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Sprout Lewiston fosters a love of ecology and education

Hawa Haji cuts Japanese knotweed on the banks of the Androscoggin River at Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston on Tuesday. Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant that must be cut down annually. Andrei Kane/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The Sprout Lewiston Program, established earlier this year as a way to help clean up the Lewiston area while also giving opportunities to local teens, has reached the end of its five-week program.

The group, which welcomes up to 16 teenagers from the area, helps clean up Lewiston’s public parks, focusing on planting and habitat restoration.

Catherine Griset, Youth Program Manager at Maine Audubon, said:

The program was inspired by The Portland Youth Corps, which was founded in 2021. Sprout Lewiston is offering her $500 scholarship to her teenage participants for activities in the community, similar to the Portland Youth Corps.

This program is made possible by Maine Community Integration (MCI), Maine Audubon and Healthy Homeworks. Her MCI in Lewiston provided office space and a van for the new youth program. His Koos Mohamed, Fowsia Musse and Abdi Abdalla of MCI staff were responsible for everything from youth recruitment to day-to-day support.

Experts from Audubon, Maine delivered special lectures on topics ranging from wildlife habitats to endemic plant species. Healthy Homeworks, a Lewiston nonprofit, provided educational resources.

“Lewiston is absolutely beautiful and the city has so many great natural features,” said Allie Smith, director of education for Healthy Homeworks. “There are so many beautiful spaces in our community that deserve to be cared for and appreciated. It may not feel like it, but you can do it. I want to show people, especially young people, that they can be part of a community and make a big difference.”

17-year-old Hamda Mohsin, a program member, said the program included “seeing public parks and how [they can], is culturally used by humans, but is also beneficial to animals. Likewise, some of these invasive species are useless and just sit there, driving out other plants that could benefit our natural environment.

Through hands-on work and education from dedicated program leaders, teens learn how to protect the environment.

Shulki Said (front) and Mariam Andoniades prepare to launch their canoes on the Androscoggin River from the docks at Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston on Friday.The two are part of a five-week service program called Sprout Lewiston and work on outdoor projects. Fridays are recreational activities. Andrei Kane/Sun Journal

“At first, I thought it would be a hot summer gardening program,” says Mohsin. “But as I got used to it, I started noticing plants and birds outside that I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been on this program. It’s also very important for animals, and I’ve started to learn how we all live together.”

Some people participated to get a fun summer job as a scholarship incentive.

Moby Abdulahi, 14, one of only two boys to participate in the program, said: ”

“I learned[about the relationship between a community and its environment]on the first day, but ‘social’ and ‘cultural’ refer to constructing something for society and the people living in the area, and constructing things. dealing with nature,” Adryanna Viles, 15, said.

“Sprout Lewiston’s motto is ‘bringing nature home’. We are making the city of Lewiston look beautiful again. Over the past two years, we’ve been through a lot as a community. Just doing this yard work will make this city look beautiful again,” said 14-year-old Maleka Hassan. She worked to restore the natural landscape of the city by replacing them with native plants. ”

Hassan said her favorite experience on the program was a trip to the Maine Botanical Gardens.

“It was beautiful just to look at it,” she said. “There were a lot of butterflies and flowers that I had never seen before, and it was very beautiful.”

She added that she would love to see something like that brought to the city of Lewiston. I can do it.”

A group of teens spoke a lot about the importance of community involvement to improve the city’s public parks and youth programs to drive change.

“The efforts so far have made Lewiston a little better, but to really improve the city we need to focus on cleaning up the trash and litter, and that’s something everyone in the city should be doing. said Abdullahi.

“[Programs like Sprout Lewiston]make communities better because[they]encourage young people to rise up and give back to their communities,” Biles said. “Maybe other people in the community will come to help.”

Griset, Youth Program Manager at Maine Audubon, says the connections teens make during the program can help them with future school projects, personal goals, and careers as adults. explained.

“My hope is that … these connections that they have made at Maine Audubon or MCI will be a resource for them,” she said.

Healthy Homeworks’ Smith said: program. “

Diane Nyiranduhura of Lewiston drags a branch of Japanese knotweed from the banks of the Androscoggin River at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston on Tuesday. Andrei Kane/Sun Journal

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