PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The first high school seniors awarded scholarships under the new Aroostook Aspirations Initiative were formally announced and celebrated Saturday during an event at the Aroostook Centre Mall.
The initiative, publicly launched by Raynold and Sandra Gauvin in April 2013, is designed to help Aroostook County students earn degrees close to home, then stay to live and pursue careers in northern Maine.
“AAI has multiple goals,” President Sandy Gauvin said. “The first of which is to help kids in Aroostook County get a college education, and we’re aiming toward kids that might not otherwise get financial assistance to go on to college.
“We want to keep the kids in The County because the out-migration is so staggering and our workforce level is below the state’s sustainability level,” she said. “We want to stem the out-migration, and the combination of those two goals will help boost the economy in Aroostook County.”
The Gauvin County Scholarship Fund of the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative presented a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating senior from each of the 16 county high schools. Among the criteria, recipients were required to enroll in one of The County’s four institutions of higher education: University of Maine at Fort Kent, University of Maine at Presque Isle, Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle or the Presque Isle campus of Husson University.
“Our primary criteria to be a Gauvin Scholar is that they are a first-generation college student … meaning that only one of their parents might have gone to college or maybe neither of them went,” Gauvin said. “We also look at those who are economically disadvantaged.
“We’re aiming for kids that might not be the straight-A students and get an academic scholarship or might not be the world’s greatest athlete and get an athletic scholarship,” she said. “This year’s Gauvin Scholars all have good grades, but that’s not the prime motivation. We also want kids with a good work ethic that we know will work hard to become successful.”
Provisions also have been made with the participating institutions to provide additional funds to scholarship winners in subsequent years so the students can continue to pursue their degrees.
“The colleges and universities in Aroostook County have all joined in with us, and the second year the kids will get another $1,000 equivalent from the institution for that year,” she said. “For the kids who do the first two years at [Northern Maine Community College] and then transfer into their third and fourth year through Husson, which is on the NMCC campus, there will be a $1,000 equivalent for each of those two years, as well.”
“Aroostook Aspirations’ goal of keeping students in the county and encouraging more of our students to seek out post-secondary opportunities early is vital to the future of Aroostook,” said Linda Schott, president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle. “Raising the aspirations of the youth in our county, assuring the support of the colleges, universities and public schools, AAI is blazing new trails.”
Krista Beaupre of Caribou High School said it means a lot to be named a Gauvin Scholar.
“It’s quite an honor to be able to represent them through the scholarship,” she said. “I think the Gauvins are excellent people, and I feel they should be recognized for everything they do for us.”
This fall, Beaupre will study nursing at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. She said it’s nice to be encouraged to stay in The County.
“Some people have asked me why I want to stay here, but I love it in Aroostook County. … I want to stay here and have my future family to be able to grow up the same way I did and experience everything that I have,” she said. “My community has always been there for me, so now it’s my turn to look at them and say, ‘OK, it’s my turn to give back to you.’ Now it’s my turn to pay it forward and be there for them.”
Andrew White of Washburn District High School, who will be attending NMCC’s automotive technology program in the fall, said it’s an honor to be recognized as a Gauvin Scholar.
“Growing up, I’ve always said that I was going to stay in Aroostook County. I was born and raised in Washburn, my dad was born and raised in Washburn, and his dad was born there, too,” White said. “My family’s roots are really, really deep in Washburn, and I like it there, and I like it in Aroostook County. It’s always kind of felt like wanting to stay in Aroostook County you get undermined. You see these kids who are going away to big schools, and they’re getting these huge scholarships, so to actually be recognized for wanting to stay in Aroostook County is pretty special and quite an honor.
“By being a Gauvin Scholar, I get to meet other people who have the same goals and aspirations that I do and finally have the feeling that I’m not the only one,” he continued. “I’m really looking forward to being a part of it, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the people who are in it. This is the time of life where it’s crucial to make friends, because these are friends that are going to last forever, and being around other people who are so much like me and have similar goals, I hope that I’m going to make a lot of new friends that will last a lifetime.”
“I feel like we’re going to be a very tight group, and I feel like I can turn to any of the other scholars as friends now and we’re going to form a bond that we’ll be able to bounce ideas off of through our college experience,” she said. “I’m looking forward to that.”
Gauvin said it’s important for the scholars to one day “pay it forward.”
“When Ray was a senior in high school, he got a $1,000 scholarship from the Mark and Emily Turner Scholarship Fund, and he had an interview with Mark Turner,” she said. “Mark said to Ray, ‘When you’re successful, I want you to give back.’ That was a big motivator for Ray.
“For me, I see so much potential out there in these kids, and together Ray and I felt that we were both very blessed and fortunate that we decided to give back to the community and The County that’s been so good to us all our lives,” Gauvin said.
As part of Aroostook Aspirations Day, Sharon Campbell, the local representative of U.S. Sen. Angus King’s office, and Phil Bosse, representing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office, read the Congressional sentiment the senators placed in the national records. In addition, Rep. Alex Willette, R-Mapleton, read the official State of Maine declaration that formally announced June 7 as Aroostook Aspirations Day.
AAI officials, together with the Gauvin Scholars, also unveiled a mural painted by Aroostook County native Heather Harvell.
“The tree represents this program, its Gauvin Scholars, the community, and the past, present and future,” said April Flagg, AAI executive director. “With a strong trunk, the tree can stand the test of time. The Gauvins assured this program had strong footing to stand on with a powerful 24-member board of directors, strategic business and collegiate partners. The 16 Gauvin Scholars, each with a picture on this wall, are the face of our program, and the future of this county. Supporting them in their reach for a firm foundation based in education is the goal of our program and of our partners.”
Besides Beaupre and White, the other 2014 Gauvin Scholars are Elizabeth Guimond of Wisdom High School, Patrick Belanger of Fort Kent High School, Mariah Hebert of Madawaska High School, Teya Lizotte of Van Buren High School, Katelynn Perkins of Presque Isle High School, Shyanna Smith of Fort Fairfield High School, Stephanie Hammond of Easton High School, Kaylin Blood of Limestone High School, Nicholas Belanger of Ashland High School, Brittany Drost of Central Aroostook High School, Elizabeth Knowles of Katahdin High School, Meghan Hebert of Hodgdon High School, Jessica Tucker of Southern Aroostook High School and Brielle Boutilier of Houlton High School.
For more information, visit the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative website at www.gauvinfund.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 764-0876. Donations can be mailed to Aroostook Aspirations Initiative, 26 North St., Box 138, Presque Isle, Maine 04769.