S3E9 Making Maine More Attractive for Young People

Today’s episode has two parts. Part one is a synopsis of Amanda Rector’s article, “Maine’s Changing Demographics: Implications for Workforce, Economy, and Policy”. Part two features an interview with Everett Beals and Michael Delorge, winners of Margaret Chase Smith Library’s 2020 essay contest. Beals’s article is titled, “Making Maine More Attractive to Young People” and Delorge’s is titled, “Progress for Young Mainers Paved by Education”. The essay prompt asked students to propose how they would make Maine “the way life should be” for young people so that more of them will choose to live in a state with one of the oldest populations in the nation.

[00:00:00] Eric Miller: Before we start today’s episode, we’d like to let listeners know that this is our last episode of season three. We’ll be back for season four on August 29th, 2023, covering a variety of topics like PFAS, Investing in Teachers’ Leadership Capacity: A Model from STEM Education, Maine’s Libraries, Moose and Ticks, and AI in Higher Learning. Thanks for your support throughout this season, and we look forward to returning in the fall.

Now let’s get started with the episode. How has Maine’s changing demographics affected our workforce economy policy and Maine’s younger generation in light of Covid-19?

This is the Maine Policy Matters podcast from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. I’m Eric Miller, research associate at the center.

On each episode of Maine Policy Matters, we discuss public policy issues relevant to the state of Maine. Today’s episode will have two parts. Part one is a synopsis of Amanda Rector’s article, “Maine’s Changing Demographics: Implications for Workforce, Economy, and Policy.” Part two will feature an interview with Everett Beals and Michael Delorge, winners of Margaret Chase Smith Library’s 2020 essay contest. Beals article is titled, “Making Maine More Attractive to Young People” and Delorge is titled, “Progress for Young Mainers Paved by Education.” The essay prompt asked students to propose how they would make Maine “the way life should be” for young people so that more of them will choose to live in a state with one of the oldest populations in the nation.

Amanda Rector is the Maine state economist, we’ve had her on the podcast before, a position she has held since 2011. Rector is a member of Maine’s Revenue Forecasting Committee and serves as the governor’s liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau. She also serves on the advisory board for the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and is a member of the Board of Visitors at the Muskie School of Public Service.

Everett Beals is a rising senior at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, pursuing a degree in environmental science with a minor in creative writing. On campus, Everett has served on Clark’s Undergraduate Student Council and serves for the Department of Philosophy and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. In the fall semester, he’ll serve as editor-in-chief of Clark student Newspaper, The Scarlet. He spends his summers in Maine as a faculty member at a summer camp, working as the instructor for sea kayaking and marine biology. Everett is a graduate of Kennebunk High School in Kennebunk, Maine.

Michael Delorge of Biddeford, Maine, is a third year student at the University of Maine pursuing a dual degree in biology and political science. On campus, Michael is the president of the University of Maine Student Government and also leads UMaine’s Partners for World Health Club. He is a John M. Nickerson Scholar and a Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center scholar researching the Maine substance use epidemic. Michael has also been a UMaine UVote Ambassador, a member of the Sophomore Owls Tradition Society, a resident assistant, and recently inducted into the Senior Skulls Tradition Society. Michael hopes to pursue a career in health policy upon graduation.

Rector’s, Beals’s, Delorge’s respective articles were published in volume 29, issue 2 of Maine Policy Review, a peer reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. For all citations for data provided in this episode, please refer to the original article, which can be found in the episode description.

Rector argues that the events of 2020 were a sobering reminder of why it is important to understand the demographics of a region. With the onset of Covid-19 our lives were upended. The economy, which had been chugging merrily along, came to a screeching halt. There is nothing like a public health crisis to help clarify that every policy, at its core, is about people.

The fundamental purpose of any policy, be it federal, state, or local, is to safeguard and improve the wellbeing of people. The understanding of any policy decision, therefore, must start with a understanding of demographics. Demographics describe the characteristics of a population. The most basic demographic data or simple population counts: how many people are living in a given area at a point in time? From here we can delve into ever more detailed demographics such as age and sex, race and ethnicity, migration patterns, fertility and mortality rates. These demographics provide the data we need to make policy decisions.

