A Thank You to All UMPI Employees

     Despite the difficulty and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Maine at Presque Isle has stayed strong due to the hard work and resilience of its employees. From the university’s president to the custodial workers, the entire institution has dedicated this past year to keeping its campus and community safe. UMPI is one of the few universities in the country still holding in-person classes. The university’s faculty and staff members have dedicated a large portion of their time to keeping UMPI’s environment safe and healthy. This pandemic has shone a light on the generous and hardworking people working for this institution.  

     UMPI students were able to make a safe return last fall when campus reopened. Faculty and staff members of UMPI spent the summer working on a strategic plan for students so that they could return. UMPI was able to reopen, but it did come with some changes. With COVID-19 regulations in place, campus looks very different from what it used to. 

Dick Gardiner measures some exercise equipment in Gentile Hall.

     When people walk onto campus, they will immediately notice some changes. Masks need to be worn at all times when people are on campus. The Campus Center, one of the most popular spots on campus, also looks different. A large portion of the seating area in the Owl’s Nest was taken away to encourage social distancing. The Kelley Commons cafeteria in currently serving food through a takeout system. Students can still eat in the cafeteria, as long it is one person per table. Many larger onsite classes are being held in the Multipurpose Room. In the Campus Center and throughout the rest of the campus, there are arrows placed on the floor in order to regulate traffic flow. COVID Testing is taking place in the MMG Center throughout the semester. 

COVID-19 Leaves Lasting Impact on Local College

    In March 2020, a brutal tidal wave hit York County Community College in Wells, Maine. Now, almost a year later, silver linings are emerging. 

     YCCC’s academic dean, Doreen Rogan, D.A., believes in some ways the college was ready for the impact of COVID. “We lucked out….  Community colleges in general, and YCCC in particular, we’ve been doing online instruction for over 20 years.” Forty percent of students took online classes before COVID. The college had an eLearning support specialist in place. Instructors were using a new online learning program better suited for smartphones. Despite luck, challenges made an unexpected and lasting impact.

Student Success Commons’ tutors Zoom to welcome students to spring semester, York County Community College, Wells, Maine, Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo by YCCC)

     YCCC was on spring break at the beginning of March 2020 when safety concerns began to surface in Maine. Rogan said, “It was like every moment there was breaking news and we were all trying to figure out what to do and how to react.” Students and instructors were traveling. A canceled conference stranded culinary chair and chef, Krista Marvel, M.B.A., in New Orleans. With anxiety increasing, the college extended break for a week. 

     On March 16, one email ended all in-person instruction. Rogan remembers that a tidal wave hit online support. Marvel worried about the hands-on culinary students. The college scrambled to get computers to students and instructors in need. 

     Rogan said, “In parts of this county, we may think of ourselves as fairly affluent.” She continued, “From town to town, that’s not true for every individual in it. But it’s also not true that we all have the same Wi-Fi access or internet access in different parts of the county.” YCCC made Wi-Fi available in the parking lot. Rogan described it as heartbreaking to see students, but not be able to interact with them. 

     Rogan said that COVID changed everything. “We really wanted to acknowledge that not only instruction had changed, but everyone’s lives had changed. Students no longer could pay attention to school in the way they thought they could.” The college offered an optional grading process. No one received academic probation or dismissal. Grades were incomplete for months. Labs continued in the summer. 

Love in a Pandemic

     When imagining the perfect Valentine’s with your hubby, stuffy masks, social distancing and ordering in usually don’t come to mind. This season of love was the first for most lovebirds to be celebrated in a pandemic. Eating out at a fancy restaurant, going on a romantic scavenger hunt or making a public declaration of love was not in the cards for the season’s hopeful lovebirds. Plans changed and new creative ways to show your love had to be created. Whether you’re in the throes of puppy love or your third year of a committed relationship,  Feb. 14th can be daunting for any couple, especially in a pandemic. 

     First year at UMPI, Rebekah Potrero, and her boyfriend, Marcus Daigle, celebrated this Valentine’s Day in the safety of their own home. Their love story began with a right swipe on Tinder and has been going strong for a little over six months. Rebekah is 19, while Marcus is 18. Rebekah’s opinion on Valentine’s Day is that it should be celebrated more than once a year. While Marcus was somewhat indifferent about the holiday, he still feels it should be celebrated. 

Marcus and Rebekah taking a Valentine’s Day selfie.

     With such a limited choice of COVID-safe dates and social-distanced romantic gestures, it was hard to make the holiday romantically memorable. Rebekah found it, “ Less (memorable) because we couldn’t do anything. Not as memorable as it could have been.” Marcus agreed. 

     The couple enjoyed the holiday by exchanging gifts, watching the Aladdin movies and some Gordan Ramsey shows, all while cuddling. Rebekah made Marcus a homemade gift, while Marcus got her a bouquet of flowers and some Valentine’s chocolates. 

Speaking Up for High School Seniors’ Final Months

     Ever since you step foot in kindergarten, you dream about what your last year of school is going to be like. You dream of something you won’t forget, something memorable. It’s hard to say that this year wasn’t memorable, but it wasn’t in a way you would expect. 

The Trojan represents Mount Desert Island High School’s mascot. The Trojan has a mask on, showing the great efforts that the high school is putting into following the COVID-19 guidelines.

     COVID is preventing high school seniors from having a typical senior year. This is due to the rules and limitations from social distancing, unusual schedules and isolation. Even though schools have spent a lot of time making sure students have a school year, it hasn’t been the same. And some of the seniors feel forgotten. Finn Seyffer, a senior at  Mount Desert Island High School, said how most of the students feel. “At this point, the isolation sucks and we just need a fraction of normality at the end.”  

     The seniors thought that since students can be in a classroom and in the halls with masks on, they could go to a dance, too. So the seniors at MDIHS are working together to plan an event to commemorate their last year. They plan to follow COVID rules for this event. 

COVID-19: Restrictions or Opportunities?

     For River Tree Arts in Kennebunk, Maine, a pivot to change strategy is creating growth.  When COVID closed its doors in March 2020, the small nonprofit relied on the pivot to adapt and grow. President Paula Gagnon said that agile plans led to innovation, flexibility and perseverance.

Masked ballerinas pose at the River Tree Arts Winter 2020 Dance Recital at The Atlantic Hall, Kennebunkport, Maine. COVID-19 style, performers danced to an audience of one guest each, Jan. 12, 2021. (Photo by River Tree Arts)

     Professional artist and educator Heather Lewis shares the same philosophy. Lewis teaches art classes at River Tree and a local community college. COVID’s impact, she said, “provided absolutely incredible expansion and growth for me. Intellectual expansion.”

     River Tee was already operating on a shoestring pre-COVID. Lockdown forced the center to decrease the hours of its two part-time employees. The organization also reduced non-essential costs and reached out to grant makers. 

     Board, faculty and staff made plans that could pivot to change with agility. COVID was uncertain, so the center planned for a quick pivot if necessary. Gagnon said, “It’s a very good idea. I see us continue to operate in ways we are now 

     To build trust and show appreciation, the Art at Home program developed. With a small grant, local artist Piper Castles designed children’s projects. Parents picked up supplies curbside, and their children attended virtual classes. Gagnon said, “It was engaging and free! They learned. It was perfect.”

     Before its fall re-opening, the organization worked to ensure safety for everyone. They cleaned and sanitized. But social distancing in small rooms was not possible without a decrease in class size. 

     Some instructors were comfortable with teaching in-person classes. Others donated instead. Plans moved forward for a safe reopening. A plexiglass wall now protects the reception area. Velour roping discourages roaming. A new micro-gallery hangs on freshly painted walls.

