Meet Semester 69’s Maine Youth Environmental Scholar!

For the past four years, Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki has offered a merit-based scholarship to support emerging young leaders from Maine. The Maine Youth Environmental Leaders Scholarship is awarded annually to two outstanding scholars who have demonstrated an appreciation for the natural world and imagine a future creating positive change in their Maine community.

Maine students are an integral part of each Semester cohort, offering valued guidance and support for their out-of-state peers. Given their familiarity with our state’s history, culture, and climate, Maine students tend to be natural leaders here on campus. In turn, Maine students discover a new depth of knowledge about their home state while gaining perspective and skills that will serve them throughout their lives. By offering this scholarship, we hope to inspire more young leaders from Maine to work towards a more sustainable future in our state and beyond.

Semester 69’s scholarship recipient is Scarlet Labbe-Watson from Rockland, Maine. She was selected for her strong academic achievement, leadership experience, and community involvement. Here at Maine Coast Semester, Scarlet quickly became known as a positive and supportive community member who was always willing to lend a helping hand. In her down time, she amazed us with her violin skills, and could sometimes be found trying new, out of the box experiments such as making her own acorn flour. Read on to hear more about Scarlet’s experience at Maine Coast Semester this fall:

Why did you choose to come to Maine Coast Semester?

I wanted more of a challenge- both when it came to academics and when it came to being outside. I wanted to be in a place where outdoor time was really embedded in the program. I was looking to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. 

Is there a place on Chewonki Neck where you feel most at home?

My cabin or my phenology spot- they have both become precious places to me. I really enjoyed seeing my phenology spot go through fall and change through time, along with closely watching the tides and the leaves.  It really connected me to the place. I also feel at home in my cabin- I spent so much time there and the people were so wonderful. It made me feel like I had a place to come back to at the end of the day that was cozy and felt like home. 

What has been your most memorable or meaningful experience so far?

There have been so many! I really loved the salt marsh field lab- that was a lot of fun. It was really great to feel supported in that way- we were all just wading through the mud and you needed to rely on other people to help you up. It was really satisfying and really fun to have the natural element as well as the community element. 

Another moment was stargazing in the lower field on some of the first nights. It was really fun to get to know people that way- starting at the stars and just talking and beginning to form those deeper bonds with people. In November Tara got out the handheld telescopes and invited all of us to go out after check in and star gaze. It was amazing to see the stars, a meteor shower and a shooting star, but it was also freezing. We were laying in a big pile for warmth, but also for comfort and community. 

How has being a Maine student impacted or influenced your semester?

It’s been really fun to hear other people’s perspectives and invite them into my “home” in some ways. Chewonki isn’t my home in that I grew up here, but I was still familiar with a lot of the plants in a way that they weren’t, and it was fun to get to share that with people. One of my friends came over for Thanksgiving break and I got to show her that part of my home. It was nice to be able to talk about the way that people interact here in terms of the small towns, and there were a lot of jokes around the fact that I knew a lot of people due to the connections and roots that come from living in Maine. 

What’s one aspect of Maine Coast Semester that has been surprising or unexpected?

The challenge of the academics actually did surprise me- my sending school has rigorous academics, but not as much as here. There was more time doing homework than I anticipated and this pushed me to be a better student and work harder which was really satisfying in a lot of ways. 

I also didn’t know how broad of a reach Chewonki has- I wasn’t anticipating how diverse it would be in terms of geographic location and socioeconomic status. 

In what ways has Maine Coast Semester helped you learn or grow? Are there any changes you notice in yourself so far?

I think I am a lot more open, which might come as a surprise to those who know me! A lot of people tell me I am an open person to start with. Being in this place with these people has allowed me to open up in a way has been really sweet and rewarding. Being more vulnerable has let me love people more, and that has been really powerful and really wonderful. 

What advice would you give to other students thinking about applying to the Maine Youth Environmental Leaders Scholarship?

Don’t take yourself too seriously- it’s an honor and a privilege and it is really great to have the support in coming here, but at the end of the day you are still going to learn a whole lot from other people regardless of if they got the same scholarship. For people applying, remember where your strengths are and be authentic to yourself. Put yourself out there in a positive way, but be authentic- your good qualities will shine through. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there- even if you aren’t sure if you’ll get in, just give it a shot- it’s a really cool program and there is so much people can learn from it, regardless of what they hope to get out of it. Don’t hold back!

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