waste stream. She commonly is seen at school as late as 9 pm working on her various research projects. Marina has a passion and drive that is rarely seen at any level.
ENTREPRENEUR – This girl turned her passion into a paycheck by building up her own business and her bank account.
JAELIN ROBERTS – Bangor – Grade 10, Age 15 – At age 12, Jaelin began baking macarons for her friends. In October 2016, her mom had a chance meeting with the owner of Coffee Hound Coffee Bar, a small coffee shop in Bangor. The owners of Coffee Hound tried one of Jaelin’s macarons and offered to sell them at their coffee shop. From that simple exchange grew Simply Macarons by Jaelin. Now Jaelin is cooking for customers online, by phone and on Saturday mornings at a local Bangor European Farmer’s Market. Ten percent of Jaelin’s profit goes to the nonprofit “Love Without Boundaries” to help orphaned and impoverished children.
Does reading about these incredible girls make you think of a 9-19 year old Maine girl you know? Nominate her for the 2019 awards!