The Decennial Census is the single best source of demographic data available in the United States. Every 10 years, the US Census Bureau accounts every person living in the country and gathers some basic demographic data about them. These decennial population counts are used to determine each state’s representation in Congress as well as districts for state legislatures. They’re also used to distribute billions of dollars of federal funds every year. Policymakers, researchers, business owners, and others use the data to make decisions that affect our lives every day.

Helpfully, Maine became a state the same year the United States conducted its fourth decennial census. This means we have a snapshot of what Maine’s population looked like near the time of statehood. In 1820, when Maine became the 23rd state in the nation, Maine’s total population was 298,335, 3% of the US total at the time, and the twelfth largest population. Only 13% of the population was 45 or older, compared to around 12% of the US population. Reflecting the times, the census counted “free white” males, and females separately from slaves and “free colored” males and females. Maine’s population density of 10 people per square mile was nearly twice that of the 5.5 people square mile for the nation.

By 1920, Maine’s total population had increased more than 150% to 768,014, but this was only 0.7% of the US total. The 1920 census included six different options for “color or race.” Despite the increase in categories, population remain 99.7% white.

Jumping ahead, another 100 years to 2020, Maine’s total population has increased another 75%, making Maine the 42nd most populous state in the country. Half Maine’s population is age 45 or older, compared to around 42% of the US population.

The 2019 population estimate from Maine shows 93% of the population as “white alone, non-Hispanic.” Maine has the highest percentage of white alone, non-Hispanic population in the country. Since the beginning, Maine’s population has grown more slowly than the nation’s, and while population density has increased, Maine has become relatively less densely populated than the rest of the country. Participation in labor force has changed substantially over the past 200 years as baby boomers age, labor force participation rates in Maine and the United States will continue to decline. Employment itself has followed a similar trend with a rapid increase in the 1970s, but Maine reached a new record non-farm employment level in 2016, followed by a further increases in 2017, 2018, and 2019. It is still unknown exactly what trajectory current economic conditions will take.

The single most dominating demographic force in Maine in recent years has been the aging of baby boomers, with this generation making up around 27% of Maine’s population. As baby boomers continue to retire, fewer new workers will enter the workforce, which may lead to fewer available workers in the future unless more younger workers move to Maine. Maine has seen a natural population decline since 2010, but net migration has helped offset this decline and led to increased population growth. In 2019, Maine’s rate of net domestic migration ranked 16th in the nation, an overall population growth ranked 25th.

According to US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the only age cohort that saw net domestic out migration in Maine in 2018 was age 75 and older. The largest increase in the domestic migration rate came out of the 18 and 19 year olds. We also saw high rates of migration for young children and adults aged 30 to 44. Demographics are on our minds more than ever these days, even if we don’t realize it. There are some possible silver linings for Maine. Those rural parts of the state that may have seemed too far for some people in the not-too-distant past, suddenly now hold new attraction. While some businesses in Maine have certainly faced tremendous uncertainty and unpredictability in our bicentennial year, they have also demonstrated their adaptability.

That concludes our synopsis of the Rector article. We will now move on to the interview with Michael and Everett.

Thank you both for joining us today.

[00:09:31] Everett Beals: Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure.

[00:09:32] Michael Delorge: Thanks for having us.

[00:09:33] Eric Miller: Since both of your essays were published in Maine Policy Review in 2020, would you both mind catching up our listeners on what you’ve been up to since you wrote your high, essays in high school? Michael, we’ll start with you.

[00:09:44] Michael Delorge: Yeah, sure. I think I submitted my essay in the height of the pandemic. And at that point, I don’t even know if I knew where I was gonna college at that point. But I’ve just spent my last three years finishing up my third year here at the University of Maine in Orono. I started as a biology major, pre-med, decided that I did not want to go to med school, and I picked up a political science major and I’m leaning towards going in, into a public health policy in grad school.

I’ve done some work here on the student government. I’m the president of the student government for the remainder of this year and for next year. I’ve done some work in global public health with this branch of a Portland-based nonprofit called Partners for World Health, and my club here at UMaine is a branch of their chapter and or a branch of their nonprofit.

And we sort medical supplies from some local Bangor area hospitals and distribute them down to Portland, who distributes them all over the world. Last May, I got the opportunity to go to Senegal on a, like a non-religious medical mission trip with a nonprofit. And I’ve done some stuff in voter engagement while I was at UMaine and just try to take advantage of as many opportunities as I possibly can with political science and clubs and whatnot.

