Maine students complete pilot Municipal Literacy Project

Posted May 16, 2011, at 8 p.m.

High school students in Belfast, Houlton, Newport and Saco took part in an innovative civics program this school year that introduced them to the vital role played by local government and the key services that municipalities provide.

The pilot program, the Municipal Literacy Project, was made possible by a $5,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation. Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, the city of Saco and Maine Municipal Association worked with teachers in four high schools to develop curriculum and lesson plans, which are now available to the public.

“This is a program that can easily be replicated and offers huge opportunities for students and local government leaders to make stronger connections,” said Kim Lipp, executive vice president at Jobs for Maine’s Graduates. “Any town office or teacher can make this happen. All it takes is a teacher making a phone call to town hall to invite municipal officials into their classrooms.”

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates also will make the lesson plans available to all of its teachers, or specialists, next school year. That means the project’s curriculum and lesson plans will spread from four to more than 50 high schools in the fall of 2011.

Through the project, students at pilot schools this year met elected officials, town and city managers and other leaders in municipal government. Some of the students said they will consider careers in local government now that they’ve seen how many services municipalities provide.

“The students didn’t realize the variety of responsibilities that a career in local government encompasses,” Lipp said.

The city of Saco came up with the idea of a municipal-oriented civics program a few years ago after realizing how many citizens do not know the basics about local government, such as how taxes are assessed or what services municipalities provide.

Saco approached Maine Municipal Association with its idea. Working together, Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, the city and Maine Municipal Association won a Maine Community Foundation grant last summer, and the program began.

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, the city of Saco and Maine Municipal Association extend thanks to students who participated in the Municipal Literacy Project this year and their teachers, Hope Hall, Thornton Academy in Saco; Sarah Lawler, Belfast High School; Dee Butler, Houlton High School; and Melissa Coppa, Nokomis High School in Newport.

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates has posted the Municipal Literacy lesson plans at

www.jmg.org, as has the Maine Municipal Association at www.memun.org.

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