Youthful inspiration - it's an honor

The Portland branch of the League of Young Voters recently honored nine people (or groups) for being "young people" who are "social entrepreneurs," however they define those concepts.

The group's official announcement of the winners doesn't say anything about the winners or even give their ages. There is nothing there or in the media release to support the media release's quote from League state director Justin Alfond, saying that the award winners "exemplify the important contributions young people make to Portland." Nice quote, though.

For an audience member's account of the evening, click here.

Read on to find out what contributions they make, and how old they are (with thanks to League staffer Rachael Weinstein for digging the ages up for us).

The winner of the "Green Professional" award was Forrest Keever, 25, who owns Green Tree Clothing and Mainely Masters Art Gallery, at 437 Congress St, selling hemp products and supporting repeal of the ban on growing industrial hemp (which can't be used for that other purpose people like about hemp so much).

Winning the "Start Up Business Person" award were Kim Anderson (27) and Anna Maria Tocci (29), who in April opened the North Star Café at 225 Congress St, which offers not just yummy food and drink, but also music, local art, and free Wi-Fi.

Receiving the award for "Urban Ecologist" was Sarah Bostick, 27, who has done various urban- and rural-agriculture projects in Portland and around Maine. She now works at Meadow Wood Organic Farm in Yarmouth.

The "Artist" award went to Vanessa Torres and Touching Ground, a folk-bluegrass group here in town, who pay particular attention to social justice concepts when writing lyrics. Twenty-six-year-old Vanessa's sister Tamara Torres (who is 28 and works at the North Star Café) and 26-year-old law student Ra Criscitiello round out the trio, who played at SXSW in Austin, Texas this year. Honored as well was 27-year-old percussionist Lauren Snead, who has performed with them, but whose bio is no longer on any VT&TG sites.

Michelle Boisvert, 25, won the "Service Worker" award for her work at the Preble Street Resource Center and with the Portland Food Co-Op (whose MySpace page plays a Vanessa Torres and Touching Ground song).

Saul Amedee, 30, was given the "Technology Maven" award. He was involved with the People's Free Space's technology group at its old location, and remains involved in providing Web design and hosting for local nonprofits.

Jill Barkley, 26, of Family Crisis Services, who also organizes the Dyke March and Portland's Take Back the Night event, won the "Activist" award for her work teaching young people about healthy relationships.

Shana Paradis, a 29-year-old Deering High School English teacher, won the "City Employee" award, for her work at the school, which includes advising its Civil Rights Team. Paradis is also a local singer-songwriter and a member of the Maine Songwriters Association, which holds regular open-mic nights at the North Star Café.

The final award, for "Healthy Lifestyle Educator," went to Heather Chandler, the 35-year-old founder of the Sunrise Guide, which has information on living sustainably and coupons for discounts from enviro-conscious businesses.

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