Yeah, I didn’t think I would be here doing this, going to a STEM school in high school studying biology and sciences and stuff like that, but here we are.

[00:11:15] Eric Miller: That’s fantastic. You clearly, Covid, didn’t really slow you down that’s all fantastic stuff, Everett, how about you?

[00:11:20] Everett Beals: Yeah I guess we’re both juniors now I ended up going to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

I had a pretty good idea even before I enrolled anywhere that I want to do environmental science for a bachelor’s degree. That’s what I stuck with. At Clark, there are three, three tracks and I’m on the environmental science and policy track, so that’s a program I’ve really enjoyed. I also added a minor in creative writing on the suggestion of one of my advisors who’s been big help to me, as a personal editor and someone who’s helped me push my boundaries.

So that’s something I’ve really enjoyed. In terms of extracurriculars I was on Clark’s undergraduate student council for two years. And I’ve been writing for our student newspaper the Scarlet for three years. I’m currently the news editor and next year I’ll be the editor in chief. I have a couple jobs on campus that I really enjoy doing.

One is that I’m an undergraduate admissions ambassador, and the other is that this year I’m a peer learning assistant for a philosophy class on environmental ethics. So that’s what I’ve been up to in terms of like during the academic year. And yeah I’m pretty happy where I am.

[00:12:19] Eric Miller: Oh, that’s fantastic.

Yeah. I imagine you’ve read a fair amount of, Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson in your journey.

[00:12:25] Everett Beals: Absolutely.

[00:12:25] Eric Miller: That’s fantastic. As fellow bachelor’s in environmental studies myself, really appreciate that. Everett, when you wrote your essay, you had a statement, quote, first and most importantly, we need to emphasize that we as a whole state have to solve the problem together.

Could you speak to that problem you discussed in your essay and how collaboration within the state could help solve that issue?

[00:12:48] Everett Beals: Yeah, I was trying to recognize basically the geography of the situation we’re dealing with. Michael and I are both from New York County. Michael, I know you went to MS SM, which is a lot further north than where we ended up settling.

But I was trying to recognize that the state is a big place, and I have grown up in kind like my entire life and I wanted to acknowledge that my experience was siloed. And understanding Maine’s history, a lot of the population has been concentrated sort on that bottom southwestern portion, but the state being so large, in fact, so much of it that frankly I have not yet seen myself. I think it’s really important, especially with the kinds of frontier communities that I was talking about, Skowhegan being one of them, but also lots of towns like, which are important for my family ties like Millinocket which used to be major industrial centers and now in the recent past have been struggling. I was trying to make it clear because I believe this really firmly that any solution that’s going to apply to the entire state of Maine needs to be informed by the entire populace of the state of Maine.

So it can’t come just from Kennebunk and it can’t come just from Orono. It needs to come from everywhere. I know that sounds aspirational. It’s vague in a sense, but that was my emphasis that we can’t silo any solution that we have, and it’s really important to hear every kind of diverse perspective that we have.

So that’s what I was getting at and trying to start there saying, we need a comprehensive, holistic solution that everyone should be a stakeholder in.

Totally fantastically put. Michael, do you have any comments on the same type of issue, like statewide thinking?

[00:14:22] Michael Delorge: Yeah. Yeah.

I think Maine is not diverse in a lot of ways, but it’s very diverse in more ways. I, like Everett said, so Everett and I crossed paths a lot when we were growing up being from neighboring towns. And Everett said, I’m from Bedford in York County, and I had the opportunity to go up to the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Arista County in Limestone, Maine.

I could see the Canadian border from my dorm room. You can’t get that in Bedford, Maine. And now I’m in Central Maine going to college. And I’ve seen the two Maines that people talk about, that really urban, rural divide. And I wish that more students, young people could see that, because Maine is really diverse in a lot of what it offers geographically.

And I definitely agree with what Everett’s saying, where we need like a whole state approach to this. There’s a lot of communities represented from every corner of the state. And I’ve noticed that kind of as a student in the University of Maine’s system too, when I talk with people that go to other UMS schools it’s something that students are aware of too.

