When you were growing up were you lucky enough to have a mentor? A mentor is a person who opens the door to the adult world and lets you know the secret password for entry or at least opens it a crack so you can see inside. Young people who have mentors increase their social skills and are on the path to making better life decisions. Teens who mentor younger students learn about themselves and become stronger leaders.
Alex Tripp is a teen mentor at the Game Loft. She is a sophomore in high school with a strong gift for writing and an infectious smile. Alex has opened her schedule to become a teen mentor on Mondays for Game Loft youth ages 6-12 and on Thursdays working with the 7thgrade I Know ME cohort at Mount View Middle School.
At the Game Loft we know that mentoring works. “Jim” is an 8thgrader who until a year ago spent most of his days being reprimanded in the principal’s office. Last year he entered the I Know ME program and was mentored by our staff person, Stephen Colby. Almost immediately “Jim’s” behavior improved and his office detentions decreased significantly.
Recently “Jim” began working with 7thgraders in the I Know ME second cohort. We are delighted to see that he is modeling his behavior on Stephen’s example and is helping the more rambunctious kids find ways to settle down and join the group. As a result Stephen is more confident in his mentoring, “Jim” is better behaved, and the whole program is improved through mentoring.
There are many ways to mentor kids at the Game Loft. If you have the time and patience to change the world, please contact us for more information at 338-6447.
At The Game Loft we’re working to expose middle school students participating in our I Know ME program to the world of fine art in Maine through a new experiential art program. “I Am Art” encourages youth to learn art by becoming art as they recreate selected Winslow Homer paintings through creative and professional photo-shoots. The program recently received additional grant support from the Maine Community Foundation, which will allow even more kids to participate this coming spring. Photographer Tom Foster worked on location with two groups of kids in 2018 at Yori Farm in Brooks, ME and Birch Point State Park. The goal was to modernize Homer’s original works “Crossing the Pasture” and “Watching the Ships”.
Young people participating in the program make decisions about which paintings they wish to portray and how to use contemporary props and clothing in their recreations. In addition to acting as models for the photographs, the kids participate in discussion groups and write journal entries about the paintings, their possible meanings, and their personal experiences during the project. The program’s purpose is to enrich students’ understanding of Winslow Homer and his contribution to the culture of Maine. Homer was selected for his accessibility, his Maine themes, and his use of subjects similar in age to participating youth. The kids will also have the opportunity to visit the artist’s studio and gallery in Prout’s Neck, ME where they will get to experience the artist’s original works firsthand after finalizing their own recreations.
The “I Am Art” project will culminate with an exhibition of the young artist’s works during Belfast’s Friday Art Walks in the fall of 2019. All About Games in downtown Belfast will be open to showcase their photography and allow youth to interact with the greater public during these popular open gallery events. This will be an exciting chance for program participants to share and reflect on their experiences with the community.
“I am Art” is a part of The Game Loft’s I Know ME program, which engages kids with Maine’s history, geography, economics, people. promise, and challenges while instilling within them a strong sense of self and place. Programming focuses on field trips, educational enrichment, helping kids become comfortable with themselves and others, games, conversation, decision-making, and travel. The program serves cohorts of 10 youth enrolled in the Mount View School system for six years beginning in 7th grade. I Know ME is made possible by generous grant funding by the Emanuel & Pauline A. Lerner Foundation. Please contact The Game Loft at (207) 338-6447 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information about program offerings.
Building trust, thinking sequentially, using the skills of the cohort, and delegating clearly are skills that adult managers often struggle to achieve. For a tentative 8thgrader they are “mountains to scale.”
In a recent exercise Tyson showed his new skills as he helped his group build a cardboard bridge that would be strong and flexible. He showed his peers that he had an idea that would work. He described the steps in order and in a way that the group could understand and chose roles for each of the group members.
At the end of the afternoon his group completed the task and felt proud of their accomplishments. Tyson was exhausted by his new leadership role but he realized that the next time he will have increased confidence and competence.
Let me tell you two things that you already know: life is hard and not everyone succeeds. What makes one person thrive while another falters? Is it intelligence? Luck? Good looks? Personal or financial gifts? Resilience helps us overcome stress and believe that success is possible. I would like to introduce you to Paul Sweetland, Game Loft alumnus and honorary chairman of this year’s Game Loft annual appeal.
Hi, my name is Paul Sweetland (although my old friends call me “Pete”). I was a Loft kid 20 years ago and I am one today. When I was a teenager in Searsmont, Maine I was isolated, rebellious and lost. Every set-back seemed like the end of hope. Some of my peers who felt the same way chose opioid or alcohol abuse, petty crime, violence, and a dead-end life on a rutted road to nowhere. They were not Loft kids.
Poverty, crime, violence and substance abuse are both destructive and expensive. As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Please consider your gift to the Game Loft as an investment in resilience.
