It may be the height of summer, but middle and high school students from Fort Kent to Hodgdon are registering for the Heidi’s Hope Serve-a-thon, an innovative, first-of-its kind project in the state of Maine. Eight County schools are participating in this year’s pilot project. They are Easton, Fort Fairfield, Fort Kent, Houlton, Mars Hill, Washburn, Wisdom (St. Agatha/Frenchville) and Hodgdon. Starting with the 8 pilots this year, in 2015 the project will be available to all 16 school districts in Aroostook County.
The Heidi’s Hope Serve-a-Thon, developed by the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative, provides the opportunity for students to come together on a variety of community service projects to raise money for scholarships for County kids. Teams of students, guided by teachers from the eight schools, will solicit pledges and contributions and complete a variety of community projects needed by the communities involved. Aroostook Aspirations Initiative Executive Director April Flagg sees the impact this type of project can have, “bringing together students from the eight junior high and high schools along with volunteer students from The County’s colleges, local business sponsors, and community volunteers for a day of work is Aroostook helping Aroostook. Heidi’s Hope is designed to strengthen the connection that young students have with The County and hopefully help to slow down the outward migration level in our area.” Aroostook County has the highest outmigration rate of young people in the state. According to Sandy Gauvin, President of Aroostook Aspirations Initiative, “AAI is all about community service. There is no down side to students (as well as adults) helping their communities. It is a winning situation for all. Students win by learning valuable lessons that, while performed outside the schools, can contribute to education inside the schools. The schools win because the public sees what they do in a positive light. Communities win in obvious ways. And everyone gains pride.”
Registering for the project is easy and linked directly to the Gauvin Fund Aroostook Aspirations Web page through the pink Heidi’s Hope tab. The software provides all the tools participating students will need in order to register and keep track of donations and pledges supporting their work during the Serve-a-thon. The site includes informational videos on registration and other aspects of the project for students, parents, sponsors, and volunteers to access online services and information about the project and the community sites chosen. This includes access to the projects online store, a tally sheet for donations and pledges, technical support, and answers to questions that students or parents might have. Student participants will be able to create individual web pages to communicate regarding donations and their activities with the Serve-a-thon. A prize structure, reflective of what Aroostook students asked for, is based on the donation levels, but perhaps the greatest prize is the wonderful feeling of helping others in need.
The Heidi’s Hope Serve-a-Thon concept is designed to strengthen the bond young people in Aroostook have with their communities and has the ability to help reverse the disturbing trend of outward migration in the region – one of the primary goals of Aroostook Aspirations Initiative. It honors Heidi Graham, who was AAI Founder Ray Gauvin’s partner in Advantage Payroll Service for 26 years, and helped him build the business to be the number one payroll processor in Maine.
In addition to her key role building Advantage Payroll alongside Ray Gauvin and her other full-time job as wife and mother, Heidi was always willing to help out in any way she could. She volunteered countless hours with schools, church, Girl Scouts, Aroostook Teen Leadership Camp, and other community programs. Graham lost a two-year battle to breast cancer in 2013. The Serve-a-thon honors Heidi’s spirit, her determination, and her commitment to community service and education.
AAI, which includes the Gauvin County Scholarship Fund, was publicly launched in April 2013 by successful local businessman Ray Gauvin and his wife, Sandra Gauvin, a 25-year veteran of the education profession, along with project co-founder Jason Parent, a St. John Valley native and Caribou resident who spent 14 years working for local colleges. The mission is to support the educational and career goals of the youth in Aroostook County, and to mobilize the future prosperity of The County. The initiative, which is governed by a 24-member board of directors comprised of community leaders County-wide, provides scholarships as well as guidance and professional development support for high school seniors in all 16 of the County’s school districts. For additional information, to volunteer, sign up to participate, or to donate to help AAI reach more County kids, please visit www.gauvinfund.org and click on the pink Heidi’s Hope tab.