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Five PHS Seniors Are ‘Olympia’s Leaders’

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Five PHS Seniors Are ‘Olympia’s Leaders’
Posted on 06/22/2020
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Five Portland High School seniors graduated this month from the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, designed to help them develop the skills required to be leaders in their lives, careers, and communities. The five Portland High School “Olympia’s Leaders” are Casarra Abeasi, Achen Charles, Mariam Douale, Melissa Kaleka and Gloria Sanchez.

They were among more than 150 young women leaders who graduated from the institute in ceremonies June 2 and June 5. The seniors were the third class of program participants in the institute’s history. They came from 36 high schools, spanning all sixteen Maine counties. The graduations occurred during two Year-End Celebration events that took place virtually to respect social-distancing guidelines.

More than 750 students, advisors, and school contacts participated in the Institute’s 2019-2020 program, which is a three-year progression through the themes: “My Values” (10th grade), “My Voice” (11th grade), and “My Vision” (12th grade). The evidence-based curriculum is designed to raise the confidence and aspirations of high school girls by helping them develop the skills to become leaders in their lives, families, careers, and communities.

“Olympia’s Leaders” engage in unique programming blending statewide events, experiential activities in small groups, individual development and reflections, and tailored connections and networking with Maine’s business and community leaders. Throughout all three years, each Olympia’s Leader is supported by one or two trained volunteer advisors, who facilitate monthly activities and serve as a mentor and role model.

The Olympia’s Leaders at Portland High School were advised by Jill Sady, vice president and chief of staff to the president and CEO at CIEE, and Roxana Marrero, sales representative and cooking instructor at LeRoux Kitchen.

The 2020 Year-End Celebrations included remarks from Jelena McWilliams, guest speaker and Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); the Honorable Olympia J. Snowe, former United States Senator and founder of the Institute; and Christina McAnuff, executive director of the Institute.

Sen. Snowe told the seniors “My greatest privilege is being a part of your journeys of self-discovery and expression, and for the Institute to contribute to your lives today while building networks of support for your tomorrow. No matter what is happening in the world right now, nothing can take away from the incredible milestone you have reached. After successfully navigating the challenging world of high school—and now a pandemic—you are graduating as strong, resilient, passionate young women with limitless potential."

Each senior was celebrated for her accomplishments with the Institute and distinct post-secondary vision. All seniors received graduation cords, certificates of completion, and commemorative pins by mail.

This fall, 97 percent of graduating Olympia’s Leaders will begin higher education, training and certificate-bearing programs or military service; 68 percent will go on to attend Maine institutions; and 50 percent are studying a STEM field.

The Institute’s new alumnae hail from the following public schools:  Bangor, Belfast Area, Biddeford, Boothbay Region, Calais High School, Camden Hills Regional, Cony, Edward Little, Ellsworth, Houlton, Lawrence, Leavitt Area, Lewiston, Lisbon, Medomak Valley, Mount Ararat, Mount Blue, Mount Desert Island, View, Narraguagus Jr/Sr, Nokomis Regional, Oak Hill, Oceanside, Oxford Hills Comprehensive, Penquis Valley, Piscataquis Community, Poland Regional, Portland, Presque Isle, Sacopee Valley, Sanford, Skowhegan Area, Spruce Mountain, Westbrook, and Winslow high schools.

The Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute was founded by Sen. Snowe in 2015 to address the decreasing confidence levels of young women in Maine. For more information, visit http://www.snoweleadershipinstitute.org/

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with 6,750 students this year, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students – 35 percent – come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. About 53 percent of the district’s students are white and 47 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced school lunch.