WATERVILLE — Nearly 60 area women — including a physician, former president of the state Senate, minister, pilot, accountant and state police lieutenant — inspired area middle school girls to go after their dreams during Friday’s career day at Colby College.

And a high school girl on a mission told her slightly younger peers that they need to start pursuing their passions now.

Hannah Potter, a senior at Yarmouth High School, kicked off Future Focus, a day-long empowerment rally sponsored by the Waterville branch of the American Association of University Women and the Department of Education’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative.

Potter told girls from China and Messalonskee middle schools and Lawrence and Waterville junior high schools about a two-week summer camp, Global Youth Village in Virginia, that she attended a few years ago with 14 American and 30 Iraqi teens.

She said she learned that Americans and Iraqis have a lot in common.

And after making many new friends, Potter started New View, which she described as an online pen pal program.

Teens from Maine and Iraq correspond by email and get to know each other by chatting about different topics each month.

Middle-schoolers then had a chance to Skype with one of Potter’s friends from Iraq, Maryannn Naman, a junior in high school.

The girls asked Naman about her favorite sports, music, food and television shows, to which Naman replied, swimming, metal, rice and grape leaves, and “Friends” and “The Simpsons.”

Naman said women in Iraq don’t have much freedom. She added that she preferred speaking English and that she identified with Western culture.

She said her father had once been kidnapped and that at school, where girls are educated separately from boys, she had to wear a uniform and couldn’t wear earrings or wear her long, dark hair as she pleased.

After the Skype session, Potter said technology provides power and accessibility and she encouraged the girls to find their interests, act on them and make a difference.

Charlie Hartman, who has helped with Future Focus for decades, said it has been interesting to watch girls’ aspirations change over the years.

Hartman said when the career day started in the mid-1980s, many girls cited beautician and teacher’s aide as their career goals. Today, she said, many list lawyer, doctor, engineer or veterinarian as choices.

After Potter’s keynote, the girls headed to one of 14 interactive panels, each of which had four or five career women.

Brittani Adair-Dostie of Waterville Junior High School said she had signed up to learn about firefighting.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]


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