Julia Sleeper, 25
Tree Street Youth
144 Howe St. Lewiston
Nonprofit established in July
Julia Sleeper has been working with Lewiston’s youth since she herself was still a teenager.
For the past six years, the 25-year-old graduate of Bates College has been running after-school programs for the city’s at-risk youth – and this year she cemented her dedication to that cause when she established the nonprofit Tree Street Youth. Open five days a week, the volunteer-run program offers tutoring, mentoring and various enrichment activities for roughly 150 kids in grades K-12.
Q: What were your key needs in getting started?
A: It had always been my dream to open a youth center in Lewiston. Our youth are extremely ambitious but they need a lot of extra support due to their life circumstances, which is the main reason I started Tree Street. The greatest challenge was the courage to begin it, and the basic finances of beginning a non-profit, especially during these hard economic times.
Q: What keeps you motivated today?
A: Our youth are extremely ambitious and each day I am motivated to keep going because they go up against all the odds facing them. Each day we also have over 20 volunteers and service-learning students come in to donate their time. They provide support for the kids in so many ways and inspire me to continue growing the program as much as possible. Some days can be extremely challenging as you are dealing with people’s lives, and lives are messy. However, with each challenge comes just as many – if not more – successes that are so rewarding that you remain motivated even during hard times.
Q: What do you think are the key traits needed to become a successful female entrepreneur?
A: Passion. In order to be successful you must truly, truly love what you do. Also, persistence and patience. Something I have learned in this process is that everything I have done up to this point has prepared me for being the founder and director of Tree Street, and if I had rushed anything or skipped a step things might not be the way they are today.
Q: What’s your overall outlook on life, summed up in a sentence or two?
A: We are only here for a short amount of time, and so often we are focused on the struggle and the negativity that surrounds us. However, it is in these times of struggle, or when looking into the face of a child facing something they should never have to face, that I truly feel driven to do everything I can to make their lives a little better. Education will ensure that a child’s life takes a more positive path, but we must be able to support each and every child in this endeavor. No child should ever fail.
Julia Sleeper and friend, at the organization Sleeper founded,
Tree Street Youth.
Taryn Plumb is a ?Maine-based freelance writer who has written for a variety of publications, including daily and weekly newspapers, websites, trade and business journals, wedding, art and regional-themed magazines.