Empowering young Maine students to build a brighter future . . . for themselves and for their communities.

10 Things We Learned About Education, Aspirations, and the Future of Maine

  • The best way to build a brighter future for rural Maine is education and aspirations.
  • Education is only successful when it engages the aspirations of the learner.
  • Waiting until 12th grade to engage aspirations is 7 or 8 years too late. 4th, 5th, and 6th grades are the pivotal years, when a student and his or her community will chart the student’s course, and, likewise, the community’s course.
  • There is huge potential in younger Maine students, but in rural Maine, when we don’t support it, that potential will be lost. It is all there, until we stop supporting it.
  • A program like ours will only be successful when it engages the schools AND the community.
  • The concept of “effort” is critical. Providing support without nurturing the value of “effort” among the students and their communities will do much more long-term harm than good.
  • Celebration is a great way to engage communities. It is why so many rural Maine communities are so focused on sports. Celebrating education, aspirations, and effort has great value.
  • If we want to build a brighter future for Maine, and we want our youth to be part of building that brighter future, we had better engage them in this process when they are young. Adults don’t do that well . . . and, our oldest state in the nation expresses dismay when our students grow up and leave to pursue their career.
  • Individual and community aspirations are about information and then raising the bar a bit. It is really hard to raise a student’s aspirations and achievement when the community’s bar stays the same. That is when students leave or settle into survival.
  • Yes, there are limits to what the outside world can and should do to help rural Maine communities, and there is a lot to admire about every one of these communities, but students in small, rural communities need help getting information about the rest of the world, and when this information and their aspirations are celebrated by the outside world, it means a lot to them.

 
We really appreciate the support, encouragement, and information you have given over 4000 elementary and middle school students in 55 mostly rural Maine communities this year. We appreciate your help awarding 334 $100 Future of Maine College Aspirations Scholarships. We raised a lot of aspirations, and hopefully we have nudged the bar just a little higher in 69 communities. We heard a lot of inspiring success stories from kids and families in rural Maine. But, we spend very little time measuring and celebrating our success. Maybe we will do that in 20 years. Until then, we have a lot of work to do and a long way to go . . . a lot of young, rural Maine kids with great potential we should all support.
If you care, as I do, I hope you will join us in supporting our Future of Maine Initiative. You can make a tax-deductible financial contribution by check and mail it to Maine College Circle, 251 Main St., Yarmouth, ME, O4096. Or, you can contribute online at
www.mainecollegecircle.org/support/ . And, I invite you to designate an individual community that you would like to support from the list of communities below. $100 fully funds a Future of Maine College Aspirations Scholarship for elementary school students who earn it. $250 supports College Aspirations Workshops in these communities. We estimate our average cost to support a school to be about $1000 annually, including scholarships; College Aspirations Workshops; ongoing communication with students, communities, and schools; community meetings; and annual Community Aspirations Celebrations where we award College Aspirations Scholarships to students in grades 3 – 6 who have made the effort.
Thank you for your support.
Bob Stuart
“All day everyone was saying what a wonderful ceremony it was.  Such a good day for our students--the staff loved your comments.  Just a joyous day for our town!” – a school counselor, December, 2014.
 “After receiving her scholarship last year her father & I noticed such a change in our daughter it was as though that award gave her the convenience she needed to boost her ego. It’s one thing for a family member to talk about your greatness, but when an outside source notices you for who you are & the effort you put forth with your education that’s a completely different feeling to a young child, & the recognition you gave her placed her over the moon." — a parent, November, 2014
“I want to be an inventor. I don’t want to invent old things like radios and televisions. I want to make new things like the lightbulbinator. If that doesn’t work out, I could be a scientist. I’m also working on explosive root beer.” — a student, November, 2014.

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