Homeless Youth Documentary is Born at Bowdoin Upward Bound

Bree Candland ’01 and Upward Bound students Kon Maiwan, Kendra Sprague, Souban Doualeh and Nasteho Issa

Several Lewiston students with ties to Bowdoin have been garnering accolades for a documentary they made last fall about homeless kids in their city.

Five of the teens involved in the documentary recently visited Bowdoin to screen the video on campus, and though the film focuses on Lewiston, it nevertheless made an impact on the Brunswick audience. The documentary set off what Upward Bound Director Bridget Mullen described as “a robust discussion about the need for increased support for homeless youth in the greater Brunswick area.”

In the video, two teenagers, Kat Borghoff and Kendra Sprague, recount their stories about being adrift in Lewiston. About 200 kids are thought to be homeless in the central Maine city.

When the video premiered at Lewiston’s city hall in January, hundreds of people, including TV reporters and Gov. Paul LePage, came out to see it. According to the student filmmakers, the video has inspired a surge of donations to local programs that help homeless youth in Lewiston.

The Bowdoin Connection

The filmmakers are all part of the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council, a committee of teenagers that advises local government on issues affecting young people. Four of the filmmakers, as well as Sprague, attended Upward Bound at Bowdoin last summer: Kon Maiwan, Souban Doualeh, Nasteho Issa and Habiba Mohamed. All are seniors at Lewiston High School.

“We don’t have to wait for adults to act, because kids can.” — Nasteho Issa, Lewiston High School senior

Upward Bound, a federally funded program, helps first-generation and low-income high school students get into and succeed in college. One of its offerings is a six-week summer program held on Bowdoin’s campus, which is where the idea of this documentary on homeless youth germinated.

Last summer, Maiwan, Doualeh, Issa and Mohamed took a course with Bowdoin alumna Bree Candland ’01 on community engagement. In the course, she urged her students to think about projects they could undertake to improve their communities. Candland, a first-generation college graduate who grew up in Bangor, teaches social studies at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine.

In a group interview with the teenagers, Maiwan told the Bowdoin Daily Sun that he took this assignment to heart; indeed, he thought it was mandatory. He said he was inspired in particular to do a video about homelessness after meeting Sprague at Upward Bound and learning her story.

Maiwan said he ran for chair of the youth council so that he could enlist the help of other council members to make the video. The 11 members learned basic video and editing skills, and interviewed homeless teens as well as two adults who run programs in Lewiston that assist homeless teens (New Beginnings Shelter and Lewiston High School STEP Program.)

Doualeh said the process of listening to the teenagers’ stories during the interviews was emotional for her. “Even us within the council, we were changed. Personally, for me, I grew up and matured,” she said.

And Issa said she was surprised to see that people her age could make an impact. “We don’t have to wait for adults to act, because kids can,” she noted.

At this Candland interjected: “I wasn’t surprised! It’s really inspiring for adults to see youth take the power and step up.”

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