[00:15:31] Eric Miller: Yeah. And as someone who isn’t a native manor myself, but spent quite a few years there, I find that when I describe what Maine’s like and what you should do when you visit, don’t just stop at Freeport if you’re gonna go up the coast, or don’t skip all the coast and go straight to Acadia. Those places are all beautiful, but the type of Maine that you get from every stop along the coast from Portland to Lubec, you get so much variation in there, in economy, in population density, in just the natural features. It’s just really interesting and this obviously gets way more diverse as you go west inland.

No, I completely agree. And oh, go ahead, Everett.

[00:16:12] Everett Beals: That divide isn’t just like a social thing that, that Mainers have made up in our minds. It’s a tangible political boundary between Maine’s two congressional districts and Maine is only one of two states that can actually split its electoral votes, right?

Yep. So it’s a real thing. And as you’re saying though, it’s really different from town to town, even just one, one town over, even in York County. So I absolutely agree with what you’re saying. Yeah.

[00:16:33] Eric Miller: Michael, you close your essay by writing, “encouraging young Mainers to feel their own fire and ambition as Senator Smith puts it, while they give back and contribute to their communities and economy, is how we make Maine the way life should be.”

Could you speak to your experience with the Maine education system and the ways you were encouraged to feel your own fire and ambition?

[00:16:55] Michael Delorge: Yeah. I think a lot of what I meant through that wording was just like helping students find their own purpose is really important. Helping students find their own purpose in the state of Maine is also really important.

And I think the state should invest in opportunities that allow students to find their own purpose. In, I think 1994 the state allocated funds to found my high school. That’s a pretty new school and it’s a magnet school. It’s all state funded. The taxpayers of the state of Maine, paid for my education rather than the taxpayers of my town. And I am personally very grateful for the education that I received there, not only in science and technology and math, but in political science and social science and humanities. And just the lived experience of being up there. And that was how I found my purpose.

But I also know for a lot of students that I would have graduated with in Biddeford High School. They found their purpose through trades or business, which wasn’t something I experienced later on in high school. Like I’d talk about in my essay, there were students that I would’ve graduated with that had multiple trade certifications before I had even figured out where I wanted to go to college.

And, for them that was how they found their purpose. And for me I’m still finding mine, but I think the investment in that is really crucial and like just meeting students where they’re at, like we talked about just now geographically too, is huge and investing in those opportunities.

[00:18:31] Eric Miller: Everett, you have alluded to, but to this by staying the course in, in a subject matter that stayed consistent over the years since before starting college, what’s something about like environmental policy or your education that found that you found inspiration or were energized by

[00:18:48] Everett Beals: Yeah, I think first off, I really have to thank some of my teachers.

Lisa Farrell was my biology teacher, and she also taught IB environmental science. That was one was the intervention of a really good teacher. The other is that I guess we mentioned before when we started this conversation earlier that, Michael and I were both boy scouts, so I had that experience in the first place and I’ve always like paddling and like kayaking, so that was part of the connection.

But another is that, like when you live in Maine it’s hard to not be aware of the pressing situation we have globally with global climate change. And to me, just trying to understand that and loop it all back into what’s happening in my backyard was really important to me. So that is what motivated me, motivated me to stay on that track.

My interests have evolved over time, but no matter what, like that will be my grounding experience was, what I got outta high school. And I’m glad that this is the kind of skillset I’ve been able to develop as an undergraduate. I think it’s really important, and I actually, I just reread your essay, Michael, and you said in, as an example, that Maine students should be learning, like really early on, correct me if I’m wrong, about climate change and about the way that it’s affecting our fisheries the way it’s affecting more generally, just our agriculture system in general. The way it’s happening right here in every town in Maine. I think that’s a fantastic idea. And you know it’s happening in some classrooms, but maybe not everywhere. And as you said in your essay, that is largely a funding issue. So I think that’s one example of that’s a great way to bring Maine students to understand the relevancy of the work they’re doing in their towns and that gets them involved in their communities.

Make them feel, our children should feel like they are stakeholders in their communities and in our climate future. I really like that point you made three years ago.

[00:20:26] Michael Delorge: Yeah, thanks. And I’m glad you brought up that thing about like climate change as well because, there are so many great research institutions here in the state and advocacy institutions like, Jackson Laboratory, Bigelow Labs, like those are just two that come to mind that I had some experience with in high school that are like working on, genetics and also like marine research that, can get into local school systems and really partner with local school systems to show students that there are opportunities here for them, waiting for them, after they go to college, maybe somewhere else. And they can come back and contribute to research on the Gulf of Maine, which is the fastest warming body of water in the entire world.

