By Written by Mike Lange: DEXTER - DEXTER – The Maine Community Foundation announced last week that it's 2010 Noyce Award for Nonprofit Excellence will go to the Maine Seeds of Peace Youth Leadership Program, an organization where Tim Wilson of Dexter has served as a special advisor since 1993.
The award includes an unrestricted $10,000 grant, according to Foundation President and CEO Meredith Jones. “The 2010 Noyce Award selection committee was particularly impressed with Seeds of Peace’s efforts to draw participants from low-income and racially diverse populations in all 16 counties,” said Jones in a press release. “We salute Seeds of Peace for bringing its leadership training to youth all across Maine.”
The grant is good news for Wilson, who plans to meet with the Dexter Town Council later this month to gauge support for opening a Seeds of Peace youth center in the now-vacant Dexter Middle and Elementary School. The buildings became available when Ridge View Community School opened in the fall, and were turned over to the town.
“It’s not so much the money, but the fact that the MCF recognizes how important this program is to our youth,” said Wilson.
Wilson approached the town in January about using the school buildings for a leadership institute for top students in Maine as well as the sons and daughters of world leaders. The Seeds of Peace Camp, founded by journalist John Wallach, brings youngsters from Middle Eastern and Asian countries to a rural camp in Otisfield each summer. The program gives young people from countries traditionally in conflict with each other an opportunity to develop empathy, respect and confidence or - as the mission statement notes – “to see the human face of their enemies.”
Seeds of Peace also has a presence in Jordan, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, Afghanistan, India and New York.
Wilson’s vision is to start the local Seeds of Peace camp with a group of best-and-brightest students from all of Maine's 16 counties. "For example, if we took 10 from each county, that's 160 kids. So we'd need classroom and dormitory space," he explained.
Bringing international students to the Dexter campus is a long-term rather than immediate goal, said Wilson. "One issue we have is the celebration of Ramadan in the summer. So we wouldn't be able to schedule classes around the observance."
Ramadan is an Islamic religious observance where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days.
Although Town Manager David Pearson and some councilors have expressed support for the proposed Seeds of Peace campus, there are several question marks about the building including environmental issues, Wilson said. "Just because of the age of the building, there may be some things that need correcting. The town has indicated that they'd consider leasing the buildings to us. But we don't know how much we need to put into them."
Wilson said that he hopes to learn more about the Dexter Town Council's support for the Seeds of Peace center at their next meeting. "Hopefully, I'll be able to tell everyone more about our plans by Thanksgiving," said Wilson.
The veteran educator is best known locally as a student advisor at Dexter Regional High School and varsity football coach. He returned to the Dexter gridiron in 2006 after a lengthy absence and had a tough season this year with a squad composed of mostly freshmen and sophomore starters. But Wilson said that the team and the parents were very supportive and looked beyond the won-loss record. "We started with 30 kids and finished with 30," said Wilson, "and many of them are on the honors and high honors list.""This content originally appeared as a copyrighted article in the SVWeekly.com and is used here with permission."
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