How we came to be…
The first program to be incorporated into Seeds of Independence was Jump Start, founded in 1997 through the Freeport Police Department. Jump Start is a community based court diversion program for first time non-violent offending youth. To build on the success of Jump Start, Judge Field asked Director, Willo Wright, to start a program for re-offending youth based on a similar community mentor and facilitator model. This was the birth of Rebound, a program which would serve as an alternative to incarceration for youth already engaged in the criminal justice system.
During the same time period, founders Thomas and Willo Wright got involved with a group of committed volunteers and mentors who were taking about twenty at-risk adolescents on a work service trip to the Dominican Republic every year. The focus of these trips was to help build a hospital for the poorest, primarily Haitian populations of the area, as well as participate in a medical clinic that made daily trips to villages where the Haitian cane cutters lived. The work-service experience that these trips provided, changed the perspective and life direction of many of the youth involved for the better.
In 2008, a large group of community mentors and facilitators met in the Freeport Library and made commitments for the founding of Seeds of Independence as a community based, volunteer organization. The purpose of Seeds of Independence was to continue to develop and enhance mentor based programs that help youth become independent and productive members of the community. Which is still our mission today.
As a community funded organization Seeds has had the flexibility to try a number of different programs based on the immediate needs of youth. With close to twenty years of experience running community based mentor programs, and with over 100,000+ hours of volunteer time (which was based on building relationships with youth and helping them develop the grit needed to succeed), Seeds has had the capacity/adaptability to listen to our mentors about what was effective, both short and longer term, and revise accordingly. Programs have been developed in Long Creek Youth Center, for teen parents, and in the Topsham, Brunswick, and Freeport High Schools.
With the changes in incarceration attitudes, new programs to address those needs, and our commitment to prevent earlier systemic problems whenever possible, we have recently focused our efforts on program Grit. Grit, is an after school program for middle schoolers, whom have been identified by their schools as needing additional structure and support.
Seeds has settled into a new facility at Brunswick Landing and is developing a collaborative network of non-profits, for-profits, municipal and State organizations that offer a wide range of social, educational, health, and nutritional services to our youth. The Community Campus Collective as we call it, supports our mission to provide youth with the structure and support they need to become independent productive members of the community.
Seeds remains about our community volunteers, mentors, facilitators and gifted educators. That is who we are, and mentoring is what we believe in.
Director at Regional
Educational Treatment Center in Auburn, Maine
Real School, Restorative Learning Facilitator
Vice President, Retail Lending
Masters in Social Work
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Research and Evaluation Consultant.
Brunswick High School
Detective, Brunswick Police Department
Mary Lou Ciolfi, JD, MS
Senior Policy Associate
University of Southern Maine, Muskie School of Public Service