Two Inspiring Teens Receive Berman & Simmons Youth Leaders Award for Their Community Advocacy
Lewiston’s Hope Rubito and Freeport’s Isla Wilson each receive scholarship and donations to the causes they champion
Surviving, then standing up to bullies. Devotion to protecting animals. This advocacy has earned Hope Rubito of Lewiston and Isla Wilson of Freeport the latest round of the Berman & Simmons Youth Leaders Award. The law firm award recognizes Maine middle and high school students for their outstanding service to their communities with $500 toward the student’s educational needs and a $250 donation to the nonprofit of their choice.
As the chairwoman of the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council (LYAC), Hope has worked closely with municipal staff, local officials and members of the community to address issues surrounding bullying, something she knows about personally. Hope was bullied in middle school, which led her to attempt suicide at age 13. As a survivor she became an advocate for anti-bullying efforts.
She was integral in creating the “Listen Up Lewiston, Anti-bullying Forum” and served as a panelist for LYAC’s program titled “A Call for Kindness” where students and adults shared emotional stories about their own experiences with harassment and bullying.
By spreading her inspirational message, Hope gained the attention of Lewiston Superintendent Todd Finn who is now expanding policy on bullying district-wide with a focus on restorative justice and prevention. As she finishes her Junior year at Maine Connections Academy, Hope is considering studying counseling in college and plans to continue her advocacy work with teenagers.
In Hope’s name, Berman & Simmons will donate her $250 sponsorship award to Green Dot Lewiston/Auburn, a group of local volunteers teaching safe, effective strategies to reduce harassment, assault, and interpersonal violence.
Isla has a life-long dedication to caring for animals. Visits to Maine’s Wolf Neck Farm as a child created a connection to wildlife that she continues in her own community. As a freshman at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland, Isla directed her interest in animal welfare to a volunteer position at Midcoast Humane a few summers ago. She started there as a dog caretaker, cleaning kennels, socializing them, making dog food and doing some training. From there, she learned behavior training and modification, a discipline she really loves.
Isla has volunteered over 300 hours to Midcoast Humane, making her an invaluable advocate for animals. Her ability to make connections between humans and animals, bridge misunderstanding, and facilitate conversation around animal welfare have all proven to be invaluable skills for her success. Last fall, Isla was instrumental in organizing and running a fundraising event as part of Freeport’s 3-day Fall Festival. She worked with shelter staff and several dog-friendly business partners in Freeport to create a scavenger hunt through their shops. She even created promotional bandanas for the dogs to wear during the event.
With a goal of becoming a veterinarian, Isla is currently interning at Brunswick Veterinary Clinic, where she’s gaining real-world clinical experience. At Isla’s request, Berman & Simmons will donate both her sponsorship award and her educational award ($750 total) to Midcoast Humane.
“We’re pleased to give our Youth Leaders Award to Hope and Isla. The work they are doing is vital in their communities and recognizing them now offers inspiration at a time when we need it most,” said Craig Bramley, Managing Director at Berman & Simmons. “These are passionate and driven young individuals providing a voice to those who don’t have one. We consider it an honor to help young activists and advocates who are committed to improving their communities and exploring their passions.”
Berman & Simmons welcomes nominations for the next Youth Leaders Award. The honor is open to all Maine students who are actively enrolled in middle or high school and have been championing a cause they’re passionate about. Whether the student is advocating for the environment, equal rights, animals, an issue in their community, or simply finding a way to help others improve their lives, the firm’s goal is to showcase their exceptional work, give them a voice to share their passion project, and provide additional resources to help advance their cause. Learn more and nominate a youth leader.