Two Maine Students Named 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the 59th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields.

The Maine scholars include (hometown, scholar, school, location):

  • ME – Falmouth – Patrick Michael Wahlig, Falmouth High School, Falmouth, Maine.
  • ME – Falmouth – Coco Leqi Xu, Falmouth High School, Falmouth, Maine.

“U.S. Presidential Scholars have always represented the future of our country and the bright promise it holds. I want each of these remarkable students to know: your passion and intellect, pursuit of excellence, and spirit of service are exactly what our country needs,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “On behalf of President Biden, I am delighted to join your family, friends, and communities in celebrating your accomplishments. Aim high, share your talents, and continue embracing opportunities to lead as your exciting future unfolds.”

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.

Of the 3.7 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 5,000 candidates qualified for the 2023 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or through nominations made by chief state school officers, other partner recognition organizations and YoungArts, the National Foundation for the Advancement of Artists.

As directed by Presidential Executive Order, the 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts and 20 scholars in career and technical education.

Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored over 8,000 of the nation’s top-performing students. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

The Presidential Scholars Class of 2023 will be recognized for their outstanding achievement this summer with an online recognition program.

A complete list of 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholars is available at

Family & Caregiver Effective Dispute Resolution Information Session

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) Office of Special Services and Inclusive Education and the Maine Parent Federation will host a Family & Caregiver Effective Dispute Resolution Information Session on May 9 from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm. The session will provide information about procedural safeguards, facilitated IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans), and dispute resolution options.

Date/Time: May 9 from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Location: Virtually via Zoom
Join the information session here – There is no need to register for this info session, just click the link at the time of the session.

For more information about the session, please contact Maine DOE Due Process Coordinator, Leigh Lardieri, at

Media Release: Maine Department of Education Awards $900,000 in RREV Funding to Support Education Innovation

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today awarded an additional $900,000 in Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures (RREV) funding to support education innovation at Rose M Gaffney Elementary School in Machias, Upper Kennebec Valley Jr/Sr High School, North Haven Community School, RSU 10 schools, Union 103 schools, and Trenton Elementary School. These federal funds will be used to invest in strategies to engage students through outdoor learning, extended learning opportunities, and creating multiple education pathways.

RREV investments now total $8.5 million to 45 awardees. The Maine DOE was awarded $16.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rethink K-12 Education Models Funding. As one of 11 States to receive funding, Maine created RREV to support the work of visionary educators to develop innovative pilot programs around remote and outside of the classroom learning, including professional development and pilot design classes. Courses in innovative design process are available through several of Maine’s public and private universities at no cost to Maine educators who wish to participate. In addition to the innovative pilot development classes, the Department is also offering asynchronous, innovative principles webinars which are available to all educators in self-paced, independent modules.

“We are going to be creating kits that teachers can grab and go and take to their outdoor learning space. The kits provide engaging activities to supplement classroom learning. Our goal is to increase the amount of outdoor learning happening at school so that we will see happier kids, kids who are more focused and engaged, and kids who appreciate and respect the environment around us. We’re eager to build a large collection of kits that will be fun and engaging,” said Rose M Gaffney Elementary School 5th Grade Teacher Kelly Woodward.

“Caring for honeybees has the potential to deepen our students’ connection with nature and drive their passion for making positive changes for their future and the future of our planet. It also has the potential to build a unique partnership with the community that will help build engagement. We believe that this pilot program, using an apiary and partnering with the Western Maine Beekeepers Association, will have a positive impact on attendance, engagement, and wellbeing for our 4th and 5th graders,” said RSU 10 teacher Maggie Corlett.

“We are using our RREV pilot to step up our programming on outdoor education, wildlife studies, and agricultural studies. We will use these funds to heat our greenhouse so that our egg studies can continue in the greenhouse year-round, we’re establishing a property use agreement with a local nonprofit ski mountain so that our outdoor studies class will have access to a satellite campus and 50 acres of wilderness to explore, and we will purchase boats and equipment for our wildlife studies program,” said Upper Kennebec Valley Jr/Sr High School Principal James Tyler.

