Class of 2017: Mission work inspires Morse High School senior

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BATH — Driven by a desire to volunteer, Morse High School senior Maddie Hodgdon traveled to Guatemala recently on a mission trip to serve more than 120 other youths.

Her desire to learn more about other people has led Hodgdon to pursue the subject of human ecology after she graduates next month and enrolls at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.

“It’s a study of how we as humans relate to the Earth around us,” Hodgdon said in an interview May 5. “It’s kind of similar to a liberal arts degree, but it’s a little bit more science-based.”

Communications and community planning will be among areas of study for Hodgdon, who plans to join the Peace Corps afterward.

Her journey to Guatemala was her first mission trip, and she plans to embark on a second next month through the Praying Pelican Missions program. The organization has sent more than 12,000 missionaries to more than 200 communities around the world, according to

“You get a group together, and they set you up down there,” said Hodgdon, who attends the Woolwich-Wiscasset Baptist Church. “You’re matched with locals who know the area and can keep you safe.”

Guatamala was a place the Woolwich youth had always wanted to visit, although she could never pinpoint exactly why, and knew little about the country.

“I just had that feeling that I wanted to go,” said Hodgdon, whose father – who works at the church – offered his services in facilitating the trip. She organized a local group of missionaries to attend, and led fundraising efforts to make the goal become reality.

She called being in Guatemala for the first time “incredible.”

“It for sure is so much different down there,” explained Hodgdon, who was moved by the depth of poverty she witnessed, and the rigors the residents have experienced.

“We did some food distribution to the people,” she recalled. “They would come, and we would talk to them and hear their story, and we would get the chance to give them a bag of food. It was really crazy, some of the things that the people have gone through.”

One woman, struggling to afford school for her young daughter, had recently lost her husband when he was shot by gang members outside his door, Hodgdon was told.

“She couldn’t make ends meet, so the food meant so much to her,” the teenager said. “… We think we have it bad up here, but we have no problems compared to them. It’s incredible what they have to go through, and will go through, for their kids.”

Now about to graduate – at a ceremony to take place at Morse at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 11 – Hodgdon thought back to what advice she’d offer her freshman self upon arriving at the 826 High St. school for the first time.

“I would probably say, just to go for challenging things, because I know when I was a freshman, I didn’t want to take (Advanced Placement) classes, or college classes,” she said. “I didn’t want to take a club that none of my friends were in.”

But she recommends that students be bold, and try new things, to “get as much out of high school as you can.”

Still, Hodgdon did end up taking her own advice. As her guidance counselor, Amber McGowan, wrote in her letter of recommendation for Hodgdon, the teen took AP courses after spending freshman year as a home-schooled student, as well as early college courses through Southern Maine Community College.

Her involvements also include the National Honor Society and Student Community Liaison Committee, and she has also served as her class’ vice president and with the Morse Dream Team.

“To capture the true essence of Madison Hodgdon, I cannot simply define her as a model student; rather, Madison is a model human being,” McGowan wrote. “She exemplifies to give and not just receive, an unusual and refreshing creature in today’s world of immediate gratification.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Maddie Hodgdon, who graduates next month from Morse High School in Bath, will return to Guatemala for a second mission trip.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.