Twenty-eight local high school youth now hold jobs as StreetLeaders for summer programming at Lewiston’s Tree Street Youth. Together, they provide mentoring and support for over 150 youths in grades K-12 as they participate in innovative sports, arts, and academic activities for six weeks over the summer.
Each year, StreetLeaders are selected through a strenuous application process that includes group and individual interviews. Candidates must hold a B average or higher from their local school and demonstrate drive and passion for serving their community.
The StreetLeader program has grown significantly over the past three years. The first cohort of StreetLeaders in 2011 consisted of just eight teens in grades 11 and 12. To accommodate the needs of the children and youth served, the program has since expanded to include Junior StreetLeaders in 9th and 10th grades, four Team Leaders, each of whom leads a sub-group of StreetLeaders, and three Teaching Assistants, who assist summer interns in teaching lessons during morning and afternoon life enrichment programs.
StreetLeaders reflect the diversity of the neighborhood they serve, coming from an array of backgrounds, including African-American, Anglo-American, Native American, Somali, Djiboutian, Congolese, and Burundian. Some have bi- or multi-ethnic heritage.
Tree Street thrives because of youth who choose to engage with the center and their community. The StreetLeaders epitomize the organization’s purpose, to engage youth and build unity across lines of difference. Young children and youth look up to StreetLeaders and strive to one day become one themselves.
“We couldn’t be more proud of these youth and all they stand for,” says Executive Director Julia Sleeper. “They exemplify what it means to be a leader amongst the youth of the community, both in and outside of Tree Street. The impact they have on those around them stretches far beyond the walls of Tree Street to create positive change and empowerment for all youth in L-A.”
“What we see at Tree Street marks a very positive contrast with too many Maine teens, who lack the opportunity to enjoy the experiences of holding a summer job and developing their commitment to community,” says Board Chair Betty Robinson. “These are the opposite of disengaged, idle young people.”