Teens Raise Thousands for Their Graduation Trip Abroad, Then Donate it to the Community Instead

Teens Raise Thousands for Their Graduation Trip Abroad, Then Donate it to the Community Instead

If you had the choice of seeing the world by going on a trip or bettering the world by staying home and focusing your energies there, which would it be? For the youthful kindred spirits of one close-knit Maine community, the answer was obvious.

The island of Islesboro lies three miles off the mainland. Its population numbers about 700 full-time residents. While comprised of only a baker’s dozen students, this year’s high school graduating class—eight from the island and five who ferried in from the mainland—was larger than usual.

Traditionally, Islesboro’s Central School seniors hold fundraising events to finance a once-in-a-lifetime class trip at the end of their final semester. Former student destinations include Paris, Iceland, Norway, and Panama.

The Class of 2021 had already garnered close to $8,000 in donations by the time their hopes of a journey to Greece, Japan, or South Korea were quashed by COVID-19 travel restrictions. With their plans curtailed, the group decided to spend the money they’d earned a whole lot closer to home by reinvesting it in their community.

As 18-year-old senior Liefe Temple explained, per a group consensus, it would have felt strange to indulge in the luxury of foreign travel when they knew their neighbors were suffering such extreme day-to-day duress.

“We could really see how the whole world and the island, too, was struggling,” he told the Associated Press, “So it felt really good to do that with our money—to give it back to the people who gave it to us.”

The bulk of students’ earnings was donated to the Island Community Fund in aid of residents whose livelihoods were broadsided by the COVID-19 pandemic. Another portion was put to good use funding coronavirus vaccination clinics. (The rest will go to philanthropic causes as yet to be determined.)

“There [is] a strong sense of pride in these students. That’s because their decision demonstrated an awareness of the hardship in their community and a willingness to do something about it,” Community Fund president Fred Thomas told AP.

The geography of the post-COVID-19 landscape has shifted. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. We’re all living in a very different place from where we were prior to the onset of the pandemic.

How we chose to move forward in this strange new world will define the days ahead—but if the unselfish worldview of Isleboro’s Senior Class of 2021 is any indication, the future looks to be in pretty fine hands.