Youth issues are at the heart of new ACLU of Maine director’s agenda
Arthur Padilla, the new ACLU Maine govt director, of their workplaces on Tuesday, November 22, 2022. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer
Arthur Padilla, the new govt director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, says younger individuals need to be extra concerned in selections that have an effect on their lives.
“How do we design a way to get young people out of the adult conversations that will impact the rest of their lives?” Padilla mentioned in a latest interview. “I think that means giving them a voice in some way that they didn’t have before.”
Padilla mentioned that in his software for the ACLU place he grew to become taken with a number of youth-related issues, some of which the group has addressed over the previous 12 months. These embody calls for to shut the Long Creek Youth Development Center, the state’s solely jail for juveniles, which is the topic of two lawsuits filed by former residents; and a latest ACLU report on Maine colleges that failed to coach college students about the state’s Wabanaki tribe 20 years after the curriculum was first mandated by state regulation. There has been latest debate in Maine faculty districts about whether or not sure books coping with sexuality and gender identification must be on faculty library cabinets.
Padilla is aware of so much about the vulnerability of youth.
Growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the Nineteen Eighties, he says he is been homeless for a few decade since he was 15 after going through tensions at dwelling over his gender expression.
“My parents didn’t want to, couldn’t see my difference,” mentioned Padilla, who makes use of the pronouns “he” and “they.” “Whether it was my femininity then, my masculinity – they couldn’t solve it. My parents didn’t like me.”
He relied on meals and showers at his faculty and rides on pals and academics — many of whom, Padilla mentioned, did not know he had nowhere to reside. He was an lively habit all through that decade of homelessness earlier than following a good friend to Newburyport, Massachusetts to recuperate and earn his two-year diploma from a Haverhill neighborhood faculty. He later earned his bachelor’s and grasp’s levels in counseling from Prescott College in Arizona.
“It wasn’t until I met someone who said, ‘You don’t have to do this,’ someone who believed in me,” Padilla mentioned. “They got me out of all of that and took me to Massachusetts to get my staff and get sober.”
After greater than half a 12 months of looking out, Maine’s largest civil rights group introduced in early November that it had employed Padilla, a nonprofit marketing consultant with expertise in public service and youth initiatives. He was chosen from “hordes” of candidates who utilized from throughout the nation, mentioned Jodi Nofsinger, ACLU of Maine board chair.
Arthur Padilla, the new ACLU Maine govt director, of their workplaces. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer
Padilla lately relocated to Maine from Seattle the place he served as a marketing consultant for non-profit organizations. He oversaw a program to coach and cut back the harms of methamphetamine habit for Seattle’s LGBTQ residents. He was additionally director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League in Washington, D.C., and has served as interim govt director for a number of nonprofits, together with Seattle’s ROOTS Youth Shelter, which are “not unlike” Maine’s ACLU, Nofsinger mentioned Tuesday.
With these organizations, Padilla had a “track record of leaving things significantly better than when we started,” she mentioned.
“In between [executive directors] Don’t try to turn things around. They’re trying to maintain the status quo,” Nofsinger mentioned. “He labored with individuals to know them and convey about change.
He additionally spent seven years evaluating academic applications performed by the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which oversees public well being applications and hospitals for Alaska’s indigenous individuals. Padilla mentioned he would spend at least every week every month in Alaska, touring throughout the state interviewing college students and academics at Alaskan colleges about their wants and objectives.
When the Alaska Humanities Forum obtained federal funding to run its sister faculty alternate program — which despatched college students between rural villages and metropolis colleges — Padilla evaluated its implementation. Kari Lovett, who oversaw the alternate program at the time, mentioned Padilla targeted much less on attaining grades and extra on alternatives for enchancment.
“It’s always nice to have reviewers with a 30,000-foot view,” Lovett mentioned, including that Padilla adopted the program and its progress for a number of years, honing his understanding of completely different cultures throughout Alaska, based on the Humanities Forum helped create school rooms the place youngsters “can be proud of their background and heritage.”
That grant expired in August, Lovett mentioned, however Padilla’s providing will proceed to assist the Humanities Forum because it helps Alaska Native organizations doing related work in colleges.
Padilla first entered the world of public service in the early Nineties, working in Arizona with principally queer people contaminated with HIV/AIDS. That was earlier than there have been remedies for HIV and there was a stigma hooked up to speaking about the virus. Padilla mentioned he felt his position at the time was principally to maintain individuals snug and “guide them through death.”
But it led him to artistic methods of making a distinction. While working at an Arizona county well being division round the similar time, Padilla was answerable for directing an HIV/AIDS unit for highschool college students.
“In Arizona, you could do HIV education, but you couldn’t talk about ‘gay,’ it said, ‘No Say Gay Bill,'” Padilla mentioned.
At the similar time, the educators needed to reply each query a pupil requested. Padilla mentioned he engaged college students by encouraging them to ask questions in the space. Years later, Padilla led one other initiative with LGBTQ youngsters in Washington, DC, serving to them converse out on their very own issues.
The ACLU of Maine has operated and not using a chief govt since Alison Beyea, who was the group’s director for eight years, introduced in early April that she was leaving the firm. It just isn’t clear why she left the group.
An announcement at the time mentioned Beyea had doubled the ACLU’s workers and led “one of the most diverse teams in Maine through some of the most pressing civil rights and civil liberties challenges facing the state and nation.”
Beyea has supported efforts to shut the state’s solely juvenile detention heart, ban Indigenous mascots in Maine colleges, bail reform and campaigns to coach Mainers about the disproportionate impression of COVID-19 on marginalized residents.
Padilla mentioned he’s nonetheless contemplating his position with the ACLU, overseeing attorneys and attorneys campaigning on civil liberty issues in each the State House and the courthouse. He mentioned he seems to be ahead to involving younger Mainers on this course of.
“I don’t know what your life was like, but mine was the influence of adult choices. All of that,” Padilla said. “No one requested me what I wanted.”