The Strategy: Engage the Entire Community in Supporting Students Imaginative Development

For over thirty years, the community of York has been remarkable for the many ways in which adults across generations and roles support the imaginative development of young people. In 2009-2010 alone, through its SHIPS (School Helpers in Public Schools) the York School Department had over 900 volunteers working for approximately 31,000 volunteer hours. In some cases, parents and grandparents help out directly in the classroom on everything from arts projects to history research to science experiments.  Adults from businesses participate in the Career Quest Program in which young people shadow professionals from over 200 businesses for two days to learn about the demands and rewards in a variety of occupations. Other community members, many of them bringing skills and experiences from working lives outside of York and Maine, contribute their time and knowledge in fields as diverse as computer technology and art history. Evidence that these traditions continue is everywhere. For just a few examples

The High School Boat Building Project at York High School brought students together with faculty and community mentors to build full-sized wooden boats from blueprints to sea-worthy vessels.

York High School Music Boosters, an organization of parents, has collaborated with the high school music educators to organize and fund-raise for the newly built music wing, which opened in May 2010.


This emphasis on adult volunteerism is echoed by the importance that the district places on service learning. York believes that young people should learn how to share their skills and give back.

For instance:

All students in grades K-8 participate in at least one service learning
project each year. Grade 8 students monitor water samples from York Harbor
and the York River, reporting this data to the Gulf of Maine Research

For the York Middle School Garden students, teachers, and community volunteers collaborated on the research, design, and installation of a central garden court featuring native Maine plants, furniture and sculpture.

The York High School Chamber Singers have established a reputation of collegiate level performance in southern York County and beyond. The singers have been guest performers for the Maine Music Educators Association and the Maine Principal’s Association helping to make the point with educators statewide that music is a highly demanding core subject. Hear the singers at

Each summer, the Museums of Old York recruit students ages 12 - 18 to volunteer in the education and curatorial departments as junior interpreters, educators and curators. This volunteer project is designed to enhance the museum experience not only for visitors but also for Junior Docents. Students receive extensive training appropriate to the position. They act as the museums' ambassadors to both the community and visitors.

As the tides of the ocean and the strength of the mountain shape our community, the York Schools' commitment to educational excellence and individual achievement shapes the future of each student – The Vision for the York Schools

York is now seeing a second-generation return on this investment in youth. Parents who were mentored and who grew up using their talents to give back to the community are now doing the same for their children and their peers. – Argy Nestor

To think about:
York is fortunate. Its history and geography attract many retirees who can contribute skills, knowledge, and hours. At the same time, the community has figured out how to make volunteering in the schools compelling and attractive – even to individuals whose children and grandchildren are not enrolled.  These are strategies that many Maine communities might learn from and adapt to their own local resources.

York School Department

York Public Library

Museums of Old York

York Rotary

elder volunteer
boat building
Museum of Old York
Museum of Old York