ORONO, Maine — A year ago, Stacey Gomm, 21, of Brewer had never thought about running for office.
“Now, it’s on my 20-year plan,” she said Wednesday.
It was attending the University of Maine’s NEW Leadership, a summer program for college women interested in careers in politics and public service, last June that convinced her to throw her hat into the political ring, eventually.
Gomm, a fourth-year student majoring in civil engineering, and Amber Hathaway, 20, of Veazie spoke Wednesday about the impact the free, weeklong program has had on them during a press conference at UMaine’s Buchanan Alumni House.
Owen Smith, regional vice president for AT&T in South Portland, announced at the press conference his firm’s $10,000 donation to the program.
“We are excited to be supporting the great work being done [by] the Maine NEW Leadership program,” he said. “We hope our support will help make this year the most successful and inspiring in the program’s history.”
Maine NEW Leadership is part of a national network that started at Rutgers University. The Maine program, co-sponsored by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and University of Maine Cooperative Extension, has been in place since 2008.
“Maine has a proud tradition of women in leadership roles, and this program is helping set the stage for those who will follow in those footsteps,” said Mary Cathcart, a former legislator who is now a senior policy fellow at UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and co-director of Maine NEW Leadership.
“AT&T’s support, which is much appreciated, will be instrumental in helping us meet the high expectations of those students who will participate in Maine NEW Leadership for years to come,” she said.
A six-day residential June event, the program brings a group of Maine college women — from two-year and four-year public and private institutions throughout Maine — to the university and other locations, including the State House, for intensive programming related to public policy, politics and leadership, according to Cathcart.
The cost per attendee is about $2,500 and donations such as the one from AT&T allow undergraduate women to attend without cost to themselves, she said.
Although Hathaway, who expects to graduate in 2012 with a degree in math and women’s studies, did not announce Wednesday her intent to run for office, she said the program has helped her become a better public speaker and allowed her to network with women involved in politics and business.
“It was very inspiring,” she said of the weeklong session. “It reminded me that I can make a difference. I encourage collegiate women in Maine who are interested in making a difference in the world to attend.”
The 2011 program is scheduled for June 2-7. The registration deadline is March 17. For more information, visit http://mcspolicycenter.umaine.edu/?q=NEWLeadership.