BANGOR, Maine — Young Bangor-based politicians and business leaders told Bangor High School seniors to feel free to travel and experience new places and interests, but when it comes to settling down and thinking about a career and family, to consider coming home.
While freshmen, sophomores and juniors were filling in answer bubbles on standardized tests Wednesday, seniors met with eight members of Bangor’s professional community during a seminar titled “Leading Back to Bangor.”
“Everywhere, we have students that are at a point where they’re making decisions about postsecondary careers, postsecondary college,” Principal Paul Butler said. “We never think it’s too early to start sending a message about returning to Bangor for work once they’ve made their way.”
The seminar speakers were Cary Weston, Bangor’s mayor and a partner in Sutherland Weston Marketing; Alex Gray, promoter for Waterfront Concerts; Julie Dawson Williams, manager of ERA Dawson Bradford Realtors; Susan Stephenson, a blogger and buyer at Frock Affair in Bangor; Ben Sprague, a city councilor and financial consultant; Tim Lo, co-creative director for the KAHBANG Festival; Jessie Logan, president of Fusion Bangor; and John Canders, president of the Bangor Region Leadership Institute.
Six of the eight speakers graduated from Bangor High School, according to Butler.
As the seniors prepare to leave their hometown for college, the concern is that they might not consider coming back and become another statistic contributing to Maine’s “brain drain.”
“We’re constantly bombarded with this idea that we have to get away” from Bangor and go live in a big city, said Noah Karam, the 18-year-old president of the Bangor High School Student Council.
Sarah Wainer, 17, who also serves on the student council, said the panelists’ experiences “proved that you can be successful here.”
The event started with one large group gathering in the auditorium to listen to the panelists talk about why they chose Bangor as a place to launch their careers and raise their families. The group then broke into smaller groups, which the panelists visited in pairs to field questions and offer advice.
In the library, where one of these breakout sessions was held, the talk turned to college, decision making, and responsibility.
“A lot of you are going to go bananas when you get [to college],” Gray said, referring to aspects of college life such as parties and the newfound freedom to skip classes at will. “I highly recommend you don’t.”
“You’d be better suited to light your money on fire than to not go to class,” Gray said.
Weston shared the fact that he lived at home during his first, third and fourth years of college. While he said he thought that was “the lamest thing ever,” it prevented him from falling deep in debt and helped him remain focused.
Weston said the students’ future employers and clients will want to work with someone who can listen, look them in the eye and follow through with what they say they’re going to do — simple life lessons learned from kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Gray and Weston urged students to pursue their passions and not be afraid of taking risks when trying to kick off careers.
“Everybody in this room is going to have regrets,” Weston said. “The question is: Are you going to regret the things you did or the things you didn’t do?”
“You’re truly suspect if you don’t have failures,” Gray said.