County students to benefit from Aroostook Aspirations Initiative

Thanks to the Fiddlehead Focus for sharing this information with the Maine DOE for publication.

AROOSTOOK COUNTY - A first-of-its-kind, County-wide project will provide significant opportunities for young people in the region to pursue their dreams, and, in turn, support higher education institutions and bolster economic development efforts in northern Maine.

The Aroostook Aspirations Initiative was publically launched this spring at the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library in Presque Isle, by project co-founders Raynold and Sandra Gauvin of Mapleton. The Gauvins were joined for the announcement by Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, members of the newly formed Aroostook Aspirations Initiative Board of Directors and more than 50 community, business and education leaders from throughout the region.

The effort involves five components all aimed at encouraging, supporting and motivating young people to pursue higher education opportunities in Aroostook County. The first is the Gauvin County Scholarship, which, beginning in the fall of 2014, will initially award a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating senior at each of the 16 high schools in Aroostook County.

“We love The County that has given so much to us and our children. We want to help grow our economic base and support our own so that more of our youth can enjoy the quality of life we treasure,” said Sandy Gauvin. “We’ve also had a soft spot in our hearts for young people and education over the years. We have worked hard to help kids go on to get a post-secondary education because we believe that a person has a right to make a happy, successful life for themselves and their families. Ray and I realize that ‘education is the great equalizer,’ and that given fair opportunity and access to higher education, the future will be brighter for the young people of The County.”

Priority awarding of the Gauvin County Scholarships across Aroostook will be to disadvantaged students – those who represent the first generation in their family to attend college and those who are economically disadvantaged. Recipients will be students who have chosen to attend one of the four colleges in northern Maine – Northern Maine Community College (NMCC), University of Maine at Fort Kent, University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI) and Husson University’s Presque Isle site on the NMCC campus.

Among the four other components of the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative is an aspirational weekend for scholarship recipients that will explore areas such as funding, money management, leadership skills and dealing with college issues. Gauvin County Scholars will also be offered internship opportunities with County businesses and organizations. Later in their college careers, the scholars will meet with successful area entrepreneurs and talk about what it takes to be a successful leader in northern Maine.

“What is particularly exciting about this venture is the collaboration with the business community. To see the impetus for this project reside in the private sector and extend to the public secondary schools and the colleges and universities here in Aroostook County is an example of what we need to see more of in our state,” said Commissioner Bowen. “It is also very impressive to hear the vision of the founders of this initiative is one which is equally designed to serve as an engine for economic growth and development. The concept of paying it forward that Ray, Sandy and all of you who have come together to launch this initiative have embraced will make a difference and help grow northern Maine’s economy.”

That message was echoed by County business and education leaders gathered for the announcement. The Aroostook Aspirations Initiative has already signed on more than a dozen of the region’s key businesses as strategic partners.

“The Aroostook Aspirations Initiative is supported by MMG because we see it as critical to our efforts to attract and retain our future workforce. This initiative will help with our ongoing efforts to ensure we have the most talented team of professionals in the business doing business here locally,” said Larry Shaw, president and CEO of MMG Insurance. “We are particularly excited that this initiative not only focuses on providing financial assistance in the form of scholarships, but that it truly supports young people in terms of providing them with the support structure and tools to thrive.”

Shaw is among an impressive list of leaders from across Maine on the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative Honorary Board. Others include the James Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System; John Fitzsimmons, President of the Maine Community College System; Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce; Durward Huffman and Jim Patterson, both former Presidents of NMCC; Laurie Lachance, President of Thomas College; Don Zillman, former President of UMPI; and Meg Baxter, President and CEO of the Mitchell Institute.

For more information on the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative, visit their website, email info@gauvinfund.org, call 207-764-0876 or follow them on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AAIGauvinFund.

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