When I was a teenager I wasn’t smarter, richer, luckier or even better looking than my peers. I had no way of knowing that I would experience things that have broken the spirit of many other people. I guess that the lessons I learned at the Game Loft gave me some inward reserves that kept me going through the toughest times. I have traveled all around the world and met people from many different cultures but nowhere have I seen a place that taught resiliency better than the Game Loft. I think it has to do with the fact that playing games brings people together and establishes a common ground. Games allow us to forget our stress for a while and enjoy life and other people. I have played backgammon with Iraqi nationals and taught Parcheesi to Afghans. We found a common language and a respite from war through games.
Paul says that the Game Loft helped him find himself and his place in the world. Today he is an active community volunteer who has worked with hurricane disaster relief and runs his own version of the Game Loft in San Antonio for young soldiers and members of the community.
The biggest lesson I learned at the Game Loft was how to be the best person I could be. That meant being the best player, the best friend, and the best community member. Instead of thinking of my own problems I began reaching out to others. Now instead of a road to nowhere my life extends across the globe.
A few years ago I established a gaming group in San Antonio. Remembering the Game Loft I suggested that we give the group a name and put it on a tee shirt. Suddenly we had belonging and identity. I used the Game Loft as a model and here are some of the things I helped them discover.
Don’t give up. Even when you think you are losing there is still hope. That is a lesson that works for games and life.
Every member of a team is important. I teach this one through Dungeons and Dragons. Nobody wants to play the cleric because that role is the support staff of the Dungeons and Dragons game but without that position the group will fail. Each person and each role is important to the team. Every person has a unique gift to bring to the group.
Life has challenges but success is possible. I have traveled the world and many times I have seen people at their worst. I have an injury that will be with me for the rest of my life. It would be easy to turn inward and to revert to the isolated, angry person I was so many years ago, but I hold within me the hope that the Game Loft imparted to me as a teenager. Now I share with my gaming group the acceptance, generosity, and kindness that I learned at the Loft. By sharing what I have learned I hope the legacy of the Game Loft will grow. Please help the Game Loft build resilience for the kids who will one day shape the world.
Paul Sweetland has overcome obstacles in his own life and has raised the sights of his community. As a husband and father, mentor, team member, and volunteer he embodies the vision of the Game Loft. Your gift will help the Game Loft build strong children and youth who will be able to succeed in a dangerous and difficult world. Please be generous. Donations can be made online through the Game Loft website or mailed to 78 Main St.; Belfast, ME 04915.
Steven Bishop accepts award during Maine Association of Nonprofits’ sold-out Executive Leadership Forum, ‘The Secret Sauce to Boardroom Success: Culture and Dynamics. Photo credit: Camden National Bank
This October, Camden National Bank recognized six outstanding nonprofit board leaders with their 2018 Leaders & Luminaries Awards and $22,000 in grants to the winners’ respective organizations. Since the Leaders & Luminaries Awards began in 2011, Camden National Bank has given $130,000 to 37 Maine nonprofits through its private charitable foundation, The Bank of Maine Foundation. Honorees are selected for a successful use of passion, innovation and resourcefulness to help Maine communities thrive.
In 2018, The Game Loft nominated Treasurer, Steven Bishop, acknowledging his exceptional leadership employing these very distinct traits. Steven first discovered The Game Loft as a kid where he witnessed first-hand their mission to promote Positive Youth Development through non-electronic games and community involvement. As a young adult, Steven learned bookkeeping and used those skills to help The Game Loft succeed through a time of financial hardship. At the age of 22 he joined The Game Loft board.
Steven Bishop with co-founding director Ray Estabrook in 2001. Photo credit: Patricia Estabrook
Using his newfound skills, Steven went on to secure a junior accountant role at Harvard University, where he is also enrolled as a student. He is the first in his family to attend college, and he will graduate from Harvard in May 2019. Now 30 years old, Steven continues to serve as The Game Loft Treasurer remotely from his home in Massachusetts and remains an inspiring advocate of The Game Loft, who has brought energy, leadership and greater sustainability to the organization.
This year, over 65 nonprofit board members were nominated by the community, and Camden National Bank’s Leaders & Luminaries independent selection committee chose two Emerging Leaders receiving $1,000 each, including Game Loft nominee, Steven Bishop, along with four Grand Prize winners receiving $5,000 each for their respective organizations. The Game Loft is proud to see this outstanding young contributor recognized for his work and dedication to the Waldo County community. Other honorees recognized this year serve as board directors at Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Milestone Recovery, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Maine Inside Out, and Hardy Girls Healthy Women.
From left, Camden National Bank executives are shown here with the 2018 Leaders & Luminaries Awards winners. Pictured (from right) are Renee Smyth, Camden National Bank chief experience and marketing officer; Samaa Abdurraqib, Maine Inside Out board co-chair; Ben Martens, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association executive director; Brad Babson, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust board president; Ryan Ciriello, Milestone Recovery development committee chair; Steven Bishop, The Game Loft treasurer; Chelsea Ellis, Hardy Girls Healthy Women board director; and Greg Dufour, Camden National Bank president and CEO. Photo credit: Camden National Bank