The mission of Tree Street Youth is to support the youth of Lewiston-Auburn through academics, the arts, and athletics in a safe space that encourages healthy physical, social, emotional, and academic development while building unity across lines of difference.
Founded in 2011 by two Bates College alumnae, Tree Street Youth grew its roots from a local homework help program. The original program – supported by the Refugee Assistance Program, local AmeriCorps staff, and a host of community volunteers – offered 40-60 local youth access to learning opportunities specifically tailored to meet their needs. For many of these youth, their parents wanted to support their children academically, but lacked the language and academic skills to do so. Due to the relationships built over time and the demonstration of an exceptional level of cultural competency, families urged the local program to continue expanding the homework help program to ensure that their kids would receive the support that they themselves could not provide.
At Tree Street, we believe that true empowerment begins with the self, but then transcends it to create a greater, collective harmony. Our holistic approach to youth development integrates a restorative justice model that demonstrates leadership, accountability, and life skills, both strengthening youth and bringing them together. We aim to empower the individual self, as well as the collective whole. We blend the focus on the individual with an equally important emphasis on building unity by creating bridges across lines of difference. We believe in this model because we ultimately believe that the most important thing that our youth learn is acceptance – of themselves and of each other.
Today, Tree Street Youth stands at the nexus of challenge and opportunity. It is strategically located on the walking route to the elementary, middle, and high schools in one of the state’s most socio-economically challenged communities. With 99% of youth living at or below the poverty level, and 65% hailing from immigrant or refugee families, Tree Street Youth provides an outlet of opportunities otherwise unavailable. We seek to provide students with a space that both makes them feel safe and welcome, but also challenges and empowers them.