2017-07-28 / Front Page

KHS student makes ‘ones to watch’ list

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Madeline Leavy-Rosen, 16, of Kennebunk, an upcoming senior at Kennebunk High School, named this past week to a list of “50 High School Students You Need to Know About,” compiled by Mogul. (Elizabeth Elkington courtesy photo) Madeline Leavy-Rosen, 16, of Kennebunk, an upcoming senior at Kennebunk High School, named this past week to a list of “50 High School Students You Need to Know About,” compiled by Mogul. (Elizabeth Elkington courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK — When women’s empowerment platform Mogul went looking for the 50 most phenomenal high school students to spotlight on its first “ones to watch” list, it found just five in all of New England, but one of those amazing young ladies lives right here in Kennebunk.

Madeline Leavy-Rosen, 16, will begin her senior year at Kennebunk High School in the fall, and she lands at No. 19 on the Mogul list, released July 19, of “50 high school students you need to know about.”

“This is a great website I’ve followed for a while that gives recognition to all of these really amazing influential women, and now I’m on it. That’s just so insane to me,” Leavy-Rosen said on Monday. “To think that all of the things that I’ve been doing and talking about at my school have maybe gotten somewhere, that people are kind of starting to look at the work that I’m trying to do within my community, that amazes me, because I’ve never done anything to try and gain personal recognition. I’m still in shock, I guess.”

So far, Leavy-Rosen says she’s only told a few friends about the recognition, mostly limited to co-workers who were with her at Saxony Imports in Kennebunkport when the call came in, telling her she’d been placed among a group of high-achievers she wasn’t even aware she’d been nominated to.

“I’m scared to make it seem like I’m bragging about something, even though this is something I’m super proud of. But at the same time, I really want to tell everyone because, personally, I think this is really, really cool,” she said.

Founded in 2014, Mogul encourages its female audience to share ideas, solicit advice, and interact with each other in ways meant to “inspire all women to realize that they too can be moguls, and that they have the power to shape the world through their voices and actions.” The site, which claims a worldwide audience of 18 million in 196 countries, was named a “top site for marketing your company online” by Forbes magazine in 2014, “best website for finding top talent” in 2014 and “top platform for finding a mentor” in 2016 by Inc. magazine, and a “top NYC startup to watch” and “top online learning platform” by Entrepreneur magazine in 2015

Mogul acknowledged that its Top 50 high schoolers list “in no way covers all the amazing students out there. However,” it said, “[these] individuals are definitely ones to watch” and “should be on your radar.”

The list features high school girls from 15 states, as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Perhaps unsurprisingly given Mogul’s history and purpose, most of those profiled (13) hail from New York, and predominately New York City, with other sizable contingents in California (8), Florida (5), and New Jersey (4). Three of the five New England representatives are from Connecticut.

In its write-up on Leavy-Rosen, Mogul says, “Madeline is profoundly compassionate and committed to social justice for all. She believes all people should always be treated with respect, equality, and compassion. She has devoted her energy during high school to social justice issues. She is a highly active member of several after school clubs including GSTA, civil rights, intersectional feminism, and an environmental groups. Most recently, Madeline and her closest friends in the GSTA [Gay-Straight-Trans Alliance] wanted their high school to raise a Pride Flag. Through enormous efforts, the flag was raised and history was made, as this was the first pride flag raised at any school in the state of Maine.”

“Ever since Madeline was a very young child, her kindness towards others has been remarkable,” said Leavy-Rosen’s mom, Dr. Patricia Leavy, via email Monday. “ She’s always been the kind of kid who would do anything for her friends and to make other people feel happy. She would sooner give away all of her toys to her friends just to see them happy, even as a toddler.”

In her determination to ensure equality and fairness for all, Leavy-Rosen has has often been fearless. Her mother remembers when, years ago, Leavy-Rosen witness a boy being bullied on a school bus. Though the bully was older and larger than herself, Leavy-Rosen did not hesitate to throw herself into the confrontation.

“She thinks of what is right before she thinks of herself,” Leavy said. “ As a mother, I’m proud to know that I raised a genuinely good person. I can’t imagine what more any parent could want. Madeline is the most compassionate and exceptional person I know. Compassion fosters intolerance for all forms of inequality and I was not surprised watching Madeline grow up to see her concern and kindness toward those in her own life turn outward to those within her own community, as well as the larger community of Kennebunk.”

Originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Leavy and her husband Mark Robins, vice president and general counsel at local computer softeware company COMSOL, moved to Kennebunk five years ago, after vacationing in the area and falling “in love with the Kennebunks.”

“We spent one summer down here as a family and that was it, we knew we would eventually move,” she said.

Leavy is a remarkable woman in her own right. With a 2002 doctorate in sociology from Boston College, she went on to become founding director of the gender studies program and the chair of the sociology and criminology department at Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass. With the move to Kennebunk she left academia to focus fulltime on independent research and writing, becoming a best-selling author with more than 20 books to her credit.

In 2016, those books on arts-based and qualitative research resulted in Leavy being named to Mogul’s list of notable “influencers” alongside Chelsea Clinton, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, musician Melissa Etheridge, and fashion journalist Nina Garcia, among others.

That got Leavy on Mogul’s mailing list, and when the call for nominations to the Top High Schoolers list went out, she did not hesitate, although she did not tell her daughter at first what she had done.

“As deserving as Madeline is, certainly there are countless other teenagers who are equally deserving, so I had no expectations that she would make the list,” Leavy said. “I was just happy to nominate her. I wanted her to know how proud I am of her and how much I believe in her and respect her, and that’s really why I nominated her. Actually making the list was a glorious shock for all of us and the icing on the cake.”

No advance word was given on the results, and Leavy said she only knew when she read the post online. She instantly called her daughter at work.

“I have never been so surprised before,” Leavy-Rosen recalled. “When she said she had something to tell me, I don’t know what I thought it was going to be. And then when she told me, I just started crying. It was just a really incredible moment.”

Leavy-Rosen credits her mom and extended family with the Mogul recognition.

“I think they’re a lot of the reason I made this list, social justice and equality are things that have been drilled into me that all people deserve to be treated with respect. My family brought me up that way,” she said. “I think that for the rest of my life will always be interested in social justice, and working with minority groups that have been treated unfairly. When I hear about something that leaves people feeling left out, whether its someone from the LGBT community, or because of race, or economics, that makes me upset and I want to do something about it. I feel that we are all the same. We all have the same blood and bones. We’re all the same species. At that end of the day, that’s what it all comes down to. Nobody should be treated like anything buy people, ever. I don’t think I will ever stop until everybody is truly treated equal.”

To that end, Leavy-Rosen says when she returns to school in the fall, her first fight will be to get the pride flag, which quickly came down, returned to its place atop the KHS flagpole. It represents not just rights for LGBT students she said, but a dedication to equality for all people, of all genders, religions, and orientations, at school and across the wider community. She also expects to organize a series of beach clean-up drives before first bell in the fall.

“What I think distinguishes Madeline is her drive to right wrongs,” Leavy said. “It is one thing to talk about that which is unfair and it is another thing to devote your time and energy to correcting those wrongs. When it comes to an issue of social justice, Madeline never backs down and is willing to do whatever it takes to create a better and more just environment. I’m proud that she is willing to hear other people out and work with others, including peers, teachers, administrators, and other community members, in order to create positive change. I’m also proud that she will stand up for groups of which she is not a part just as easily as she will stand up for a group that she is a part of. To me that shows her true character.”

Leavy-Rosen, who has “a real passion” for writing and does it daily almost t compulsively, says he has an interest in journalism, but her long-term goal is to become a high school English teacher.

“I have always really wondered how I can use my love of writing to influence other people,” she says. “I really like bringing about new ideas of thought for people. That may be way I’m in so many social justice clubs. But English has always been my favorite class. And my English teachers have always been my favorite teachers. So, I hope maybe one day someone can look to me and say I’m the reason they enjoy reading, or the reason they decided to get involved in something.

“I’d want to work with high schoolers because that’s where it all happens, I think. Young adults, as they are becoming adults, they are the upcoming generation that is going to bring about change in the world. So, that’s why I definitely want to major in secondary education,” she said.

“I see Madeline as a role model,” Leavy said. “I hope in receiving this recognition others will look to her as an example of how we should treat one another and how valuable teenagers are. Teenagers often and get a bad rap for being apathetic and so forth, but Madeline and many of her friends are shining examples of highly engaged and thoughtful members of our community that are pushing the envelope forward. They are forcing us to be better.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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