WESTBROOK — Madison Damon’s leadership in her school and community inspired her to get involved on the state level, which has gained her national recognition.
Damon, a senior at Westbrook High School, was the 2017 Samsung American Legion Scholarship National Finalist for Maine. She received the honor after participating in a weeklong mock government program in June.
The 17-year-old said she greatly enjoyed the program, which took place at Husson University in Bangor.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” Damon said. “At first I wasn’t sure, but you learn so much and meet so many people.”
The program, Dirigo Girls’ State, is run each year through the American Legion Auxiliary. It takes place in each state every June with separate programs for boys and girls. Within the program, participants can apply for the Samsung American Legion scholarship.
Damon was the winner for Maine girls, which granted her a $1,000 scholarship and entrance into the national competition. She learned at the end of October that she would be receiving an additional $1,250 scholarship.
To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must have a relative who was an active duty veteran. For Damon, this was her Pepere, her maternal grandfather, who served in the Korean War. She said it was fascinating to research him for her application.
“I didn’t even realize he was an active duty veteran, so that was cool to learn,” she said.
Three other girls from WHS attended Dirigo Girls’ State as well: Morgan Kendall, Sandy Cau and Kelly Maguire. The overnight program, which is for high school juniors, simulates local, state, and national government processes and functions, including campaigns, elections and legislative sessions.
“It was really interesting to learn about government because I’m not 18 yet and can’t vote so I’ve sort of stepped back from politics,” Damon said. “It made me want to be more involved in government and in the community.”
Damon is already very involved, though. As a sophomore, she was the vice president of her class and is now in her second year as class president. She is also president of the student council and is a student representative on the School Committee. She said she loves being a part of the School Committee because she gets to have a say in decisions that affect her and her peers’ educations.
“Not everyone has the ability to use their voice, but I’m able to represent everyone here at school when I go to meetings,” she said.
Kelli Deveaux, the principal of WHS, said Damon uses her leadership skills to look out for the best interests of others.
“She’s an outstanding young woman who is passionate about helping others and leading her peers,” Deveaux said.
Damon said she uses what she learned at Dirigo Girls’ State in student council meetings and is now inspired to run for a seat on the School Committee next year. She said she wants to be an elected official, but isn’t interested in a career in government. Next year she plans to pursue nursing school and eventually become a physician.
At Dirigo Girls’ State, which 220 girls participated in, Damon was elected as a town moderator, meaning she spoke for her group. At the end of the program, she won the Moderator Award as well as the Outstanding Girl Award.
Damon said her biggest takeaway from the program was learning the importance of everyone being involved in government.
“You can be the one to make changes even if it’s small, and definitely vote because it impacts you even if you think it doesn’t,” she said.
Her favorite part, though, was meeting the other girls in the program, who came from all over Maine to participate.
“It was nice to meet people with the same passions and drive,” Damon said.
Deveaux said Damon was the perfect fit for the program and that she was a great choice for the scholarship.
“She’s thoughtful, she’s mature, and she does an amazing job of balancing all her responsibilities while remaining grounded and joyful,” Deveaux said.
On Monday Damon was beaming about the program five months after it took place. She said the experience will stay with her for a long time.
“It was the best experience,” she said. “It was so much fun. I could have stayed there forever.”
Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.
Westbrook High School senior Madison Damon was the 2017 Samsung American Legion Scholarship National Finalist for Maine and won over $2,000 in scholarships.