BATH — On Friday, May 26, Morse High students arrived at school to find a big surprise: a large crew of community members welcoming them with signs of appreciation. A banner shouted “You matter!” from the school’s entrance, and welcomers carried Morse-blue signs and umbrellas, not allowing the wet weather to put a damper on their message.

City council members, parents, police officers, business owners and community members of all stripes were there bright and early.

“It was one of the most positive experiences that I have witnessed in my long career as an educator,” Morse Principal John Pinkerton said. “The students’ reaction was also extremely positive. They got off the bus or out of a car to a gauntlet of cheers and smiles, people waiving signs and handing out ‘you matter’ bracelets. I talked to many of the students and, with the exception of a few very shy students, they genuinely appreciated the love and support they felt from all of the community members that were here.”

Organized by Midcoast Community Alliance’s Jamie Mixon Dorr, the event was one way to get the message to students that they are important to the community.

A recent statewide survey showed the numbers of teens who feel deep sadness or a sense of not belonging was the highest in Sagadahoc County. Those students also experienced the highest rate of suicidal thoughts in the survey. Morse High lost a beloved member of its recently graduated community last year to suicide, and Dorr — president of the Friends of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark — moved quickly to begin the process of building an organization devoted to youth suicide and prevention, the Midcoast Community Alliance.

MCA was recognized by United Way at its annual meeting in May, and was presented with a Community Builder award along with Boothbay’s Hope and Resilience Committee, which also focuses on preventing youth suicide. United Way Executive Director Barbara Reinertsen and United Way Board Chair Connie Jones, of Boothbay, presented the award, saying that the winners had “gone above and beyond in working to build an even stronger, more compassionate Midcoast Maine community.”

“I hope other communities can start a conversation around what our students are facing and around suicide and start to bring more awareness and education,” Dorr said. “We need to get in front of it and be more proactive, not reactive.”

MCA also produced a companion video for the morning’s event, featuring Bath Police Chief Mike Field, Main Street Bath director Jake Korb and others, with a heartfelt message to not only Bath youth, but Sagadahoc youth as well. You can view the video here: Morse High School Students Matter
To find out more about Midcoast Community Alliance, visit MCAmaine.org, or find them on Facebook.