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Education Initiative Aims to Boost College Grads in Northern Maine
04/12/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen was in Aroostook County this morning to unveil an initiative aimed at encouraging young people in northern Maine to attend college, and to stay in the area after graduation. The so-called "Aroostook Aspirations Initiative" will award scholarships to 16 high school seniors each year to attend any of the four colleges in northern Maine. As Keith Shortall reports, Bowen hopes the initiative could serve as a model for other areas of the state.

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There are two goals behind the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative, says Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. The first is to get young people in 'the county' the education they need to be successful in the modern economy.

"And then we've got to get them to stay here and continue to build the economy that's being built here in the county," Bowen says. "I think and they've figured out a way to both at once, which I think is what's remarkable about this."

The "they" in this case are Ray and Sandy Gauvin of Presque Isle. The couple came up with the idea for the initiative, as well as a gift of $300,000 to support the program.

"Going to college and taking accounting, and, you know, the business courses, doesn't make somebody an entrepreneur," says Sandy Gauvin. She says a key component of the Aroostook Aspirations Initiative will be helping students develop the skills they need to be entrepreneurs.

The program will offer scholars internships with local businesses, and training that will help them build their own businesses after graduation.

"It takes risk-taking skills, it takes some visionary skills, the ability to take managed risk, how to calculate it," Sandy Gauvin says. "Those things are important to entrepreneurs, so we want to provide that training to the kids to get them to stay here and become a part of the county's fiber."

One senior at each of Aroostook County's 16 high schools will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Preference will be given to disadvantaged students who are the first in their family to go to college.

"We have the second-largest first generation population here in Aroostook County that still exists in Maine," says Ray Gauvin, who was the first in his family to attend college. After one year, he left to serve in Vietnam, came back and attended the University of Southern Maine. He then went on to build a successful payroll services franchise throughout New England.

"The opportunities that were given to me, the mentorship that was given to me, the scholarships that were given to me, is really why I became so successful, and became very passionate," Ray Gauvin says. "It really is in my heart to want to help these kids out to achieve some of their dreams."

The Aroostook Aspirations Intiative will begin offering scholarships and training in the fall of 2014.



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