And it’s right in our backyard. And not a lot of people know that, and there are opportunities here for them, but just like I said, highlighting that. That sense of purpose and that sense of belonging and that Maine is waiting for them here with open arms, I think is important.

[00:21:20] Eric Miller: It’s amazing what a, a strong sense of place, especially a place like Maine and the guidance from a specific educator and how far that can go.

So in a Amanda Rector’s 2020 article, “Maine’s Changing Demographics: Implications for Workforce, Economy, and Policy” she wrote about the possible benefits of Covid-19 for the state of Maine’s demographics with the following passage: “We have had a massive real-time experiment in telework, and for many people in businesses, this has been a success. If people can live anywhere and connect to their jobs remotely, why not live in Maine? Those rural parts of the state that may have seemed too far for some people in the not too distant past suddenly hold new attraction.” How do you both feel about this statement?

[00:22:04] Michael Delorge: Yeah, I think that, I think that telework has definitely shown people outside of the state that they can move to Maine.

I know firsthand folks who do telework in rural Maine, we have a problem with wifi and broadband here in the state of Maine, which I think the legislature is slowly improving and addressing. I don’t know that, like my thoughts on this are fully fleshed out. I do know that I like the idea of people moving to Maine year round and committing to the state of Maine.

I, after you had emailed us, Eric, to set this up, I just happened to come upon an article in the Bangor Daily News from I think February or something like that, that had to do with rebranding the state from Vacationland to something different because the moniker, the name Vacationland implies low commitment to the state.

You can come when you want and you can leave when you want. And just use what we have and then you can leave when you’re done your vacation, which is a silly way to think about it. But I think that telework and the ability to work wherever you are bridges the gap between what Maine has and its natural beauty in like the best of both worlds with what we have to provide people this great livelihood and way of life.

This, the way life should be. But I’m interested to hear what Everett has to say on this. I, like I said, I don’t really know that my thoughts on it are fully fleshed out yet.

[00:23:36] Everett Beals: Yeah. This is a tough one.

[00:23:37] Michael Delorge: Yeah.

[00:23:38] Everett Beals: Amanda Rector wrote this as we did in 2020, and like the workforce itself has changed a lot. And part of her, I think the reason maybe that she wrote that is that it’s trying to just predict what might happen with Maine and the entire world was in this really uncertain state. In terms of the way that remote work is going, I can’t say I have much experience with it myself.

But I am curious specifically, not that it’s a zero sum game, about like the amount of like economic productivity and square-scare quotes that brings to the state. Not that like things end at the political borders of the state, but if someone anecdotally, and I don’t know if this is true, but people in Facebook comments on Portland Press Herald articles are like, oh, all these people are moving to Bedford or Portland and they’re still working in another state.

So like what’s the benefit for the state of Maine other than the money they’re now spending here? I think that, to me is also too pessimistic and we gain a lot from having new knowledge into the state and just we need more people who are actively participating and the municipalities that we have and in our local economies.

Something I alluded to, I guess in my essay was that I was thinking about like transit time to get to work, like commute time. And that’s a problem in faster the state if you don’t have a car. So like it’s really great if people are moving, especially to rural towns and energizing like local Main streets.

But if the state isn’t building the infrastructure for that, or especially to build more affordable housing or just more housing in general to increase the stock that we have. Then to me, a lot of people moving in can be something. I can imagine it being something that might be anxiety inducing for some maybe older people in the workforce.

It’s a good thing, maybe in net, but I’m, I really can’t forecast what exactly it means. So that would be like one concern of mine is, I think like in general, the state should be building a lot more housing. I’m really encouraged actually by speaker Talbot Ross proposing LD 2 recently. Which would basically tackle a statewide houselessness problem by doing housing first statewide, which would a fantastic initiative in my opinion.

So that’s a long-winded answer to an admittedly challenging question. But that’s how I would approach it.

[00:25:54] Eric Miller: Yeah. Thank you for entertaining that, that question for us. And because it’s, forecasting is, and speculating is largely for the talking heads on whatever channel you’d like to check out.

