Recently, when talking about the Fellows program I was asked, “Just how do you prepare someone for a year of living and working in an island or rural community?” Well, I thought, just how do we do that?
First, we try to hire well. We look for service-oriented young people who have a commitment to community as well as a wide variety of skills that will bring a valuable extra set of hands to small communities in Maine. We look for good projects that are identified by communities and ready for a Fellow to get to work. Then we match the two. It takes time, and a little alchemy, but it is worth it when a good match is made and both the Fellows and communities are left off better as a result of the fellowship.
Second, the Island Institute has supported over 120 Fellows since 1999. In those years, we have learned a little about what it takes to support the work and life of a Fellow. We start with a week-long orientation, where we focus on what it means to integrate into a community, how to set and achieve reasonable goals, how to manage projects, and other ways to become part of the community and live in an area that may be very different from what they’re used to. We support Fellows with a team of staff to check in and provide professional resources. We connect current Fellows with alumni—someone who has gone through this work and whose perspective can be important to understand—and we also work closely with each of the communities to make sure the Fellows are well supported and well regarded in their work.
This year, the Island Institute is supporting the following Fellows and their work with Monhegan, Millinocket, Islesboro, North Haven, Isle au Haut, Frenchboro, Peaks Island, and Swan’s Island:
- Dan Debord – Monhegan Island – Dan is working with the Monhegan community to bring high-speed broadband access to the island. He is also working with the assessors to set up municipal systems. Originally from Virginia, he has spent summers on Frenchboro, ME. Dan graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in economics and history and a minor in religious studies.
- Diana Furukawa – Millinocket – Diana is working with the Millinocket Memorial Library to develop a community resource and volunteer coordination center for the Katahdin region. Before moving to Maine, she lived in Seattle, Washington. Diana graduated from Bowdoin College with a degree in sociology and visual arts.
- Maddy Bruno – Islesboro – Maddy is working with the Islesboro Community Center to support health and wellness programming across the island. She is also increasing the technical capacity of the artist economic support programming run through the community center. Maddy is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in geology.
- Maria Keeler – North Haven – Maria is working with teachers, parents, and students at the North Haven Community School to create dynamic, standards-based, agricultural curriculum. She is also supporting the community through her coordination of summer farmers’ market, her work with recreation committee, and her passion for learning. Maria is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Morris with a degree in biology and psychology.
- Molly Siegel – Isle Au Haut – Molly is supporting the Isle au Haut community by adding capacity and technical support for a community telemedicine facility and affordable, sustainable year-round housing. Since September 2016, Molly has worked with the Portland Housing Authority as a community hub coordinator. She has her bachelor of arts in environmental studies from Dartmouth College.
- Natalie Hyde-Petersen – Frenchboro – Natalie is working with the community on the island of Frenchboro to support educational efforts with an after school and summer learning program. She also works with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust to support community programs. Natalie graduated from Gordon College with a degree in linguistics.
- Nell Houde – Peaks Island – Nell is working with the teachers and students of Peaks Island Elementary School to bring the edible schoolyard master plan to life. Nell will also be working with the Peaks Assisted Living organization to support the new non- profit as it develops fundraising, financing, and operations systems. Nell is a graduate of Bates College where she majored in environmental studies and general education with a focus on community education and agriculture.
- Stevie Kowalczyk – Swan’s Island – Stevie is working with the Lobster and Marine Museum to help curate its extensive maritime and fishing history collection. She is supporting this work with marketing outreach, education, and volunteer recruitment. Stevie has a master’s degree in cultural heritage management from the University of Minnesota.
Over the next year, our goal is to encourage these Fellows to become members of their communities, to understand that community, and to serve that community. This is the work of a fellowship, and it is an honor to support that work.