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Sleeper to receive Samantha Smith Award

The Maine Women’s Fund has named Julia Sleeper, founder and Executive Director of Tree Street Youth Center in Lewiston, as the recipient of its 2016 Samantha Smith Award. The award is conferred annually to recognize a young woman from Maine who works to promote social change in her school or community, inspires other girls to become active in supporting long lasting change in Maine, or uses her voice boldly to influence others and make a difference in her community.

Born and raised in the Bangor area, Sleeper attended Bates College and began the present-day Tree Street Youth Center in 2011 to support the underserved youth of Lewiston-Auburn through academics, the arts, and athletics in a safe space that promotes healthy physical, social, emotional, and academic development while building unity across lines of difference. The Center serves over 120 students each week who collectively speak 14 languages and have a 100% high school graduation rate and a 95% college acceptance rate. All programs are offered at no cost to families.

The recipients of the other 2016 Maine Women’s Fund awards are renowned children’s book illustrator Melissa Sweet of Rockport (the Tribute to Women in Industry Award), noted photographer Rose Marasco of Portland (the Sarah Orne Jewett Award), and the Women of the Commons of Eastport (the Visionary Partner Award). They will be honored in May at the Fund’s sixth annual Leadership Luncheon and awards ceremony, which will bring together more than 700 prominent professional, philanthropic and community leaders to network and celebrate their investment in economic security for Maine’s women and girls. This year’s event will celebrate Maine women in the arts.

The only Maine foundation focused exclusively on advancing women’s and girl’s economic security, the Fund has been working since 1989 to transform the lives of Maine women and girls through strategic grant making, community engagement and support to nonprofit organizations dedicated to social change within six key areas: Education, Financial Skills and Literacy, Healthcare, Leadership, Personal Safety, and Public Policy. For more information, see

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