On Saturday, Friends of the Homer Public Library celebrated the annual Lifelong Learner event. This year’s award went to Samantha Cunningham. The Youth Learner Award went to Thea Person.
The goal of the celebration is to find and acknowledge local individuals who intentionally seek challenges and opportunities throughout the adventures of life.
Attendees at the event received appetizers from Red Bird Kitchen served by Homer high School students. The event also featured an opening reception of music from the Spit City Slickers, a Trivia Tree contest with host Kathleen Gustufson, silent auction with items available to browse, a live-action role-playing (LARP) introduction and demonstration with Homer youth, and finally, the presentation of awards.
Michelle Borland introduced Person to front of the room to receive her award and present an acceptance speech.
“Thea is a person who is authentically engaged in her education. She’s not just looking for the answers to a test or in completing homework, is genuinely interested in the subject matters in our classes and I really appreciate that,” Borland said. “She gives thorough consideration to how politics and government affect people and the communities we live in.”
Person accepted her award with thanks and casual commentary.
“What learning means to me is something that I’m still learning. But I think I know why I learn, what drives me to learn and why I enjoy it. It’s because in a community like Homer it’s kind of impossible not to.
“In this community for every kid who wants to learn something there are a hundred artists and professionals and teachers who want to pass on their skills. And my peers and I are all lifelong learners because in a place like this, it’s kind of impossible not to be,” she said.
The event also featured poetry recitations from Homer High School students and music with the Homer High School Swing choir. Andy Haas also provided information on BOB the Bookmobile.
Kate Meyer introduced Lifelong Learner Samantha Cunningham, focusing on her substantial training hours in first-aid instruction for all age ranges and group capacities of Homer regional residents.
She also spoke of Cunningham’s contribution to creating LARP opportunities for youth. Serving as a mentor, teacher and role model, Cunningham is an active LARP character herself.
She also invested in firefighter training at the age of 52, a fact that received substantial audience applause.
Meyer said Cunningham is also “a self-taught master in quilting, gardening, disaster response drills, farming, butchering and cooking.”
“She has taught herself to be an adventurous culinarian, often using ingredients she has raised on her own farm. The list does not stop; she has her own drive for excellence.”
The event program provided additional information.
“Samantha has dedicated decades to serving her community as a volunteer Paramedic and CPR/ First Aid Instructor to thousands of people in the Homer area,” the program said. “She was a mentor for young adults as a host for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms for 26 years and invested her time and energy in local youth as a founder of the IceFire Bay Live Action Role Play group. Though she didn’t attend formal school until high school, Samantha became a voracious reader at an early age. Samantha continues her quest for knowledge by taking on new challenges, including Fire Fighter I training and sharing her ever expanding life-saving and life-changing expertise.”
Cunningham finished the evening presentation with some of her own stories.
Living in Homer, she said, is an “amazing” experience.
“When I moved here it very much felt like I was coming home.”
Born in Vermont, Cunningham said that in the early ‘70s her folks packed up everything they owned into a Ford pickup, headed to the border and drove all the way up to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia — the end of the road.
“And that should sound familiar to us here!,” she said. “My family set about doing homesteading stuff!”
Dessert for the event was later provided by Red Bird Kitchen.
Friends of the Homer Public Library created the opportunity for the Lifelong Learner award in 2009. The first recipient was Daisy Lee Bitter. The youth learner award was added to the local achievement in 2011.
Emilie Springer can be reached at email@example.com.