And it is extremely difficult to predict the trade-offs with just a dynamic economy and just public health circumstance that was induced by Covid. And so yeah, it was, I heard many as living in Bangor, many anecdotes of people moving to either Bangor or further north who are very much urbanites in the New York, Massachusetts area and buying up in Aosta County.

And it’s a conversation in my work that we have quite frequently with the Policy Center about community resilience, emergency response times, and whether it’s firefighters or ambulance or what have you. Some of those places are pretty darn rural, and especially if you’re coming from a extremely urban setting your expectations of the, of those services may not align with reality at the moment. And that speaks to the infrastructure point that you made Everett. So since you both experienced the Maine education system in, across the state, so in, in Maine, what’s something that you felt was potentially missing from your respective experiences and what motivated you to submit your essays?

Everett, we’ll start with you.

[00:27:20] Everett Beals: Yeah. So I, I’m a graduate of Kennebunk High School. I really enjoyed my time there. As I said, I had some great mentors, some great teachers like Lisa Ferrell and also Ms. Moy, who I got a lot of my history background from and who encouraged me to be a good writer. And the, I don’t know how many shout outs I should give. I wasn’t planning on it, but the person who encouraged me to submit this essay was Ms. Carlson, who’s an English teacher at KHS. I was motivated by it because quite frankly, like I, scholarships are really important to me. And college affordability I think is something that Michael and I both wrote about actually in our essays.

So like I, this to me was really personal to try and just help. I wanted to contribute to the literature. I wanted to throw my hat in the ring and try my best to try and address that question as a, as an academic challenge. And I guess since this is from the Policy Review Center, as a civic participation thing.

But also like I used the scholarship to pay for the computer I’m doing this Zoom on. So for me it was like, it was personally important to try my best to try and make my education affordable. So in terms of answering the first part of your question about the educational system, another thing Michael and I both wrote about and he did a great job explaining earlier about like vocational programs.

That was something I concurred with and that I think the state needs a lot more of them. Something that I thought, what really excited me recently was it didn’t apply for everyone, but for several graduating years, I wanna say at least three or four community college in the state of Maine is tuition free.

I know that has had cascading benefits, especially in the larger University of Maine system and with potential budget shortfalls at Orono. Stuff that I don’t think I fully understand, but on the net, like making education more accessible for everyone in the state of Maine and more attractive to people outside of Maine I think is really good.

That was something that would’ve encouraged me to stay at the University of Maine system or to try and invest more my time in it is if it was more affordable at the time I was applying. So I felt like I got a lot outta my high school experience. There’s a lot I really liked, and I can absolutely agree with what Michael was saying earlier about, friends and the vocational trades.

That’s something that is really successful for a lot of main students and making sure that everyone has the same, nice facilities as are available, like in the next, most students in Kennebunk go over to Stanford. They have a brand new regional technical center that is really nice. I pretty sure in Bedford it’s also like some really high quality facilities.

I wanna make sure that everyone in the state has access to that and not just here in York, Cumberland County. I think that my experience was pretty holistic, but I wanna try and acknowledge that a lot of other Maine students probably weren’t as fortunate. So that’s how I feel about that.

[00:30:02] Michael Delorge: Yeah, I definitely relate to that statement. I was really grateful for my education, but I know that there are others who didn’t have the same education I had and the same opportunities. One thing I touch on in my essay is the legislature’s obligation to that they made to the taxpayers. When the taxpayers in the state of Maine voted on a 2004 referendum, they voted in favor overwhelmingly in a 2004 referendum that the legislature would pay the majority of municipal school funds for public schools. I don’t know what has happened since 2020, but I knew that from the time period where that referendum passed up until 2020 when I wrote my essay, the state had not met that obligation at all for a single year.

And what I think that leads to is a lot of in inequity in local school systems all around the state. So when I went to the Maine School of Science and Mathematics up north, I had friends from all these different school systems in Maine, from York to Fort Kent and everywhere in between rich towns, poor towns, rural towns, urban towns, everywhere.

And I got to meet a lot of these people and I got to learn about the state through them. But I also know that for a lot of my peers back at Bedford, they didn’t have that same opportunity. And so one of the things that came to mind when you asked that question was just recognizing that Maine is a lot more diverse than your one town.

And I hope that we as a state can celebrate some of the, going back to our conversation from earlier, like we can celebrate some of the, at least geographic diversity in our state.

