By Evan Gorr Contributing Writer
Catherine Dennis, 2017 UMF graduate and second year teacher at Cascade Brook School (CBS) in Farmington, co-coaches a reading and running program called Fit Girls, a community
Fit Girls is a club that inspires young girls to lead a healthy life. (Photo courtesy of Evan Gorr)
based program for girls in grades fourth through sixth in the Mount Blue District.
Dennis is one of four coaches who helps inspire 45 kids participating in Fit Girls at CBS. The program aims to provide examples of healthy habits for the girls as they tackle the struggles of growing up in today’s society.
“Girls in the age group we work with are in an increasingly vulnerable position,” said Dennis. “They are exposed to so many stereotypes and false images portrayed by people on social media.” Body image, healthy eating, and positive relationships are important topics that coaches discuss with the girls during their meetings.
Deb Aseltine, the director of Fit Girls, believes that the program creates wonderful opportunities and strengthens the community. “There is an opportunity for the girls to express their individuality while creating healthier attitudes,” said Aseltine. “These healthier attitudes with the girls and their families fosters a healthy community.”
The coaches help the girls practice their healthy habits by meeting every Thursday to participate in physical activity and discuss different topics. “We always provide a healthy snack when we meet in the cafeteria,” said Dennis. “And we also read a short passage that provides a positive message or lesson that incorporates one of our goals.”
The second portion of each meeting includes a run outside. The coaches figured out a quarter mile loop around the perimeter of the school for everyone to run. Dennis, an avid runner, was proud of the girls for their efforts. “We worked our way up over six weeks to be able to run 35 minutes continuously,” said Dennis. “It got cold and even rained during the last couple of weeks, but the girls didn’t seem to mind.”
The meeting ends with happy thoughts and stretching inside. “Happy thoughts is an inspirational quote that we give the girls on a little card,” said Dennis.
Another large part of the program is providing the girls with role models who are not involved in their familial life. “I think girls this age are more likely to respond to role models that aren’t immediate family, so it is very important to me to be that role model,” said Dennis.
Sylvia Brooks, a 2016 UMF graduate and 3rd year teacher at CBS, sees the positive impact of Fit Girls regarding confidence and leadership in her classroom. “It gives the girls an opportunity to become leaders to younger participants,” said Brooks. “It also gives them the confidence to do something athletic without the social pressure of having boys around.”
In addition to encouraging healthy habits, Dennis believes that the program can play a role in strengthening her bonds with all those who participate. “I love spending time outside of the classroom with these kids,” said Dennis. “It allows us to build a stronger relationship and helps the girls become more comfortable with talking to me in school.”
Fit Girls recently hosted their end of season 5K race on October 20th. The course ran along Wilson Lake, and there were over 70 participants. “It was a great event,” said Dennis. “The superintendent was there and another runner dressed up as a snap pea.” Dennis ran with one of the participants at the end to cross the finish line together, showing just how joyous her experience with the program has been.
Fit Girls began seven years ago at Academy Hill School in Wilton, and has since expanded to include the whole district. The program runs for six weeks throughout the fall ending with a district wide 5K race.
By Evan Gorr Contributing Writer
The UMF snowsports team is joining forces with Titcomb Mountain to host their 3rd annual mountain bike race and trail run on October 21st. The proceeds will benefit both the Snowsports team and Titcomb Mountain.
The event will be held at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington, with the 1K and 5k trail runs starting at 9:30 a.m. These will be followed by the kids mountain bike race at 10:30 a.m., and the rest of the bike racers will leave at 11:30 a.m. The cost of registration varies from $10 – $50 depending on the race you choose.
Jedediah Stevens, an alpine ski racer and member of the Snowsports team, is glad to volunteer at the event. “I think it’s an excellent fundraiser for us, it lets us give back to the community and put on a fun event,” Stevens said.
According to Stevens, last year there were around 40 participants who raised $1500 dollars. Stevens wants to see greater participation this year, and notes that you don’t have to be competitive to participate. “This event is as competitive or relaxed as you want it to be,” said Stevens.
Anyone can register for either the trail run or the bike race, and there are different distances and categories depending on your age and ability.