“Our purpose was to spark innovation with our students and provide engaging and inspirational opportunities where they can take ownership of their learning. We built off a lot of programs we already have going and wanted to make them even more engaging and available to all of our students. Students will get to see a new greenhouse where they can watch their projects literally grow from seed to product and be able to work them into recipes in a kitchen and sell to their own community members. We will also have a trail built around the school where students can create products and have opportunities for community members to come and participate as part of the school,” said Jonesport-Beals High School Co-Teacher Leader & English Teacher Becky Coffin.

“We have a makerspace building on our school’s campus and we want to transform that into a lifelong learning hub for our k-12 students to use during the day and bring in adults from our community for classes at night. We have an hour and fifteen-minute ferry ride to get here so we have to do a lot for ourselves. We have to train and uplift from within at the grassroots level. Our RREV grant is going to support this lifelong learning hub to work with our town administration to diversify our workforce and help prepare young people and adults for the different kinds of work and professions that we need,” said North Haven Community School Principal Shaun Johnson.

“We named our initiative TREE—Trenton Rethinking Experiential Education—and it’s a k-8 initiative to get our kids outside learning in the community, not just on our school property. We want to think about how all of our students get their needs met want to increase independence, peer relationships, self-awareness, and kids overall mental health,” said Trenton Elementary School teacher Snow Ross.

Schools will use this funding in a variety of innovative ways, including:

  • Rose M Gaffney Elementary School in Machias will create and implement pre-k through 8th grade outdoor education lessons. These lessons will provide learners with the opportunity to use the trail system behind the school and materials to continue their classroom learning in an outdoor setting. The school’s team observed that academic work in an outdoor setting helped learners to be more engaged, happy and focused. By increasing the amount of outdoor learning, students will be supported in their social and emotional growth. RREV funding will be used to create kits with engaging activities for educators to use in an outdoor learning environment and the school will work alongside community partners such as Downeast Coastal Conservancy to implement the lessons.
  • Upper Kennebec Valley Jr/Sr High School will grow their innovative outdoor-based education program to increase student engagement and better prepare students for their lives after high school. By participating in the program, students will develop and exercise a host of skills including problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, marketing, salesmanship, and financial management. Valley Outdoors will partner with Baker Mountain, a community non-profit, to ensure all students in grades 5-12 have access to nature-based learning opportunities. Under the guidance of teaching staff, students will be able to use the base lodge and over 50 acres of trails and wooded land at Baker Mountain to engage in project-based learning activities. In addition, the school will scale up current greenhouse operations, expand hands-on project offerings, and develop water exploration and research activities for our wildlife studies program. The SAU anticipates 100% of the student body will be able to engage in at least one integrated unit of study.
  • North Haven Community School will partner with their town administration to support their efforts of economic diversification and workforce development, chiefly in response to the impending impacts of climate change and sea level rise on the long-term viability of the fishing and lobstering industry. In coordination with the community, North Haven Community School will develop programming to support lifelong learning outcomes for both K-12 and adult learners, housed in their auxiliary classroom space dubbed the “Projects Building.”
  • RSU 10 will pilot a program to support students struggling with adverse childhood experiences. The work will provide strategies to enhance engagement, improve attendance, foster resilience skills, and promote positive behaviors. Meroby Elementary and Mountain Valley Middle School will team up to develop and expand The MV Bee Academy in the RSU#10 School District. A bee apiary and storage facility will be built to provide the infrastructure needed for beekeeping experiences. 4th and 5th-grade students will work closely with a local bee club. As their knowledge base grows, these children will mentor other grade levels and share their knowledge with community members. To maintain the sustainability of this program, students will develop a small business. In it, they will sell queen bees, honey, wax products, and other bee-related items.
  • Union 103 schools will support creative opportunities and innovative practices for students and teachers at all of their schools. All students and staff will have access to a new greenhouse which will foster creativity and learning through aquaponics and aquaculture. With an outdoor lab, students will also take part in a space dedicated to learning in ways not yet offered inside the four walls of a classroom, such as a native pollinator garden, raised beds, and fruit trees. A new learning lab with access to a multipurpose classroom will provide a much-needed creative and innovative space for students. This space will provide students and teachers with flexibility to help spark creativity and experiential learning as they continue to foster initiatives throughout the year with involvement in marine science activities with Downeast Institute and author visits each year. All students will also have the opportunity to explore a new walking path and outdoor learning trail around Beals Elementary School.
  • Trenton Elementary School’s TREE-Trenton’s Rethinking Experiential Education is a K-8 initiative that embeds outdoor learning into a child’s school experience that increases independence, peer relationships, self-awareness, and overall mental health. The school will integrate therapeutic services, STEM based learning, and outdoor collaborative experiential learning into the student experiences. They will use field work and place-based learning in the living world in each child’s school day. Students will participate in engaging, outdoor experiences that will help them to build social connections and increase their self-esteem while reconnecting with our natural world. The aim is to increase student attendance, engagement, and self-regulatory skills.

