FRENCHVILLE, Maine — As her girls grew up, Stacy Paradis always made education a No. 1 priority, often serving as a role model.
In the coming weeks Paradis and her two daughters — Samantha, 21, and Sarah, 18, will be recognized for their hard work and dedication to learning when each graduates with high honors from three different schools.
Samantha Paradis will march first on Saturday, May 5, when she receives her baccalaureate degrees in nursing and psychology summa cum laude from the University of Maine.
The next weekend Stacy Paradis graduates magna cum laude with a degree in rural public safety from the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
On June 9 Sarah Paradis graduates as the honor essayist from Wisdom High School in St. Agatha.
“Education has always been important in our family,” Stacy Paradis said. “We have always made it the first priority [and] both my husband and I have been very active advocating for the kids’ educations.”
So dedicated to learning was Stacy Paradis that when Samantha enrolled in early college credit courses at Wisdom, she joined the same class, a move that was not immediately met with enthusiasm by the younger Paradis.
“I was a little bit embarrassed to have my mom in the same classroom,” Samantha recalled with a laugh. “But it ended up being fun.”
Today Samantha Paradis is quick to call her mother “a role model,” adding that her graduating magna cum laude from UMFK comes as no surprise.
“I feel like we all work really hard at school,” Samantha Paradis said. “We always strive for excellence.”
For Stacy Paradis, earning the degree meant overcoming challenges associated with advanced arthritis.
“I ended up doing most of my classes online from home,” she said. “That made it a bit harder, but I really like to learn [and] my mind is good but my body sometimes does not cooperate and I have to adjust.”
In fact, Stacy Paradis enjoys learning so much she accumulated enough credits to graduate with a dual degree, but did not file the proper paperwork in time to officially get her bachelor’s degree in behavioral science.
She also took a real hands-on approach to her academic career by working as a research assistant for Tony Enerva, UMFK assistant professor of public safety administration and criminal justice.
“I follow a module-based curriculum for all my online classes [and] the books and everything are online,” Enerva said. “Stacy would call up the periodicals and other resources to make sure they were accessible and on target.”
So impressed is Enerva with all the Paradis scholars he already has hired Sarah Paradis as his research assistant, starting this summer.
“I would not normally hire a freshman as a research assistant,” Enerva said. “But Stacy put it to me I’d be getting two for one because she would work to train and help Sarah.”
As much bragging rights as she has at this point, Stacy Paradis would much rather talk about the accomplishments of her daughters.
“I am so proud of each of them and could not have asked for more,” she said. “Sam is outstanding and is in five different honors societies at [University of Maine] and she’s worked extra hard while keeping a part-time job.”
As for her youngest, Stacy Paradis finds it hard some days to keep up. For example, scheduling an interview with the Wisdom High senior was tricky, as the soon-to-be graduate now is juggling schoolwork, sports and a part-time job.
That dedication to academics and career left its mark at Wisdom.
“As principal, I have had the pleasure of knowing both Paradis girls,” said Tammy LeBlanc, principal at Wisdom High School. “Besides their notable overachieving work ethics and academic successes, these young ladies were wonderful assets to our high school campus.”
Stacy Paradis said, “Sarah works really hard and has earned what she has. I’ve raised both girls to look at school as a priority and then work and that things will come to those who work hard and deserve them.”
Sarah Paradis agrees.
“It’s not been easy [and] I’ve had to work hard,” she said during a break at a softball game this week. “But I come from a pretty smart family that has taught me what does not come easily has to be worked at.”
Enerva said the success of all three Paradises could be traced back to the family values found in that home.
“Stacy spends a lot of time with her children,” he said. “It makes a big difference when the parents are involved in their child’s education.”
All three Paradis women have found themselves in health-based fields — Stacy started her career in nursing and each daughter is a certified nursing assistant.
After their graduations Samantha will participate in a summer internship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota before starting a nursing clinical program at Maine Medical Center in Portland this fall. Sarah will enter the nursing program at UMFK after traveling this summer to Kansas City to compete in a national nursing skills competition after earning a top spot in a state contest.
“It’s going to be a busy summer for us,” Sarah said with a laugh.
“Taking college courses in high school gave me a chance to move toward something I knew I wanted,” Samantha Paradis said. “And I should be studying for finals this week but instead I’m looking at grad schools.”
Looking down the road to her own future, Stacy Paradis said she is considering graduate school and working toward a degree to help her work in the area of advocacy for children or the disabled.
Stacy Paradis has remained involved in her daughters’ education, largely through helping out with editing academic papers or drawing on her nursing experiences, when needed.
“Some kids leave home and call every two weeks,” she said. “Sam and I talk two or three times a day, and she’ll ask me questions about nursing.”
Samantha Paradis said she values her mother’s help and advice, adding, “I’m not sure what I do for her.”
In her four years at the University of Maine, Samantha Paradis has racked up an impressive resume that includes numerous national and state scholastic honors, multiple community service projects and an impressive list of leadership roles she has taken on campus.
Her nursing experiences include work at Acadia Hospital’s adolescent girls unit; working in the medical-surgical unit, the pediatrics unit and the maternity unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center; working at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Bangor, Highview Manor in Madawaska and St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Frenchville.
As her sister will this fall when she starts at UMFK, Samantha Paradis entered UMaine with 24 credits accumulated thanks to early college course offerings at Wisdom.
All three also are quick to note the contributions of husband and father Patrick Paradis.
“He has always been so supportive [and] is a very, very good man,” Stacy Paradis said.
“I’m proud of my mom and proud of my sister,” Sarah Paradis said. “It’s really great accomplishments for all of us.”