Earlier this month I took pictures of a group of students from Scarborough High School at Pine Point Beach doing a charity polar dip. That’s where I met Jeff Poulin, who is the New England district governor of Key Club, the oldest and largest student-led community service organization in the US. Chatting with him this morning at The Freaky Bean before he headed off to class, I found that Jeff’s interest in community service has been an outgrowth of his father’s work with the Kiwanis. His dad used to take him to Kiwanis meetings when he was little. Jeff joined the Key Club as a freshman and says, only half-jokingly, “It has consumed my life.” His action-packed term as governor is coming to an end in April. He has spent the school year traveling to chapters around New England, has visited Dallas, Chicago, and Orlando, and has an upcoming trip to Bermuda, which is also part of his district.
Jeff developed a five-year strategic plan for the organization. His goal for this year was to grow the membership by 10%. So far, they’ve chartered 12 new clubs. He has overseen the Key Club’s ongoing district projects, raising money for Camp Sunshine in Casco, ME, the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Institute in Boston, MA, and Children of Peace International in Denver, CO. As if this wasn’t enough, Jeff has also served as president of the student council. He spearheaded the effort to get two youth delegates to serve on the Scarborough School Board. He says, “We needed a voice. It shouldn’t just be adults, some of whom may not even have children, who make decisions about us.”
Although he is dedicated to community service, Jeff is passionate about the performing arts. An accomplished tap dancer, he toured with a group called Dancers Inc., and won the title “Mr. Dance of a New Generation.” He has dreams of dancing on Broadway someday, but he has plans to attend a college that has both performing arts and entertainment business programs. His long-term goal is to fuse working with non-profit groups to his love of the arts. He is already on his way to accomplishing it. As a teacher at a local dance studio, he was approached three years ago by one of his students, a nine year-old girl. Her mother had had recurring bouts with cancer, and this young girl told him that she wanted to “fight back against cancer.” Jeff contacted the girl’s mother, and they collaborated to put on a fundraising variety show called “Perform for A Cure.” Now in its third year, the show, in which all the performers are under the age of 21, will be held on March 16th at Scarborough High School. Proceeds go to the American Cancer Society and to the Cancer Community Center in South Portland.Jeff has a long list of accolades, but he says working with children is his greatest reward. “When the Key Club brought teddy bears to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, and I saw the smile on a little girl’s face, I knew for sure we were doing something good. Nothing else compares to what we do for children.” As he writes his farewell address as district governor, Jeff looks forward to summer nights spent with friends on Ferry Beach. “That’s my release,” he says.