Scott Hoisington, the director of Snowsports at UMF, speaks highly of the event, and enjoys this type of fundraiser. “This is a great event that puts you outside in the foliage in an athletic environment,” Hoisington said. “We do it to support Titcomb and it also matches our style of athletic adventure.”
Hoisington notes that there are incentives to participate in the event. “The first 60 registrants will get a free tee shirt,” Hoisington said, “and we have a few sponsors that will be handing out some prizes.”
Seth Noonkester, the General Manager of Titcomb, is excited for the event, and is happy to support a fundraiser that benefits the Snowsports team, as well as the mountain. “To me, September and October are the best times to ride in our area,” Noonkester said. “The temperatures are a little cooler and the foliage is peaking.”
Noonkester wants more UMF students to experience Titcomb this fall and winter. “I welcome all UMF students to come check us out,” Noonkester said. “I guarantee after your first visit that you’ll fall in love with the place.”
The trails at Titcomb are starting to become more well known across the state, and Noonkester believes that there is a reason for this. “Titcomb mountain is the best because of the people and community that utilize it and bring the place to life!” The event is put together by the community surrounding Titcomb, but it attracts people from all parts of the Maine.
Noonkester notes that UMF students are eligible for a free ski pass, and there are many events planned throughout the winter. There are also incentives for runners to check out the mountain. UMF Alumni and Salomon shoe rep, Bill Asbell, will be there with trail running footwear for people to demo.
By Evan Gorr Contributing Writer
Tori Lands, pictured with a team of young basketball players, while teaching abroad at Daegu International School in Korea. (Photo courtesy of Tori Lands)
Tori Lands, a 2017 UMF graduate, has started a second year of teaching at Daegu International School (DIS) in South Korea and is immersed in the Korean culture.
Lands graduated UMF with a degree in Secondary Education, and also holds a minor in International and Global Studies. Lands completed student teaching at DIS, which is operated by Maine’s Lee Academy, and really enjoys the experience.
When Lands was offered a full-time position teaching 5th grade, she couldn’t resist. “I highly recommend taking advantage of studying or teaching abroad,” said Lands, who believes that the opportunities to travel and meet new people are the most satisfying parts of teaching abroad.
Lands believes that teaching abroad has had positive impacts on her perspective of the world. “Prior to moving to South Korea, I had never traveled out the U.S. or Canada,” said Lands.
Lands learns something new everyday and is starting to feel at home in her new environment. From bowing when greeting someone, to using Korean language, Lands has become more comfortable with the culture.
Lands is getting to live in and explore parts of the world that some people never visit. During her first year of teaching, Lands took students on a weekend trip to an island off of Korea. Lands said, “It was really cool to see a new part of Korea with my students, most of whom are Korean.”
In addition to the trip with students, Lands takes advantage of her time off of work. “Most weekends and breaks I am exploring either in Korea or other countries in Asia,” Lands said. “Korea has some awesome hiking and biking trails and being active is a huge part of the culture here so I also try to take advantage of that.”
Lands has had some great experiences in South Korea. “I am constantly surprised at the environment I have the opportunity to work and live in,” said Lands.
Lands has learned that education in Korea is one of the highest priorities for families. The support Lands receives from her community is helpful and gladly accepted. Lands was also pleasantly surprised to find out that her students put in an immense effort towards their education.
Lands finds that the hardest part is being away from home. “With anyone who moves away from where they grew up, you realize that life doesn’t stop just because you aren’t there anymore,” said Lands.
There is a 13 hour time difference between South Korea and Maine, so communication with family and friends can be tough for Lands. In addition, the flight back to the US is at least 24 hours, so it becomes difficult to make it to important events like weddings or birthdays.
It is custom in Korea to have the youngest person pour all the drinks at a table. Lands is the youngest teacher at DIS, so she finds herself participating in this tradition often. She has also had to learn parts of the Korean language, as it is a necessity to get around certain places. “The Korean language is very different from English, and for myself, very difficult to learn,” said Lands. Although Korean is hard to master, Lands has begun to feel more at home each year.
Education is very important to their families so it becomes important for the kids, too.