BATH, Maine — Margaret Keating, an eighth-grader at Bath Middle School, is making a difference — one bracelet at a time.
When the school’s health teacher, Maria Newcomb, challenged students to create change by pursuing and advocating a wellness topic, Keating wanted to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence by creating and selling bracelets that read “Consent is Cool.”
“The topic is not really addressed in the middle school community,” said Keating. “Consent isn’t only sexually related — it’s a part of life. It’s not always cool and sometimes it’s awkward, but it’s necessary.”
Growing up, Keating said her parents and three older sisters encouraged her to “use your voice,” and respect herself and others, which is why she pursued this particular topic.
With the help of her parents, Keating ordered the bracelets online and sold them for $1 apiece to family members, friends and other students, with all proceeds going to New Hope for Women, a local nonprofit organization devoted to supporting people affected by domestic violence and providing educational resources for the community.
The bracelets were even picked up by Bowdoin College students who sold them for their “Consent is Sexy” week, a campus-wide program that engages college students and promotes healthy ideas about consent and relationships.
Bowdoin senior Gabriela Serrato Marks, one of the event coordinators, said she found out about the bracelets through Keating’s mother, who works at the school, and invited Keating to come on campus to sell her bracelets during the event.
“We really admire Margaret’s work because she is so young. We hope that her efforts will remind her peers and ours that consent is important,” Serrato Marks said. “The bracelets make consent part of everyday conversation, which makes it more accessible to people at Bowdoin and at BMS.”
So far, Keating has sold more than 170 bracelets. Her goal is 300.
Newcomb said she was impressed with Keating’s effort and what she has been able to achieve through the project.
“I can’t believe that an eighth-grade student was really able to take charge and put so much effort into her wellness project,” she said. “She felt this topic was important and really wanted to bring awareness to our school community.”
Newcomb said that classroom presentations made by Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine and New Hope for Women also encouraged students to become aware of these real-life issues and helped bridge students to their project topics.
“There was a whole community involvement, and I think it was really nice for all the eighth-graders to see that connection made between the topics in health class,” she added.
Kathleen Morgan, executive director of New Hope for Women, said Keating’s donations will support the organization’s youth education program, which conducts age-appropriate presentations on violence and relationships throughout schools in the community, much like the one that was presented to the BMS students.
“I think it’s terrific,” Morgan said of Keating’s project. “We are absolutely honored and thrilled for the support — especially that a young person in the community is assisting and making these changes.”
As school president, Keating said she saw firsthand how her stand could influence the student body and others. She plans on advocating sexual assault awareness in bigger ways in the future — hopefully throughout high school and college.
“Just simply being a student advocate for this kind of thing is really important,” she said. “I know I want to pursue this in the future.”
To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.