Civil Rights Team Project Statewide Conference held in Augusta

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A school program in the Maine Attorney General's Office has been around for 23 years.

It's called the Civil Rights Team Project and students from all over Maine traveled to the Augusta Civic Center to celebrate the work they've done throughout the school year.

"More than 180 schools participate in the Civil Rights Team Project. Now, a conference in Augusta brings them all together."

Director of the Maine Civil Rights Team Project, Brandon Baldwin, said, "It's important for them to see that this work is happening statewide, and it's energizing to be in a room full of people who are doing similar work as yourself."

"I don't really want to think black-and-white about things," added, Gorham High School Student Gigi Benz.

Thinking outside the box. Benz said, "I want to think more about other people's opinions on issues." That's what brought Gorham High School Student, Gigi Benz, to this year's Civil Rights Team Project Conference.

More than 600 students participate in civil rights workshops and presentations.

Baldwin added, "People aren't leading these conversations in our schools. So, we need students engaged to talk about civil rights issues so that all of our students feel safe, welcome, respected for who they are."

Joe said, "It's a really nice safe space and open place for conversation about people's experience with race, their gender, identity, their ability, and disabilities."

The conference encourages students to get the conversation started.

Baldwin said, "When students come to you and say this is important to me, this is my experience, adults tend to listen."

Advocating for change at their own schools.

"It's a really, really big goal to get taken seriously by our administrations once we go back to our schools and when we are trying to make policy and change what's going on," Baldwin explained.

And being a voice for those who don't have one.

Joe said, "I'm obviously not a person of color, I'm not physically disabled, so it is really important for me to hear the voices of those people in order to enact policies to help them."