Jobs for Maine Grads Students Volunteer with Local Nonprofit

Each year as the weather cools, Maine families are faced with the financial and logistical burden of heating their homes. Particularly in many of Maine’s drafty old houses, heating efficiency can be a significant challenge. This year, MCI’s Jobs for Maine Grads (JMG) program decided to do something about it.

On October 14, 2021, our JMG students spent the day building heat efficient window inserts with Window Dressers (WD), a Maine nonprofit that specializes in leveraging volunteer work to help lower energy costs and carbon emissions in Maine homes. MCI’s team of students attended a “Community Build” at the Dexter, ME town office where they learned to construct the simple pine-frame, foam gasketed inserts. 

“Students learned the whole process of building, taping, wrapping, heat shrinking and clear taping frames,” said JMG Director Wladamir Ortiz. “Our team of seven students built 60 frames, taped 100 pieces, and wrapped probably 20 frames.” 

According to WD’s website, the custom built window inserts are designed to be installed in the fall and removed in the spring. Since its inception in 2010, WD estimates it has built and installed close to 35,000 inserts and saved Mainers over 1 million gallons of heating oil.

According to Mr. Ortiz, organizers at the Dexter site set a goal of building 283 window dressings over the course of two four-hour shifts. Roughly 60% of customers this year are low-income families.

Mr. Ortiz said his JMG groups have volunteered at Community Builds with WD for several years in the past, but they missed the last two years because of COVID 19 concerns. When the opportunity in Dexter came up this year, he reached out to the WD coordinator to sign his team up. 

Sophomore Ja‘gotti Brown said he’s proud to know that he helped someone heat their home more efficiently this winter. Sophomore Jasmine Smith added, “I feel happy that I was able to help in a way. Even if I don’t know [the customers], it’s still a good feeling to know that you helped someone.”

In addition to instilling the importance of volunteerism, one of the primary goals of Jobs for Maine Graduates is to expose students to a variety of post-secondary opportunities. Working with Window Dressers provided students a chance to experience hands-on manufacturing work. While parts of the process were tedious, said Brown, other processes like framing out the inserts was fun.

“I want to thank [teachers] for allowing our students to participate in this amazing project of helping families make their homes more heat efficient,” said Mr. Ortiz. 

Jobs for Maine Grads (JMG)

Initially created for high school seniors as a school-to-work program, JMG has evolved into an organization serving more than 5,000 students per year in more than 85 school-based sites. Through JMG programs, high-school and middle-school students discover their individual talents, develop skills, and seize opportunities to achieve their personal potential. JMG at MCI offers a venue for students to interact with employers, community-based organizations, and post high school opportunities. The JMG program teaches more than 37 core competencies comprised of six skill sets: personal skills, leadership skills, communication skills, job attainment skills, job success skills, and career development skills. JMG is successfully preparing Maine’s young people to be responsible and productive employees, customers, and citizens. MCI offers JMG for grades 9-12. The JMG teacher interviews every student before acceptance to the program. 

For more information about Window Dressers, contact info@windowdressers.org and 207-596-3073. 

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