The Need Is Greater Than Ever

     The temperature is dropping in Maine, and many people are wondering how they are going to heat their homes this winter. The United Way of Androscoggin and Oxford Counties is on a mission to support the local community and increase the organized capacity of people who care for one another. Supporting 2-1-1, Maine’s free, confidential resource for information on assistance programs is one of the many ways The United Way has had an impact this year. With COVID-19, people who have never had to ask for help before, are asking now. The United Way of Androscoggin county supports people in 12 towns, and last year about 1 in 3 people received support. Many people do not realize just how big that impact is. From assisting with childcare and education, to Meals on Wheels and Touch-A-Truck, nearly everyone has a friend or family member receiving help. That number is on the rise this year, with kids out of school, grocery budgets are increasing while unemployment is at an all-time high. The campaign season is usually kicked off by the Day of Caring, which could not be done this year due to COVID restrictions. Julie Mailhot-Herrick worked as a Loaned Executive this year for the United Way of Androscoggin County, she says “I am grateful for the opportunity to work for the United Way through L.L. Bean this year. It’s been more challenging this year than in the past, we haven’t been able to get into businesses face to face to connect with potential donors.” Every year, The United Way receives two Loaned Executives, one from L.L. Bean and one from TD Bank to assist with fundraising for the local area. While they remain employees of L.L. Bean and TD Bank, they can step away from their usual responsibilities and work in the community. Joleen Bedard, Executive Director of the Androscoggin chapter spent some time reflecting on this year verses years past, “This year has been hard, and it’s had a negative effect on fundraising efforts. On the flip side, those that have been able to continue working and received the $1200.00 stimulus package have been thoughtful and generous, many have increased their gift this year.”

United Way Loaned Executives move the thermometer to 40%.

     To date, the United Way is at 40% of their $1.4 million goal. Please remember that the need is great, and the cost is low. 

Discing Provides Much Needed Relief

     With COVID-19 cases on the rise, everyone is out looking for socially distant, safe activities. The community-based Let’s Go! Program, which focuses on children building healthy habits, suggests one hour of activity per day.  This has been more difficult over the last few months. Parents are uneasy bringing their children to playgrounds, and many are home from school. Many children have increased screen time, due to learning and working from home schedules. For many, now is the time to focus on finding physical activities that families can do together. 

     Getting out of the house and onto the disc golf course has been a moment of relief for many families. Sarah Pettengill, owner of Pin High Disc Golf on Route 202 in Monmouth, said, business has been up in recent months. This is despite restrictions by Maine’s governor, Janet Mills, that have been updated regularly since April. Pin High was closed for about 20 days back in April, but has been able to remain open with minimal accommodations since.

Sarah Pettengill, Owner of Pin High Disc Golf throws a disc this summer.

     The outdoor sport is helping Mainers stay active. Casual games range from the solo player to a group of as many as 15 and tournaments with up to 50 players. 

     Mental health is a growing concern, more than ever with the winter months upon us. Sarah spoke to how the game has touched many customers positively. “I think it’s really great for people to get out there and get active. The average game is one to one-and-a-half hours of not having to think about everything else that’s going on in the world.”

     Jon Smith, an oil truck driver from Massachusetts, is a regular disc golf player. Thinking back on the last few months, Jon has been in his truck for six days a week getting oil to those who need it. He uses his weekly day off as a time to reflect and get out on the course. “It’s hard being in my truck for long days and then having to be quarantined inside when I’m not working. Getting outside with some friends on the course helps me get fresh air and safe, socially distanced human interaction.” 

     Disc golfing is one of the many outdoor activities that families have been enjoying recently. Whether you are an experienced player or are thinking about playing for the first time, take the time to get outside and play.

Tips for Students Attending Zoom University

     The University of Maine at Presque Isle will return to fully online on Nov. 23, which means students will need to adapt to a new change in their education. With some UMPI classes already online or hybrid, students will have a head start on transitioning to fully online. Although online learning through Zoom is very flexible and easy-to-use, many students feel they learn best in an environment of in-person classes. 

Tips for students as they transition to online learning.

     The switch to fully online classes this semester plays a huge role in students’ social lives and their mental health. Students will be taking their classes from home and in their bedrooms, which is a much different experience from in a classroom. There are many tips and tricks students can follow to stay focused during these last weeks of the fall semester. 

