GARDINER — Nine teenagers gathered in two groups Wednesday in the Gardiner Public Library, intent on learning about themselves, about how others perceive them and about exploring the possibilities in life as future leaders.

Brian Warren, 72, of Rangeley, taught the three-day, intensive Human Element Seminar program, and was donating the workbooks and his time in memory of his late brother Art Warren, a longtime principal at Gardiner Regional Middle School. Brian Warren said his brother was his best friend and surrogate father.

“This is such a gift to me,” Brian Warren said, as he watched the participants in their feedback session.

The Human Element Seminar usually is presented to businesspeople, and Warren saw a remarkable contrast between the adult sessions, which he’s offered for 23 years, and the teen one.

“Adults come with much more baggage,” he said, adding that the teens present “incredibly more vivid” details in the guided imagery portion.

“I wish I’d had this knowledge when I was 20,” Warren said. “The bottom line is to raise self esteem and, in the workplace, productivity.”


Brian Warren’s grandson Josh McKelvey, a 2015 graduate of Gardiner Area High School, took the course last year, and he came to describe some of the experiences he had using skills he learned from it.

“It influenced my life immensely when it comes to meeting new people and being able to be myself,” he said. “Openness leads to understanding; that’s key to friendship and connecting with people.”

The nine students at this week’s seminar are all from Gardiner Area High School. They had to sign up for it by the end of school in June, and those with summer jobs made arrangements with their employers to have the time off. The seminar offering was arranged by Christina Benedict, English teacher at the high school and adviser for the Civil Rights Team; and Debra Butterfield, teacher-librarian at the Gardiner middle and high schools, who also is doing an internship at the library in connection with her studies toward a master’s degree in library science.

“It’s a perfect fit as a school librarian to be doing my internship here,” she said.

In one group, seniors Brynne Austin, Sierra Goodridge and Erin Qiu sat on the floor, while Josh Mathews sat on a wooden chair next to a chart.

“I’m learning to know myself better,” Austin said. “We’re learning our own truth.”


Goodridge said she now can see the difference between how she sees herself and how others see her, and she plans to take that back and use it in the various organizations she participates in at school, including National Honor Society, cross-country, yearbook and the Civil Rights Team.

2016 graduate Josh Mathews, who is about to begin his freshman year at the University of Maine at Farmington, said he’s learned to consider his actions before reacting to something.

“It’s about accountability,” he said. “It’s shown me I can’t pin blame or problems on other people. It all comes back to me.”

Qiu said the small group sessions allowed participants to get to know each other better and to see others’ perspectives about her.

“It was a very eye-opening experience,” she said.

In the second group, junior Lillian Lancaster referred to her notebook and then said she has learned to identify the payoff that comes with making a particular choice. Brooke Moloney, another junior, said she now understands “there’s always more to people than meets the eye” and that what she might have interpreted as rudeness by one person might actually be a defense mechanism.


Chloe Reed, also a junior, said she’ll be more open with people.

“I do have a voice and can be open with people and honest,” she said.

A senior, Elijah Austin, said he knows himself better and plans to be more outgoing so he can get know more people and more can know him.

And Melanie Mansir, another senior, said she now has a strategy to overcome fear when faced with the unknown. She said she plans to ask herself, “How can I handle it?” rather than simply being scared.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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