County Faces: Sarah Brooks of Nashville Plantation
Whether she is tending to horses on her farm in Nashville Plantation, helping students prepare for college or leading a trip to Quebec City, Sarah Brooks has most enjoyed using her passions for the outdoors, education and history to give back to the Aroostook County communities that raised her.
“I’ve always asked students, ‘Are you an indoors or outdoors person?’” Brooks said. “That question is a good way to decide what career you’d like to have.”
Brooks’ career has taken her both inside and outside the classroom, though she has always considered herself an “outdoors person.” She spent 33 years teaching high school math, social studies and photography at Ashland District School and was a Future Farmers of America coach and Youth and Government program advisor. Her students often won awards at national FFA conventions and Youth and Government Delegations in Augusta.
Since retiring from teaching in 2010, Brooks has served as a TRiO College Access adviser for Upward Bound, a program based at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. She works with high school students in Ashland, Washburn and Fort Fairfield to help them prepare for college. Many of the students hope to become the first generation of their families to attend college.
“It’s a good extension of my teaching career,” Brooks said, about Upward Bound. “I enjoy seeing students succeed, especially when they come back and talk about how school made a difference in their lives.”
Brooks has made community involvement an active part of her life, as a past member of the Ashland Rotary Club and board member for the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce as well as a founding member of the Portage Historical Society. She has volunteered at Presque Isle Historical Society events and has also been part of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Company F Civil War Reenactors.
Brooks’ family has their own unique history in central Aroostook County. Her parents, Sylvia and Charles Brooks, were well known in the community as a schoolteacher and businessman, respectively. Charles Brooks owned various businesses throughout his life, including a grocery store in Ashland, a string of drive-in movie theaters and the Fort Kent Telephone Company. He was also part-owner of the Braden Theater in Presque Isle after its first opening in 1950 and a member of the Mooseleuk Club, a group of businessmen, farmers and horsemen who became known for their racehorse, John R. Braden.
But perhaps the story Brooks most remembers about her father is one he told her in which he saved the life of someone who had been in a car accident while travelling on Route 11 between Fort Kent and Ashland.
“One of the two people in the car was already deceased but the other was unconscious and had hypothermia,” Brooks said. “My father had this ankle-length racoon coat and he wrapped it around the person, which saved their life.”
Through the years Brooks has also learned that her mother had been married once before her marriage to Charles Brooks. After her first husband was killed in a car accident, Sylvia Brooks ran his lumber mill business during the 1930s.
“She took a lot of pride in being able to run the business successfully,” Brooks said. “She could operate a chainsaw, a cross-cut saw, any type of machinery she needed to use.”
Preserving the personal histories of Aroostook County and surrounding regions has always been a passion of Brooks’. She is vice president of the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races, held every winter in Fort Kent, and helped revive the Maine-Quebec Winter Caravan in 2002 through the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce. Every February Brooks is part of a group that travels through 180 miles of private logging roads from Portage to Quebec City for the city’s annual Winter Carnival.
The caravan originally began in 1957, with Brooks’ father as one of the founding members, but discontinued in 1968. Brooks considers the trip to be one of many ways to connect the people of Aroostook County with the culture and histories of their nearby Canadian neighbors.
“It’s like we’re extending hands across the border in friendship,” Brooks said.