The Island Fellows Program places college and master’s degree graduates in Maine’s coastal and year-round island communities for 1-2 years, giving them the opportunity to gain experience and use their skills to help these communities address some of the significant challenges they face. This is the first in an upcoming series profiling some of our 2017-18 Fellows.
Tell us a little about yourself and why you’re in Millinocket:
My name is Meghan Cooper, and I’m an Island Institute Fellow at the Millinocket Memorial Library. I moved to Millinocket in mid-January, and I will be here through the summer, working with the library and other organizations in the region on the development of a Regional Volunteer Hub.
What is an Island Institute Fellow exactly?
The Island Fellows Program is a partnership between the Island Institute and organizations on islands and in remote communities to facilitate community development work. The fellowship places a recent graduate in a community to work on a locally-identified project that strengthens local capacity and sustainability. This support of island and coastal communities is guided by what the communities themselves identify as significant challenges and encompasses a wide range of support in areas of education and leadership, economic development (community energy, broadband, marine resources), and connecting people through publications and events.
Millinocket isn’t an island or coastal community, so why is there an Island Institute fellowship there?
Rural communities across Maine face similar challenges, whether coastal or inland. Finding commonalities between these communities and exchanging strategies and ideas to address the challenges they share encourages sustainability as they look toward the future. The Fellows Program also helps communities to build greater capacity to meet the challenges they face, especially when resources are limited. The Regional Volunteer Hub Project aligns with this goal of capacity building and provides new insights into how communities can creatively meet their needs.
What are you working on at the library?
My project is centered around the Regional Volunteer Hub Project. There are many active non-profit organizations throughout the region that depend on volunteers to accomplish their goals. The library’s volunteers and staff have devoted time and effort to developing a program and structure to support their organization and are interested in understanding how their work could benefit other organizations in the region. The Regional Volunteer Hub will be a network that encourages all the organizations to learn from and support each other, exchange ideas, and grow stronger together. During my time here, I will focus on supporting the library as it finalizes its volunteer program’s policies and procedures, networking with organizations in the region, and planning for how to implement the Volunteer Hub Project on a regional scale.
Why did you want to be the Millinocket Fellow?
I had a fantastic time serving as an Island Fellow from 2014 to 2016 on Isle au Haut, so I jumped at the opportunity to become involved with the Fellows Program again and to be a part of the Regional Volunteer Hub Project. I am currently in my final semester at the University of Southern Maine in the Master’s Program for Policy, Planning, and Management. One of my favorite aspects of this program is the opportunity to analyze how communities and organizations can take a smart, sustainable approach to change. The Regional Volunteer Hub is an excellent example of how a community in transition can proactively strengthen its organizations and networks as it moves toward a better tomorrow.
How are you enjoying Millinocket so far?
I have been living in town for about a week, and I’m having a great time! Right now, I’m getting to know the library, the community, and the organizations in the area. There are many interesting projects and initiatives underway in the region, and I can’t wait to learn more about all of them. Millinocket is currently at a place where the community has the opportunity to decide what its future will look like, and I am excited to be here to watch, learn, and take part in making that future the best it can be.
About the Island Fellows Program
Started in 1999, the Island Fellows Program is one of the signature programs of the Island Institute. The fellowship program places college and master’s degree graduates in Maine’s coastal and year-round island communities for one to two years, and provides a unique opportunity for recent graduates to apply their skills, gain experience, and help build sustainability within communities whose way of life and identity face many challenges. This support includes strengthening capacity for the local management of historical, cultural, natural, economic, and information resources, and assisting in local research, planning, education, and technology projects.