Saturday, November 21, 2015

Taylor Dyke captures Reserve World Championship Title in team penning - By Elizabeth Richards

Taylor Dyke, daughter of Jeffrey and Gail Dyke of Windham, has only been riding horses for approximately four years. Despite her late start, the 18-year-old and her teammates took the reserve World Championship title in team penning at the in the American Quarter Horse Association’s 2015 Build Ford Tough American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship Show earlier this year. 

Dyke began riding in Charleston, Maine. Her grandfather was into team penning, an event where a riding team identifies, moves and pens specific cattle from a herd in a limited amount of time. He brought the sport to Maine, and when Dyke and her mother watched, she said they decided they’d like to try it. 

After a couple of years of doing shows in Maine, Dyke said she began to travel to out of state shows with her mom. Finally, they decided to move to Texas, where there was a lot bigger environment for team penning. “There was a show every weekend, there was more competition,” Dyke said. 

Dyke met a trainer from Gainesville at a show, and wound up buying a horse from them. A month later, she ran into them at another big show, and they began to give her some pointers. The trainers had two girls living with them, and Dyke asked her dad to talk to them about her moving in as well.  She ended up rooming with Samantha Struhall, who was part of her winning team this year.

The first year Dyke rode in the AQHA show was while she was still penning in Maine. It did not go well, she said, and she did not compete in the AQHA show in 2014. Struhall rode, and won the 2014 Team Penning title. Struhall convinced Dyke to give it another try this year.    

Dyke said she didn’t expect to do so well, particularly since many of the competitors have been riding for much longer than she has. 

“All these kids have grown up doing it their whole lives. The competition is tough, the cows are tough. To be able to do it just for four years and accomplish that…I never thought I would. It was awesome,” said Dyke.

Dyke is homeschooled, and finishing up her senior year of high school. She is currently working on qualifying for next year’s world show, the last year she can ride as a youth. 

“After that, it will be a while, probably, until I ride the adult AQHA. Their competitions are a lot tougher.” 

Jeff Smith retires from Windham Police Department - By Michelle Libby

With 27 years of experience and 23 continuous years at Windham Police Department, School Resource Officer Jeff Smith will officially retire from Windham this fall. His last official day at Windham High School is November 23, but he will stay on part time to help train the next officer until the end of the year. 
“I love this job,” Smith said. Smith has been the SRO for 11 years at WHS. “It’s very difficult for me to leave this place.” He will continue on as the radio consultant at the school and will be back for sporting events, he said.

“He’s been a very important component to the police department. He is the first and only school resource officer we’ve ever had,” said Police Chief Kevin Schofield. “There will be big shoes to fill.”
“Jeff had impacted the high school in so many ways over the years.  First, in his role as police officer, he has improved the level of security of our building and has bridged the gap between students in our community and the Windham Police Department,” said Principal Christopher Howell. “Beyond his role as officer, Jeff has served as a mentor, a social worker, a voice of reason, a referee, and as a friend of students.  He has been willing to try most anything to support students as they made their journey through Windham High School.  Jeff has also impacted the building in regards to the safety that he provides us on a daily basis.  I am absolute confident that Jeff would head into harm’s way to protect the staff and students at our school.” 

When Smith applied to be the first SRO he knew that there was a need for someone to be in the school. His life experiences have given him a perspective that not all officers have. 

“I’m a behind the scene’s guy,” Smith said. He has done many things out of the spotlight to keep students and their families comforted and safe. He has provided his cell phone number so he can be reached at any time by parents or students. He’s the first person to respond in a crisis and has been a shoulder to cry on during tragedies, said Howell. Smith is straight forward and honest when addressing students. He doesn’t mince words. 

“Jeff’s greatest contributions to Windham High School have been through the relationships that he has built during the time in his position,” Howell said. Smith still hears from students he has counseled and worked with over the years. 

The culture of the school has changed in the last 11 years. When Smith first began at the high school, there was a lot of police work, mostly around theft in the cafeteria. “Hungry kids were stealing food,” he said. In 2007, he started a lunch fund and thefts decreased from two or three a week to one a month.
“Now a lot less of my job has to do with law enforcement. Ninety-eight percent has nothing to do with it,” he added. He credits a lot of the culture change to having the Rachel’s Challenge speakers come to the school. Rachel was one of the first victims in the Columbine shootings. The first time the auditorium was packed with parents and students to hear the night time presentation. Students became more kind and filled with compassion. They are turning in money they find, from $4 to $40. “That’s how much this thing has evolved,” Smith said. “My biggest accomplishment is being there for these kids when they need me. I’m still hearing from kids that graduated when I first started.” 

Smith earns their respect by helping whenever he can. He’s like an extra parent often helping kids get home to pick up computers, projects, homework and whatever else they might need. 

His success according to Schofield has been, “The ability to become ingrained in the school community in general. He’s a natural at knowing the kids and dealing with them on a personal level, supporting them through scholastic needs and dealing with issues in and out of school. He’s approachable.” 

Smith’s retirement job will be with Falmouth Police Department where he has worked part time for many years.  

“I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to help raise these kids because it takes a village to raise kids,” Smith said. 

Interviews for the new SRO are being held on Friday. Students should be informed soon after.

Photo: SRO Jeff Smith sits with seniors Andrew Lawyer and Rachel Cushman before he retires from Windham Police Department on November 23.

Project Everlasting Gratitude in its third year - By Michelle Libby

The weather isn’t always perfect, but for Project Everlasting Gratitude, neither snow, nor rain has stopped the Boy and Girl Scouts from putting a small wreath on the grave of every Veteran in Windham. The brainchild of Libby Sawyer at Studio Flora, the project is in its third year. 
“I do it because I want to get involved in the community in a positive way. I love getting the younger generation involved. To see them wiping away the snow and reading the names before placing a wreath, that’s what it’s all about,” Sawyer said. 
In addition to Studio Flora, the project is funded by Sebago Gardens, Little Log Cabin Montessori School and donations from the community. The owners of all three businesses are related by marriage, which makes the project a family affair. The total project is estimated to cost $6,500. 

When it comes time to lay the wreaths, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Windham help locate the over 800 Veteran graves over 24 cemeteries. This year, the Boy and Girl Scout troops from the area will lay the wreaths on Saturday, December 5.

Some of the Veterans are very helpful in locating the cemeteries that are not well known. “Roger Timmons has been a huge help. He looks forward to it,” Sawyer said.  

The wreaths are purchased from a Maine company and Studio Flora adds the bows. Sawyer and some dedicated volunteers make bows until they are all complete. 

“I try to involve as many people as I can,” Sawyer said. “It’s become fun. It’s not really a job. It means a lot to the wives, spouses, and surviving family members of the Veterans.” 

“As a business owner in retail, we’re told that the holiday season is all about profits. We lose what Christmas is all about. It’s not about making money or gifts. The Christmas season is about more than that,” Sawyer said. 

If anyone would like to make a donation to Project Everlasting Gratitude they are encouraged to stop by Studio Flora during business hours.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Recognizing the true cost of freedom - Photos by Michelle Libby

First Lady Ann LePage is honored by VFWs Willie Goodman.

Winners of the VFW essay contests. Gardner Reed, Emma Gallant and Emily Lane.

Chamber Singers

Revealing the Grand Donor Board honoring Toby Pennels.

Jeff Riddle Honored by the Marine Corps League.

Anne LePage and Brenda Pennels.

Dean Preston plays taps while wearing Walter Lamb's Marine Corps jacket.