[00:31:52] Eric Miller: Yeah that’s wonderful. Thank you both for submitting those essays. We really appreciate it. And so before we close out you have any final thoughts or comments that you would like to say as we close out here?

[00:32:05] Everett Beals: I guess one last thing I’ll mention, just building off of the question you just asked about education. Is that the work is not done, obviously, and things are not back to normal after Covid. From a page of the Portland Press Herald on April 25th, the subheader was Maine kids are experiencing more poverty, homelessness, more poverty, homelessness, and mental health emergencies than before the pandemic, and high school graduation rates across the state are dropping. So clearly secondary education, primary education are all suffering statewide. I know this is a national problem, but I think in Maine we have a real resiliency problem with our public education. I think that was something Michael addressed really well in his original essay.

So just saying and recognizing, I come from a family of educators who are, have been involved in all kinds of different levels of public education. I just, I know and appreciate, think we all can, how hard that work is, and know that in the vast majority of Maine towns, our teachers are woefully underpaid, they are often struggling for better contracts, and our students deserve the best in the country, right? So there’s a lot left to do and I don’t have any one answer to, and I don’t think any. But there’s a lot of knowledge building that’s going on thanks to the, this journal and thanks to just people like you guys at the University of Maine.

So thank you for the work you’re doing.

[00:33:33] Eric Miller: You’re very welcome. Michael, any closing thoughts?

[00:33:36] Michael Delorge: Yeah, ditto. Everett you’re very well spoken. Everett and I, like I said, we grew up in a neighboring towns, grew up together. But we also met at this program called Youth in Government. And it’s a YMCA program that meets annually on Veterans Day Weekend, where students from high schools all around the state of Maine get together and sit in the seats of their legislators at the State House and play model state. Basically where we write our own bills and we vote on our own bills, and we all assume the positions of our legislators in committee. And then both the House and Senate bodies. And that was the one experience I think in high school that I had, or I guess in my childhood, like before the age of 18, that really helped form my worldview and my thinking.

And I just, I’m very grateful for that program and wanted to mention it because I think it informed a lot of my goals for the future and a lot of my views in this essay that I wrote back in 2020. And it also ultimately was what led me to write the essay to even go for applying in the first place, and also led me to meet David Richards down at the Margaret Chase Smith Library, who was the one that encouraged me to apply.

So I hope that others can have similar kind of experiential learning opportunities that Everett and I had that helped teach us about our state, and, helped show us that there was a sense of purpose for them in Maine.

[00:35:13] Everett Beals: That’s a really fun one to do.

[00:35:15] Michael Delorge: Yeah.

Those are two very excellent closeouts.

So you both are 21, right? 21, 22.

[00:35:22] Everett Beals: I’m 20, actually 20. I’m young for my class. My birthday’s in August.

[00:35:25] Eric Miller: Okay. All right. And so I strongly dislike generational labels and especially like pessimism that goes along with placing generational labels. But it seems like there’s a lot in the ether about Gen Z. ,And I’ll have to say that you two provide a lot of hope, and we’re very excited to keep tabs on your work going in the future. Whether it’s your current studies or you choose to divert, we know that you’ll land on your feet. And so thank you both so much for checking in with us and we look forward to keeping tabs with you.

[00:35:54] Everett Beals: Thanks for having us, Eric.

[00:35:54] Michael Delorge: Thanks Eric.

[00:35:59] Eric Miller: What you just heard was a synopsis of Amanda Rector’s article, “Maine’s Changing Demographics: Implications for Workforce Economy and Policy”, and an interview with Margaret Chase Smith Library’s 2020 essay contest winners, Everett Beals and Michael Delorge. Maine Policy Review is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.

The editorial team for main policy review is made up of Joyce Rumery, Linda Silka, and Barbara Harrity. Jonathan Rubin directs the Policy Center. A thank you to Jayson Heim and Kathryn Swacha, script writers for Maine Policy Matters, and to Daniel Soucier, our production consultant as mentioned at the beginning of the episode.

Our next episode will be coming out August 29th, 2023 to kick off season four of Maine Policy Matters. We would like to thank you for listening to Maine Policy Matters from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. You can find us online by searching Maine Policy Matters on your web browser.

If you enjoyed this episode, please follow us on your preferred social media platform and stay updated on new episode releases. I’m Eric Miller. Thanks for listening and have a great summer.