The island of Islesboro lies three miles off the mainland with 700 full-time residents. Graduating classes at Islesboro’s Central School consist of 13-15 students who traditionally fundraise 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 through fundraising efforts from working at concession stands, holding harvest and winter festivals and hosting community suppers before pandemic lockdowns prevented further fundraising. Like classes before them, they envisioned a journey to Greece, Japan, or South Korea before their hopes 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.
The bulk of their 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.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy for many and the tight-knit island community has felt the effects keenly. Five of the Islesboro Central School seniors take the ferry from the mainland, while the rest live on the island but the group was accustomed to doing things together. They were also split apart, unable to gather for months, with a three-mile gulf between the island and the mainland.
The seniors kicked off an email chain to discuss what to do about the trip. International travel was a no-go, so Greece, South Korea and Japan were no longer options. They thought about scaling it back to do a regional trip but the world’s struggles weighed on them as they tried to justify salvaging an exotic outing against a backdrop of deaths and economic pain.
One graduate, Olivia Britton said “It felt sort of obvious that it needed to go back to the island community.” Another, Liefe Temple,explained that the group said 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. So it felt really good to do that with our money—to give it back to the people who gave it to us.”