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Youth Development Through a Summer on Thompson Lake

To learn more about Agassiz Village, you are invited to an open house for Thompson Lake residents on Saturday, July 22, from noon to 2pm. To RSVP contact Mike Smith at msmith@agassizvillage.org or 781-860-0200 ext. 1007.



You may not be aware of a magical place on Thompson Lake that enriches children’s lives from under-resourced New England communities. That place, on the southern end of the Lake is called Agassiz Village. It was founded in 1935 to give kids from marginalized communities the opportunity to explore nature, grow as individuals, and return home to thrive in their own communities. In 2022, Agassiz Village gave 462 girls and boys, ages 8-17, this opportunity. Families pay on average $135 for their child to attend camp for two weeks. (The true cost for two weeks of camp for one child is well over $1,600.) The camp runs on the generosity of others who fund scholarships for the children. As such, support from donors who share this vision is essential to continue providing youth who would not otherwise have access to this unique, life-changing opportunity.


Agassiz Village was founded by Harry E. Burroughs who at the age of 12, left Russia for America as a stowaway. When his boat landed in Portland, Maine, Burroughs was alone with no money and unable to speak English. He walked barefoot to Boston and found work selling newspapers on a Beacon Hill Street corner. Some time later, after seeing an ad in one of the newspapers he sold, he won a contest and obtained a Harvard college education. He ultimately became a successful lawyer. In 1935, with the help of benefactor Maximilian Agassiz, Burrough’s founded Agassiz Village, to provide an opportunity for impoverished inner-city youth to experience nature, form friendships and learn skills to attain life-long success.


Decades later, this 330-acre camp remains a life-changing refuge for boys and girls from under-resourced communities throughout New England.

At Agassiz Village we believe that outdoor experiences have a profound impact on a young person’s development. Summer enrichment programs promote positive cognitive, social, emotional, and skills development, as well as promote safety and physical and mental health, for children and youth. However, summertime experiences are not evenly and equitably distributed, and many children and youth lack access to quality experiences due to the challenges of availability, accessibility, and affordability. The most vulnerable children face the greatest challenges in accessing quality summertime experiences. In fact, only 1 in 3 youth of color participate in outdoor programming in the United States.


At Agassiz Village, youth of color have an opportunity to experience an overnight camping experience for two weeks. From the diverse relationships youth form at camp and the challenging new experiences they conquer, campers imagine new possibilities for their future and are armed with the knowledge that they can succeed in any classroom or workplace. Agassiz Village harnesses the power of their diverse community to disrupt the cycle of poverty for children and their families. They equip children with the resources, resilience, and relationships necessary to reach their full potential. For nine decades, Agassiz Village has created a safe place for mostly Black and Brown youth from under-resourced communities to explore nature, try new outdoor activities and build their social and emotional skills through a robust outdoor program.


Cost and transportation are the reasons Black parents cite most often as to why they do not enroll their child in a summer learning program. Agassiz Village removes those barriers by covering 91% of the costs of a two-week summer program and providing transportation. Many of the children we serve live in unsafe neighborhoods and often are expected to stay inside all day and tend to be connected to screens over the summer more so than their higher-income peers. Agassiz removes kids from communities of poverty and gives them the opportunity to learn new social, emotional and leadership skills in a safe environment surrounded by caring adults.


It is critical to keep Agassiz Village’s 330 acres, two miles of lake front property and two islands undeveloped and safe from future development so everyone who lives on Thompson Lake’s shores and hundreds of at-risk youth can continue to benefit from this untouched, scenic stretch of the Lake. AV’s large, minimally developed acreage reduces risks of negative environmental impacts, protects lake water quality and provides shoreline protection.


It is why Agassiz Village staff felt it very important to participate in the Thompson Lake Environmental Association’s (TLEA) Watershed Survey in the Spring, helping to identify areas of non-point pollution from erosion, keeping the greatest threat to lake water quality at bay. We believe as many residents believe that our top priority is the stewardship of our land and the preservation of Thompson Lake for future generations to ensure more youth have access to the pristine shores of the lake.


Agassiz Village recently conducted a Facility Master Plan to help addresses decades of neglect and deferred maintenance and to preserve its hundreds of acres of land and miles of waterfront from future development and minimize its impact on Thompson Lake. Currently the costs to make the necessary renovations are estimated at $8 to $10 million and difficult for a small nonprofit to achieve but Agassiz Village will not be deterred to ensure that future generations of campers have access to the pristine shores of Thompson Lake.


To learn more about Agassiz Village, you are invited to an open house for Thompson Lake residents on Saturday, July 22, from noon to 2pm. To RSVP contact Mike Smith at msmith@agassizvillage.org or 781-860-0200 ext. 1007. To make a donation, visit www.agassizvillage.org/support-us or mail a check to Agassiz Village, 71 Agassiz Village Ln, Poland, ME 04274. Agassiz Village also accepts donations of furniture, canoes, life jackets, boats and other household items. For a list of needed items go to our website www.AgassizVillage.org or shop from our Amazon wish list at https://a.co/6yQrd7y Volunteers are also welcome.

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