     Students have been using Zoom for many months now, so they should be getting used to the application. Zoom is very accessible and easy-to-use, so students are now more confident using it. Students should know how to work their camera and mute button. It is always important to arrive on Zoom a couple of minutes before class time. When their camera is on, students should have good lighting and pay attention to their body positioning. It can be difficult to speak on Zoom, so patience is key during participation and conversations with one another. 

     Another tip for students as they switch to online learning is to keep a schedule and stay organized. It is very easy to lose track of time when working on a computer, so making a schedule or to-do list could be helpful. Many students use academic planners to map out their days. Something as simple as Post-it® notes or a sheet of paper can do the job. It is also important to take breaks from your computer screen. Looking at a digital computer screen can be mentally exhausting and physically painful on your eyes. Walking away from your screen is beneficial when you spend long hours on your computer. Take breaks from your computer screen to grab a snack or take a walk during the day. 

     “I like to make lists of everything I have due each week. I think the most important thing with online school is setting aside time to complete schoolwork,” UMPI sophomore, Emily Blauvet, said. “It’s important to have good communication with your professors and stay on top of your work. I just hope for the best!”

     Having a comfortable and pleasant environment is crucial to college students’ educational experience. It is important to find a comfortable workspace to take classes and complete homework in. Students need to be able to feel comfortable and relaxed in their space, whether that is a bedroom or office. Having a cozy chair and a proper desk is something all students should have. 

     When students take classes on Zoom, it can be very easy to become distracted by their surroundings. They are no longer in a learning environment inside a classroom. They are no longer face-to-face with their classmates, so it is easy to get distracted from their classes on Zoom. Students can take away distractions around them by turning off their phones or other electronic devices. Sometimes when classes have more students, it can be easier to lose focus. 

     Students also should take care of their bodies and minds during these last weeks of classes. Having good physical and mental health will benefit students and their academics. Students should be getting enough sleep, even if that means taking naps during the day. They should be drinking plenty of water, not just coffee in the morning. Students can also incorporate exercise and a healthy diet into their routine. Taking these steps will allow them to have positive mental and physical health during the rest of the fall semester.  

     “It’s going to be hard going fully online, but I plan on my making a schedule every day to keep me organized. If I stick to my schedule, it is easier for me to adapt to change,” UMPI senior, Marissa Valdivia Reagle, said. “Last semester when we went online, I had to move a desk into my room. I wanted it to be more of a school environment in my room.”

     All of these steps will benefit students in one way of another. Taking classes and completing an education at home is a unique experience. It is definitely not easy. Even real-world professionals are struggling with working remotely and at home. As students travel back home for the holidays, please remember to make your health a number one priority. Having good grades is not as important as taking care of yourself.  Finish the semester and year off strongly because we all need a good break for the holidays. 

 

COVID-19 in the North Pole

  This year has been difficult for everyone, including Christmastime’s very own, Santa Claus. The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected hundreds of areas worldwide and even places such as the North Pole. Santa, Mrs. Claus and all the elves at the North Pole have had to adapt to COVID-19 regulations. With Santa’s older age and weight, he is at high risk for Coronavirus, so he has to be extra safe. Yet even in the face of a global pandemic, Santa is still preparing to deliver millions of presents on Christmas Eve so that children around the world can have a good holiday. 

     People may have seen their local “Santa Claus” in shopping malls or Christmas tree farms around the country. The real Father Christmas has been preparing for months on end at the North Pole with his elves. When COVID-19 took over the world earlier this year, the North Pole was no exception. The elves in the North Pole do not travel much and Santa only journeys outside the area if he has an important meeting. Although there haven’t been any positive COVID-19 cases at the Pole, Santa has all the residents taking precautions as they make toys for Christmastime. 

Be like Santa Claus and wear a mask!

     Santa’s Workshop and everyone at the North Pole have been following CDC guidelines. Santa’s elves have been socially distancing and staying six feet apart in the workshop. Due to this regulation, a large number of elves cannot work in the same space, because of the problems with social distancing. The elves can no longer build toys in large groups at the workshop, so they have been working longer hours. These elves are continuing to stay positive, despite the change in their working environment. Their main goal is to make children happy on Christmas Day. 