The RREV initiative was also granted a no-cost-extension year, meaning that all 45 pilots will have an extra year to utilize their available funding for their innovative pilots.

For more information on RREV and the pilots, visit 

Interviews are available with RREV grant recipients upon request as well as the recording of the announcement featuring RREV grant recipients discussing their projects. 

Maine Students Selected for United States Senate Youth Program

Students Headed to Washington, D. C. and to Receive $10,000 Scholarship

The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) announces that high school students Ms. Natalie Barbara Emmerson and Mr. Shawn Jiminez will join Senator Susan M. Collins and Senator Angus S. King in representing Maine during the 61st annual USSYP Washington Week, to be held March 4 — 11, 2023. Natalie Emmerson of Woolwich and Shawn Jiminez of West Gardiner were selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104 national student delegation. Each delegate will also receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study.

The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962 and has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by The Hearst Foundations since inception. Originally proposed by Senators Kuchel, Mansfield, Dirksen and Humphrey, the Senate leadership of the day, the impetus for the program as stated in Senate testimony is “to increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, learn the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and emphasize the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world.”

Each year this extremely competitive merit-based program provides the most outstanding high school students – two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity – with an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service. In addition to the program week, The Hearst Foundations provide each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs. All expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; as stipulated in S.Res.324, no government funds are utilized.

Natalie Emmerson, a senior at Morse High School, serves as the student representative to the Regional School District 1 School Board. She also serves as the president/co-founder of Morse’s Women’s Empowerment Club, a member of National Honor Society and the Maine People’s Alliance, and was a former member of the Feminist Action Board (Hardy Girls Healthy Women). She has accumulated over 200 volunteer hours since freshman year through swimming, climbing, the Teen Library Council and more. She has received AP Scholar With Distinction, AP Capstone Certificate, Phi Beta Kappa Certificate of Recognition, Harvard Book Award, Language Certificate in French from the University of Maine at Augusta, and the Seal of Biliteracy in French. This summer she won delegate of the week for her town at Dirigo State and attended the Cohen Leadership Institute. She swims competitively and hopes to major in political science or government in college.

Shawn Jiminez, a senior at Gardiner Area High School, serves as the president of the Interact Club and has been appointed to several leadership positions throughout his high school years, including serving as the president of the Drama Club and the Maine Junior Classical League. Shawn was named the 2021 Young Maine Volunteer of the year, accumulating over 300 hours of community service. In addition, he was named a 2022 national quarterfinalist in the American Legion Oratorical Contest, the runner-up in the 2021 Maine State Voice of Democracy Contest, a QuestBridge National College Match scholar, a Horatio Alger State Scholar, a National College Board Rural and Small Town Scholar, and a National Coca-Cola Scholar semifinalist.

