T-shirts emblazoned with the STAR logo have become a familiar sight in the community, a testament to the number of participants who have been through the program since it started in 2004. With the eighth year of after-school programming just completed, the STAR program at Five Town Communities That Care continues to grow in numbers and influence.

STAR was created to address problem behaviors such as teen substance abuse, violence and delinquency through programs that develop life skills and recognize children for their achievements. Research indicated that youths who have confidence in their basic skills are apt to become involved in groups where healthy development is fostered.

Because STAR was formulated to prevent problem behaviors before they start, it is important to reach as many children as possible. In this regard, the program is an unqualified success: more than 54 percent of current Five Town middle school students have participated in the program, with over 58 percent of them being alumni from previous cycles.

In order to attract young people of all interests, STAR offers a wide variety of program choices. This year, participants made new friends while mastering skills in the following programs: adventure survival skills, animal antics, bookmaking, childcare, cooking, creative writing, Aldermere Farm Hands, Green Thumb Gardening, improvisational drama, jewelry making, knitting, martial arts, photography, pottery, snowshoeing, stop motion animation, and woodworking.

To implement programs, STAR partners with schools and organizations in the Five Town community. This year’s partners included Appleton Village School, Camden Hills Regional High School, Camden Rockport Elementary School, Farmers Fare, Hope Elementary School, Lincolnville Central School, Camden-Rockport Animal Rescue League, Chestnut Street Baptist Church, Merryspring Nature Center, Mid-Coast Martial Arts, Mid-Coast Recreation Center, Penobscot Bay YMCA and the Teen Center, Peopleplace, Aldermere Farm and Erickson Fields Preserve. In 2010-2011, STAR also developed new program relationships with Hope Orchards and Tanglewood 4-H Camp.

Available at no cost to participants, STAR relies on donations from community members, organizations and businesses. Anyone interested in contributing to STAR can contact Five Town Communities That Care Development Director Alex Owre at 236-9800. For more information, visit fivetownctc.org.