Finalists announced in Launch Maine contest

A little more than a week ago, I reported on a statewide online contest organized by the Maine League of Young Voters, in which teams submitted plans to make some aspect of their world better and rallied support for online votes.

Today, the League unveiled the five finalists, the teams that secured the most online votes of the 31 participating. The finalists will next be celebrated in an April 6 party, where ranked choice voting among attendees will determine which do-gooders will go home with $500 in prize money and associated bragging rights.

Without further ado (drumroll please), 1,700-someodd votes later, the five finalists in the Launch Maine contest are (descriptions, pics and comments provided by the League):


[Based in] Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc and Andrscoggin Counties, the ArtVan is a mobile arts therapy program that provides the arts to children and teens in low income neighborhoods that have little, if any, access to social services, after school and/or summer activities.

Said ArtVan director Jamie Silvestri:

ArtVan is awesome because of its uniqueness. We’re going directly into neighborhoods meeting the difficult needs of rural low-income neighborhoods with the combination of the arts and therapy. Launch ME is helping us to achieve recognition that will bring additional support and deepen our relationships with the community.

545 & Co. // Rabbit, Rabbit Exhibitions

Out of Mount Desert Island, 545 & Co. is supporting local artists by organizing art shows, screenings, workshops, concerts, plays, and readings.

According to its online submission:

The Mount Desert Island area is home to hundreds of dedicated working artists: painters, actors, woodworkers, musicians, photographers, printmakers, poets, and filmmakers, to name a few. … Our inaugural event begins a series of art shows on the first of every month, which we’re calling Rabbit, Rabbit, after the old British superstition that for good luck, one should say “Rabbit, Rabbit” upon waking up on the first day of the month. Our larger goal is restore and renovate an old building, in order to offer artists’ studios, classrooms, equipment, and gallery and event space.

Blunt Youth Radio Project

Based out of Portland: We provide an outlet for Maine youth to express themselves and speak out on issues and concerns in our immediate community and beyond. Our mission is “Youth empowerment through direct media access.”

Said Iris SanGiovanni, Blunt Youth Radio Project leader:

Blunt Youth Radio Project empowers youth, both free and incarcerated, giving them a voice in the world today. The funds from Launch ME will go towards equipment and trainings for all aspects of radio, which include: interviewing and reporting, hosting and engineering live broadcasts.

Zip Line Physics

Portland High School physics classes and Camp Ketcha teamed up to construct a zip-line! Students are designing the zip-line, choosing the construction site, writing an official plan proposal, and creating a physics lesson for use with the zip line.

According to the group submission:

Portland schools are lagging in math achievement. Making math accessible with hands-on applications will help to address this problem. In addition, youth today spend less and less time outdoors. With this collaboration we are addressing both challenges we face in our community: lagging achievement in math and sciences, and finding healthy alternatives for our adolescent youth to engage in. … Science is ultimately about real-world applications.  When students are able to use science to bring exciting projects into existence, it takes on a new level of meaning and importance. Engaging young people in math, science and technology has a direct impact on the strength of tomorrow’s workforce, and tomorrow’s economy.

Take Action Portland (TAP)

TAP will be focused on both promoting personal and social growth for young people in Portland, and supporting local community-based non-profit organizations in need.

A statement from team TAP, led by Amanda Lehman:

Take Action Portland will create an alternative social outlet for young people in Portland to interact with each other while engaging in meaningful work that positively impacts their community. We will coordinate and facilitate monthly community action volunteer events as a way to support local non-profit organizations that are competing for less funding and fewer resources. The success of Take Action Portland is dependent on marketing and outreach, and Launch ME’s recognition and support is exactly what we need to spread the word and coordinate successful volunteer opportunities for young people that want to take action in Portland!

The aforementioned finalists’ party will take place on April 6 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Maine Ballroom Dance Studios at 614 Congress St. in Portland. For a refresher on how to vote using ranked choice voting, as seen in the recent Portland mayoral election, click here.

Now for a final thought from Nicola Wells, director of the Maine League of Young Voters:

The outpouring of interest in the contest and the featured projects has been tremendous. In the first five days of voting alone, over 800 people visited the site to vote for their favorite projects and over 1500 people helped us choose the final five. Launch Maine aims to raise the profile and bring support to youth-led projects that are enriching our communities. Young people want to strengthen the towns and regions of Maine that they love, and we are helping them do that.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.