Aroostook Aspirations Initiative received amazing news last week. The program is among the 200 organizations selected in the United States and Canada to compete for a chance to win one of 40 State Farm Neighborhood Assist grants for $25,000. The program was the only project selected in Maine. With a competition field of 4,000 entries, just to be selected to the top 200 is a huge honor for the relatively new AAI program. But, they have their eyes on the prize.
“Last year, one Maine program made it to the final cut, ended up in the top 40 and received the grant. We know we can do that! Using our contacts and supporters County, state, and nationwide, we want people to get excited about our program and what it can offer the communities of Aroostook,” said April Flagg, Executive Director of the program, in a press release. “We have an active Social Media presence. We believe this opportunity is the perfect vehicle to show the true power and passion of Aroostook County.”
The Neighborhood Assist was formally the Cause an Effect program State Farm ran in 2012. Cause an Effect was the first of State Farm’s attempt at a social media campaign funding opportunity. Now in its third year, Neighborhood Assist has a Youth Advisory Board, a group of 30 students ages 17-20 from the US and Canada, who are charged with sorting through the 4,000 submissions and choosing the top 200 programs. The first year, 2012, Maine didn’t have a presence. Last year, one program from Maine made it through and was ultimately awarded a grant.
Aroostook Aspirations hopes that the program’s lucky streak maintains, “The support from our communities has just been so outstanding and wonderful,” said Sandy Gauvin, President and Co-Founder of the organization, “We are just so grateful that a group of young people from around the Country and Canada sees what we are trying to do in our County, what we are trying to start in Aroostook. Heidi’s Hope, the community service based program at the center of this grant, is such an amazing and innovative idea. This grant could take the program up a notch, allowing us to truly make some amazing projects a reality this fall.”
“We are banking on the commitment and energy of Aroostook.” Flagg said of the voting process and selection. On April 28, 2014 voting opens to the Facebook community. Each Facebook account has 10 votes per day to allocate to any program in the top 200. Flagg hopes that Aroostook residents, both past and present, and Mainers as a whole will support their cause in record numbers.
“The reality is that we will need the help of every single person in Aroostook, in Maine, across the nation, to win one of these grants. Heidi’s Hope is such a perfect fit for State Farm, community service is being a good neighbor.” Flagg went on to explain that over the next three weeks their social media activity will increase tenfold.
“Liking our page, voting on the State Farm site, learning about who we are and what we are trying to do achieves the goal of this competition. State Farm wants their top 200 programs to get much needed exposure. The whole process will be an awesome thing to experience.” Voting will officially close on May 16th Aroostook Aspirations Initiative selects 16 Scholars, one in each Aroostook high school, and awards each a $1,000 scholarship, renewable for one year, in 2014. The scholarships are accompanied by consistent support and encouragement in several ways through the program. Working one on one with the students, helping them create a network of support, encouraging entrepreneurial growth, and celebrating successes are just a few examples of the research based programming involved in the Initiative. A celebratory Gala, a Gift a Grad program, and Heidi’s Hope, a community service program in communities throughout Aroostook are some of the projects the Initiative plans to unveil in 2014. Asked about the future of the Initiative, Flagg smiles and says, “We’ve really only just begun.”