Senator Collins Visits Area, Wabenaki Center and Princeton Elementary School

Photo: Senator Collins poses with employees of Maine Indian Education in Calais upon receiving two books written in the Passamaquoddy Language. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette)

By Jarod Farn-Guillette


• New School Funding for Beatrice Rafferty School

Senator Susan Collins visited Washington County on Friday the 17th, first stopping at the Wabanaki Center, Maine Indian Education (MIE) to receive two recently published children books written in both Passamaquoddy and English. Meeting with Superintendent Barlow, Principal Chadwick of Beatrice Rafferty School in Sipayik (Pleasant Point) and employees of MIE she announced funding was approved for the construction of a long-needed new school at Sipayik, replacing the dated school structure currently in use. The atmosphere was one of relief and excitement at the actuality of starting construction on a new school on the reservation, this year. After a brief meeting with staff and officials and a tour of the center Collins broke for lunch at Nook n' Cranny, before departing for Princeton. 

Senator Collins Presents a Day in the Life to Princeton Elementary School

Despite a slight delay due to arriving late after lunch, Sen. Collins was greeted at the door by two of PES' politest 6th graders, Braden Richard and Emma Highland and started right into her presentation. PES was chosen to host Collins for having the Washington County Teacher of the Year award for 4th grade teacher Jane Andrews. After congratulating Mrs. Andrews on her award and Princeton for having “such a beautiful school,” she started her presentation on a “Day in the Life of Senator Collins.” 

Her presentation focused on the varied duties and activities she is responsible for as a United States senator. The most intriguing segments of her nearly 35 minute speech, evident by the gaping mouths of surprised students and eyes alight with amazement, was her work with a former NBA superstar on Type I diabetes research funding, homelessness and poverty, and traveling to Antarctica with other senators and scientists. She also discussed her role on various committees in the senate, such as the Intelligence Committee, responsible for overseeing the CIA and such agencies. 

Highlighting her own Maine roots in Caribou, she also had a strong message for girls. She provided an anecdote from her childhood when she visited the dentist and said she too wanted to grow up to be a dentist. The response she got, “That's silly. Girls don't grow up to become dentists.” This partially inspired her to pursue a career women were not commonly associated with. She encouraged “all girls, and boys too, to grow up and become what ever you want to be.” Uplifting words for a demographic largely being left behind in today's society and economy, rural children. 

The students' various questions posed to Sen. Collins reflected well on their school. Mrs. Andrews and fellow teachers clearly must be doing something right, when students can ask insightful questions to a sitting senator that catches even the most seasoned of orators off guard. Of those questions the one that got the longest response and caused a bit of a stir in the auditorium was asking Sen. Collins what her opinion on Maine Educational Assessment testing. Her response, “I think all students learn differently and since No Child Left Behind” has been repealed we've started a pilot program with 5 states” that assess various testing methods. Her response elicited applause from more than just the students. The teachers also seemed pleased by this news. When asked about Antarctica, she simply responded, “I'm from Maine. I knew how to dress for the cold.” She spoke of how she helped Senators from warmer states deal with sub-zero temperatures. 

It's not everyday that any politician visits this part of the state, let alone a sitting senator. With Gov. LePage closing facilities throughout Washington Co. be it the jail or DHHS services in Calais, her visit is welcome timing, when many voters are worried about their futures, be that jobs, health care, or simply if politicians even know we exist over here, in the other State of Maine. Sen. Collins and her aide at least knew how to operate a GPS and found a warm welcome at both MIE and PES. 

Senator Collins fields tough questions at a presentation on being a senator at Princeton Elementary.  (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette)