Dexter High School Students Offer Insight into Youth Experiences

Andrew Bermúdez wears many hats in service to the Maine Highlands Region. With a passion for helping those in need in the Piscataquis region and hope to bring in new resources and unity for the residents of Dexter and surrounding communities.
Andrew serves as Town Councilman, on the Board of Directors for Central Hall Commons and the Heart of Maine Resource Center, and, as many members of the community already know, Andrew serves as Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dexter
Andrew also volunteers his time with the Maine Highlands Working Communities Challenge. Before the summer break, he sat down with several Dexter High School Students to get a clearer picture of their experiences, challenges, and support systems to inform initiatives like the WCC’s Youth Mentoring Program. 
Following these interviews – Andrew kindly shared even more of his time to answer a few questions about this project. 

Q: What was their initial reaction when they realized you were facilitating?

I had generally really positive responses from the students and I was able to speak with them more candidly about the interview.  I also believe it put some of them at ease as one of the students said “oh sweet, it’s Mr. Bermudez doing the interviews!  I feel much better about this”. 


Q: How did you feel about their reaction?

That response actually put me quite at ease as well.  Their smiles and demeanor helped me with proceeding with the questions and exploring some more questions with them.


Q: Why do you think this process is important?

This is such an important part of what we are doing because it is giving us a first-hand account from the very ones we want to hear from.  While this is just a sample I do believe it can really help guide our initiative. 


Q: What were some of the more surprising things you learned from these interviews?

I was pleasantly surprised at how well-spoken many of them were and how easily they were able to express their opinions and points of view.  I was also surprised on how well they interacted with each other when the viewpoints were not the same in one group.  Many of them had a better understanding of how they learn, how home life effects their learning and the kind of environment they would like to have when learning.  It showed me that if we truly cared about them learning a subject we should give them some input on how that is done.


Q: Was there any validation of your perceptions during these conversations?

I would say partially.  Some of my perceptions as to why some things function the way they do were validated.  Like long bus rides limiting access to some extracurricular activities, home work and school work being overwhelming due to lack of home support or high levels of obligations and independence.  But other perceptions were not.  Not as many students saw these as valid excuses. Also more of them desired those older than them to invest more of their time and resources on them.  Mentor them more, but out of desire not obligation or job. 


Q: What do you hope to see us do with the data collected?

I really am hoping that as we collect more of these interviews we are able to have it help guide our initiative so it can have a lasting impact.


Q: How can we use this knowledge to better the youth experience in the Maine Highlands Region?

I believe that we can use this to better the youth experience by actually implementing suggestions that they have made.  Such as new classroom set up and classrooms that feel more conducive to learning or create an atmosphere that spurs on learning.  These are fairly inexpensive and easy remedies that all schools can do quickly without much change. 

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