FORT KENT, Maine — In a scholarly one-good-turn-deserves-another move, Aroostook County’s four institutions of higher learning on Friday announced a one-to-one match with a community-based scholarship program.
Ray and Sandy Gauvin announced the Gauvin Scholarship for county high school seniors last year. The initiative will award the first one-time $1,000 scholarships this spring to one senior from each of the county’s 16 high schools attending any one of the following: the University of Maine at Fort Kent, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle or Husson University’s county campus in Presque Isle.
On Friday, the Gauvins and representatives of the four institutions announced that the scholarship will be matched by each campus in the second year of the recipient’s university program.
The scholarships are part of the Gauvins’ Aroostook Aspirations Initiative aimed at promoting the connection between county education and county community development.
“As Ray and I travel all over the state speaking with hundreds of businesses, we are continually awed by the constant support of the initiative,” Sandy Gauvin said as she announced the scholarship match during a press conference at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
It’s up to each of the four campuses how they will award their $1,000 match, Gauvin said. Tuition waivers, stipends or credits for textbooks are some options, she added.
“By extending the scholarship for another year, the students will gain added access to financial support,” she said. “That will sustain their being able to attain a postsecondary education in Aroostook County.”
Gauvin noted there is often more financial aid available to first year students, leaving them struggling the following years as they pursue academic degrees.
Aroostook Aspirations was ready to award the first 16 $1,000 scholarships this spring when a suggestion was made by a university campus president to match it the second year, according to information released by the Gauvins on Friday.
“The Aroostook Aspirations Board of Directors liked the idea of adding the school-funded equivalent toward the students’ second year,” according to the release. “Representatives from the group approached the other three schools who, as it turns out, were all eager to contribute.”
In addition to providing scholarship funds to first generation or economically disadvantaged students, the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative offers support and encouragement to County youth wanting to stay and work in northern Maine.
“These are County solutions for County people,” Wilson Hess, University of Maine at Fort Kent president said Friday. “Economic development and education of our young people are important to our students and are important for all of us in Aroostook County.”
Participating by a video link, University of Maine at Presque Isle President Linda Schott said, “Ray and Sandy [Gauvin] have an incredible passion for the county and for education. We are thrilled to be part of it.”
Tim Crowley, Northern Maine Community College president, noted that the Gauvins never stop looking for ways to increase opportunities for area students.
“Many times it is financial pressures that prevent students from getting into higher education,” Crowley said. “Now students will have an opportunity to create a new future for themselves.”
Education, noted Jennifer Flynn, director of Husson’s Presque Isle campus, is a catalyst for economic development.
“We are very excited to see where it will go from here,” she said.
Programs like the Gauvin Scholarship and Aroostook Aspirations represent “outside the box thinking,” and what are needed to stem the flow of working age residents out of Aroostook County, according to Tim Doak, SAD 27 superintendent.
“When good ideas happen in the county, they benefit the whole county,” Doak said.