DEXTER, Maine — A local man is working hard to secure financial backing to create a year-round leadership institute in Dexter using the former elementary and middle schools as its home.
Town officials recently gave Tim Wilson a 90-day extension to present a plan for his proposed lease of the town-owned property.
“He still has a very attractive proposal,” Dexter Town Manager Dave Pearson said recently. “We’d like to think that it is going to happen because it does involve jobs.”
Wilson, 69, who is involved with the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield and is a local football coach, wants to develop a leadership institute that could employ up to 100 people using private funds. His plan is to convert the elementary school into dorms and classrooms for a leadership institute for the sons and daughters of world leaders and other top students and adults from throughout the United States and the world. During the school year, the students also would attend SAD 46 schools, which would help declining enrollment, he said.
“There’s a whole bunch of things that are going on that can be all tied together that would make that place a beehive,” Wilson said this week of the property. He said he is pursing all angles to make his plan work.
Wilson said he has meetings lined up this month with potential financial backers, but he first needs to know whether these people think such a venture will work.
“A lot of people think it can work, but the biggest problem is the money,” he said. While he already has the funds lined up for the programs, the problem is getting the money for the renovations and the annual operation and maintenance of the building, Wilson said. There also is the issue of whether to lease or purchase the property, he added.
About $200,000 is needed to renovate the buildings, according to Wilson. The primary side of the building is in good condition but the older portion of the former school needs some work. It is also unknown what environmental issues may need to be resolved. That assessment will begin later this month, he said.
Despite the costs involved, Wilson believes such a project is needed to help foster world peace, and he believes the place to do it is in Dexter. The emphasis of Seeds of Peace is to empower young people by giving them leadership skills to help resolve conflict, and Wilson hopes to take that process one step further. “It would have a lot of same qualities [as the Seeds of Peace camp],” he said.
The coach envisions that participants — both students and adults — would come from countries such as India, Pakistan and Brazil. The adults would meet with other educators from around the world to learn how they can make education systems better in their homelands, he said. The students would gather and learn to listen and understand the different cultures, according to Wilson.
“Peace will come from one youngster after another, provided they get the opportunity to listen and learn and problem solve,” he said.
Wilson is eager to plant those seeds. “I just want to give it every shot I can,” he said.