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PHS Seniors Graduate as ‘Olympia’s Leaders’

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PHS Seniors Graduate as ‘Olympia’s Leaders’
Posted on 06/18/2021
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Five Portland High School seniors recently graduated from the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, designed to help them develop the skills required to be leaders in their lives, families, careers, and communities. The five Portland High School “Olympia’s Leaders” are Ella Whelan Anderson, Skye Ferris, Dalycia Greeley, Ange Ishimwe and Lucia Stone.

They were among more than 150 young women from Maine high schools who graduated from the institute in a virtual ceremony on May 26. The group was the fourth class of program participants in the institute’s history. They came from 35 high schools, spanning all sixteen Maine counties.

More than 750 students, advisors, and school contacts participate in the Institute’s program each year, which is a three-year progression through the themes: “My Values” (10th grade), “My Voice” (11th grade), and “My Vision” (12th grade). The evidence-based curriculum is designed to raise the confidence and aspirations of high school girls by helping them develop the skills to become leaders in their lives, families, careers, and communities. Without confidence, girls are less likely to take the lead or pursue some classes, passions, and opportunities.

“Olympia’s Leaders” engage in unique programming blending statewide events, experiential activities in small groups, individual development and reflections, and tailored connections and networking with Maine’s business and community leaders. Throughout all three years, each Olympia’s Leader is supported by one or two trained mentors, who facilitate monthly activities and serve as advisors and role models. Throughout the pandemic, the program adapted to Maine CDC guidelines and continued without pause—enriching the content and continually operating in in-person, hybrid, remote, and mail-based models to match each of the students’ needs.

Advisors for the PHS Olympia’s Leaders were Hilary Rapkin of WEX Inc. and Alicia Roberts of cPort Credit Union.

The 2021 Year End Celebration included remarks from the Honorable Olympia J. Snowe, former United States Senator and founder of the Institute; Erin French, The Lost Kitchen owner and chef; Christina McAnuff, executive director of the Institute; and Craig Larrabee, president and CEO of Jobs for Maine Graduates.  Sen. Snowe told the seniors, “Indeed, when we find ourselves outside of our comfort zone, that is where we discover the heights to which we can rise. And I certainly cannot think of a zone much less comforting for anyone than a global pandemic, so you should all be immensely proud of yourselves for rising above such unprecedented circumstances and making it to the end of this school year. It is always possible to distill triumph from adversity, but do not just take my word for it—all of you are the proof.”

The Institute distinguished the graduating class of Olympia’s Leaders by celebrating each senior for their accomplishments with the Institute, throughout their high school career, and for their distinct post-secondary visions. All seniors are also receiving a shipment with graduation cords, commemorative pins, certificates of completion, letters written to themselves three years prior, and, thanks to the generosity of Unum, a corporate partner of the Institute, a signed copy of Erin French’s book, “Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch.”


In the Class of 2021, 98 percent of Olympia’s Leaders are graduating high school immediately; all will begin higher or specialized education, military service, or enter the workforce by 2022; 76 percent will stay in Maine; and 59 percent will study a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field. This statistic is significant because it demonstrates that those Olympia’s Leaders interested in STEM now have the confidence to pursue it.

The Institute’s latest class of alumnae will be graduating from the following public schools: Bangor, Belfast Area, Biddeford, Boothbay Region, Calais, Camden Hills Regional, Cony, Edward Little, Ellsworth, Houlton, Lawrence, Leavitt Area, Lewiston, Medomak Valley, Mount Ararat, Mount Blue, Mount Desert Island, View, Narraguagus, Nokomis Regional, Oak Hill, Oceanside, Oxford Hills Comprehensive, Penquis Valley, Piscataquis Community, Poland Regional, Portland, Presque Isle, Sacopee Valley, Sanford, Skowhegan Area, Spruce Mountain, Westbrook, and Winslow High Schools.

Here are more details about the five Portland High School Olympia’s Leaders:

        Ella Whelan Andersonmatriculating to New York University, Gallatin School for Individualized Study to study Political Science and Journalism. Ella graduated with honors, was inducted into the National Honor Society, and received both a STEM Endorsement and Seal of Biliteracy.

        Skye Ferrismatriculating to Barnard College to study English

        Dalycia Greeleymatriculating to Suffolk University's Honors Program to study Psychology 

        Ange Ishimwematriculating to Bowdoin College to study Legal Studies with a Psychology Minor. Ange graduated with honors and was co-president of the Black Student Union.

        Lucia Stonematriculating to a Gap Year to study as a CNA before pursuing a Nursing Degree and becoming a Registered Nurse

            The Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute was founded by Sen. Snowe in 2015 to address the decreasing confidence levels of young women in Maine. For more information, visit http://www.snoweleadershipinstitute.org/

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.