Unsung Hero: Jess Abramson of Falmouth, working for equality
FALMOUTH — “Maine voters rejected the same-sex marriage law in 2009,” Jess Abramson recalled, “so when the issue came up again in 2012, I decided to jump aboard and volunteer for the Yes On One campaign.”
"Jump aboard" this Falmouth teenager definitely did, in spite of her initial misgivings.
“I’m a quiet person, and I didn’t want to go around knocking on doors,” she said.
But Abramson soon overcame her shyness, and began to enjoy engaging people about the same-sex marriage issue.
“Talking on the phone was another hurdle,” she said, “because I don’t like talking on the phone.” Again, she overcame the challenge, and more.
Abramson spent 200 hours volunteering for Equality Maine in the fall of 2012. In addition to knocking on doors and making phone calls, she recruited, organized and trained other volunteers.
The efforts of Jess and other volunteers paid off when the marriage equality law won. “I was so happy,” Abramson said, “and so relieved.”
But she wasn’t finished.
From January 2013 to June 2013 she volunteered as a field intern for Equality Maine in an effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. In addition to collecting signed postcards to send to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Abramson collected personal stories of the positive effects of marriage equality from couples who got married or parents whose children had married. The Supreme Court ultimately overturned DOMA.
Ian Grady, a representative of Equality Maine, said, “Jess was constantly asking, ‘What can I do?’ and ‘How can I help?’ She became a real leader and impressed us all so much.”
But Abramson still wasn’t finished.
Last summer, she again supported Equality Maine by joining a committee designed to develop training for middle and high school teachers about how to prevent and address anti-LGBT bullying. The effort stemmed from an anti-bullying law passed by the Legislature, which required all public schools to incorporate some kind of anti-bullying education.
“I was assigned the role of bringing the youth voice to the training to add emotional appeal and make the stories of LGBT youth being bullied in schools credible and real," Abramson said. "I contacted over 70 youth from around the state asking for bullying stories or names of other youth I could contact. I then selected and videotaped six LGBT youth describing their experiences of being bullied in school. I then made a short video, which is used as part of the training.”
Ever willing to stretch herself, Abramson bypassed her senior year at Falmouth High School to enroll in the United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico.
UWC-USA is one of 12 UWC campuses on five continents. The two-year residential school serves students age 16-19 who from more than 70 countries. All students earn the International Baccalaureate Diploma by completing six subjects in six different academic disciplines.
After earning her diploma, Abramson plans to attend a New England liberal arts college. She’s uncertain about a possible major. “I’m passionate about a lot of different things," she said. "Social justice, science, math and telling stories.”
One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org.