     “It has been a very different year at the North Pole. We still drink plenty of hot chocolate and sing Christmas carols, but it hasn’t been the same. Santa has done a great job cheering us up,” Buddy, a North Pole elf, said. “We have been working longer hours, but we do not mind because our ultimate goal is for every child to have a wonderful Christmas. We want to do everything we can to cheer them up from this terrible year.”

     Everyone in the North Pole has been wearing masks: Christmas themed ones, of course. Every elf working on toys has been using hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Although elves have had to follow all of these regulations, they are still very energetic and excited for Christmas, as usual. 

     Santa recognizes that families around the world, especially in the U.S., may be struggling financially. He wants to do as much as he can for these families. Santa plans on delivering to all children across the world who are deserving. Many individuals died from the virus this year. People also lost their jobs throughout this year, so they were unable to provide for their children. With COVID-19 playing a huge role in the economy and health of the United States’ population, Santa and Mrs. Claus want to make this Christmas a special one for families in need. 

     “When this virus hit, we didn’t know what to do. We could see that the elves were losing some of their Christmas spirit and that the reindeer were upset,” Mrs. Claus said. “Nick has been working endlessly to make everyone feel safe and I couldn’t be prouder of how he has dealt with everything.” 

     Christmas is a year-round event at the North Pole and when COVID-19 surprised the world, Santa acted quickly. The North Pole was able to continue its progress in the workshop, while following CDC regulations. There haven’t been any parties or gatherings this year at the North Pole, but the elves have continued to show Christmas spirit. Santa will be delivering gifts on Christmas Eve, like any other year. His sleigh will be sanitized and ready to go for his long journey delivering gifts. Despite this eventful year, Santa is doing everything he can to make this holiday season a memorable one for millions of families in the world. 

How to ‘Boo’ Your Friends This Halloween While Sticking to a Budget

Holidays in the times of Corona have everyone feeling a little glum. While Trick-or-Treating might be a little trickier this year, here’s an easy way to spread a little happiness this spooky season while sticking
to a budget.

To start, you’re going to want to want to set a budget. As a college student, money can sometimes be pretty tight. While you might not have a lot to give, Boo Baskets are the gift that keeps on giving. When you start this little project, keep in mind that the person you Boo is supposed to pass the treat along, Booing someone else. For this example, let’s have a budget of $20.

Once you have your budget set, make a list. On your list, start by putting a festive pail or other cute Halloween bag. Next, add a bag of candy. Aside from these two items, you’re going to want to budget your money in order to add other items to your Boo Basket. Be however creative you want!

The next step is to find your local dollar store, or any sort of inexpensive store. This example Boo Basket has items found at both the Dollar Tree and Walmart. Just to give an idea of prices, below is a list of each item, price and where each thing in the bucket was bought:

– Festive Halloween pail: $1 (Dollar Tree)
– Cute scrunchies: $1 ea. (Dollar Tree)
– Bag of candy: $1 (Dollar Tree)
– Cookie crypt kit: $6.98 (Walmart)
– 2-pack of festive socks: $3.48 (Walmart)
– Halloween hair ties: $4 (Walmart)
– Cute Halloween cup with straw: $0.98 (Walmart)
– Funny Halloween flask: $1.98 (Walmart)

This collage includes all the items found for this example basket.

This list might inspire you, but don’t feel that you have to follow the entire list yourself. Feel free to get anything you want. Just be mindful of your budget. Your friends don’t want you to go bankrupt in
order to make this basket.

Once you have gathered all of your Boo Basket materials, go ahead and place them all in the pail. If you’re feeling a little extra, throw in a piece of tissue
paper to make it look pretty.

Here’s an idea of what a finished basket might look like.

When everything is looking as you want it to, bring your baskets to your

Don’t forget to capture a your friend’s reaction when you drop the basket off to them! Pictured: Maraia Nason of Sebago, ME. Nason attends UMaine at Orono.

friends. Whether they live in the dorm room down the hall, are your roommate or reside across town, drop it off to them. Don’t forget to tell them, “You’ve just been ‘Booed!’”