Chosen as alternates to the 2023 program were Mr. Ryan Hafener, a resident of Hampden, who attends Hampden Academy and Ms. Carolyne Sauda, a resident of Bangor, who attends Bangor High School.

Delegates and alternates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense Education Activity, after nomination by teachers and principals. The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection. This year’s Maine delegates and alternates were designated by Pender Makin, Commissioner of Education. During the program week, the student delegates will attend meetings and briefings with senators, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, and leaders of cabinet agencies, among others.

In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates rank academically in the top one percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 6,000 strong, alumni of the program continue to excel and develop impressive qualities that are often directed toward public service. Among the many distinguished alumni are: Senator Susan Collins, the first alumnus to be elected U.S. senator; Secretary of Transportation and former Mayor of South Bend Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, the first alumnus to be appointed as a cabinet secretary; former Senator Cory Gardner, the second alumnus to be elected U.S. senator and the first to be elected to the
U.S. House of Representatives; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first alumnus to be elected governor; former Chief Judge Robert Henry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; former Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, former presidential advisors Thomas “Mack” McLarty and Karl Rove. Additional notables include former Lt. Governor of Idaho David Leroy, Provost of Wake Forest University Rogan Kersh, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top congressional staff, healthcare providers and other university educators.

Members of the U. S. Senate Youth Program 2023 annual Senate Advisory Committee are: Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the 2023 USSYP Democratic Co-Chair and Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the 2023 USSYP Republican Co-Chair. The full USSYP Senate Advisory Committee consists of the vice president of the United States and the Senate majority and minority leaders who annually serve as the program’s Honorary Co-Chairs; two senators, one from each party, serving as acting Co-Chairs who each have keynote speaking roles, and an eight-member bipartisan senate panel, four senators from each party, who lend their names in support. Serving on the Advisory Committee for the upcoming program are: Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Senator Bill Cassidy, MD, of Louisiana, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Senator Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming.

For more information please visit:

Resources to Prevent Opioid Overdose in Maine Schools

As directed by the 130th Maine legislature the Department of Education created and collected guidelines and resources for schools who choose to stock emergency medication for a suspected opioid overdose on school grounds.  Naloxone is used in opioid overdoses to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system, allowing an overdose victim to breathe normally. Naloxone is a nonscheduled (i.e., non-addictive), prescription medication. Naloxone only works if a person has opioids in their system; the medication has no effect if opioids are absent. It can be administered by trained persons, which makes it ideal for treating a person experiencing an apparent opioid overdose during school or a school-sponsored activity or otherwise on school grounds. The Rule for Medication Administration in Schools [05-071, Ch. 40, Section 6 (last revised 5/11/2022)], outlines the requirements if a school administrative unit plans to stock naloxone. However, schools must consider including naloxone as only one strategy in combatting substance use disorder.

The Substance Use Among Young Adults Summary in Maine was recently released by Maine CDC and reported that in 2020, nearly one in three young adult Mainers qualified as having a substance use disorder: ranking Maine 3rd in the nation. Research suggests that the area of the brain responsible for decision-making does not fully mature until 25 years of age, making this population more vulnerable to risky and harmful behaviors. Now more than ever we must focus on upstream primary prevention efforts before negative health outcomes occur. Prevention programs within schools can be part of comprehensive health education and social-emotional learning.

Health education can assist students to be better consumers of information, manage the complex world around them and be more inclusive of others. Through an effective skills-based health education curriculum, students will practice skills that protect, promote, and enhance lifelong health. Similarly improving foundational social emotional skills such as self-awareness, self- regulation, social awareness (empathy, compassion & respect for self and others), relationships and critical thinking skill development can be applied to address risk factors for substance abuse. These educational programs can complement a Substance Use Policy within a school administrative unit along with distributing naloxone and educating people about how to prevent, recognize and intervene in overdoses to prevent deaths.


Other Resources:

Contact the Office of School and Student Supports at with questions.