Alna selectmen

Alna’s Juniper Hill School pegged for Spirit of America award

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 8:30am

    A Golden Ridge Road, Alna school and its founder have earned this year’s nod from Alna selectmen for a Spirit of America award. According to the Spirit of America Foundation, the public charity asks towns around Maine annually to nominate a person, organization, or project for the tribute to commendable community service. On Jan. 31, Alna’s board announced its pick: Juniper Hill School and founder Anne Stires.

    Second Selectman Melissa Spinney read aloud a letter to Stires and other selectmen’s meeting attendees, then handed it to Stires. The board’s letter describes the school’s attention to the importance of community. “(Students) are taught that everyone needs to share in the common work of a town to make it more than a place where (they) simply live.”

    The letter cites  a November 2017 project at Tom Albee’s farm, where Juniper Hill students, families and faculty harvested surplus crops to give to area food pantries.

    “What makes this work particularly notable was that this took place during the immediate aftermath of the Great Wind Storm of October 2017. While the school was officially closed, as their driveway was blocked with downed trees and the power was out, and this project was officially ‘cancelled’ along with school, the parents, students, and Anne all came out anyway to do what they had committed to do.

    “Hundreds of pounds of food that might otherwise have rotted were saved and eventually found its way into the hands of folks who needed it in our area,” the letter continues. “Anne Stires and the school she founded model volunteerism at its best and assure that this habit of service is learned early and ingrained in future generations.” Selectmen close the letter by offering Stires and Juniper Hill the board’s respect and gratitude.

    Responding to an email request for comment, Stires wrote Jan. 31, she was honored to receive the nomination. “The school is grateful ... for the recognition, showing support for Juniper Hill School's mission of education. We believe deeply in connecting children and families to themselves, each other, and the place we live through meaningful academics rooted in place-based (natural and human community) studies. 

    On the effort at the farm, Stires wrote: “I stood in the fields at Tom Albee's that day after all of the people present had been without power for six days, many with extensive damage to their properties. I stood looking out at people from all over the town of Alna – not just families and teachers from Juniper Hill School – and I saw the spirit of community and connection. I felt the care and dedication to helping others, from neighbors and friends and people meeting for the first time. Community, connection, dedication, and care are the foundation of Juniper Hill School. Thank you, Alna, for the recognition–I recognize that is what this town also stands for. May it continue to be so for generations.”
    Reached Friday, Albee said of the board’s decision, “I can’t think of anything that would be more appropriate. The school has done such a good job with the community and helping me, and they’re very enthusiastic. I definitely appreciate the help.”