By Becky Pritchard
BAR HARBOR — Educators and business partners from across eastern Maine met Monday to brainstorm new ways to interest students and their families in the idea of college or other post-secondary education.
The initiative, called the Future of Eastern Maine Council, met at Machias Savings Bank to plan an initiative to spark interest in continuing education among students in grades three to eight.
“We are not interested in getting together to lament the state of education and economic challenges,” said Bob Stuart, director of the Yarmouth-based Maine College Circle. “We are not interested in extracting a few bright kids to send them off to college. We are trying to develop a clear and long-term plan to build a brighter future for the youth we reach and for their communities.”
They do this through leading college aspirations workshops for elementary and middle school students, and awarding over 500 scholarships to middle school students each year. Stuart is careful to clarify that he uses the term “college” to include any education beyond high school, including technical or trade courses.
One of the challenges Stuart has found in his five years of leading workshops is that students show interest early on, and then lose interest by middle school. He is looking to involve people in the business and professional community as mentors to check in with students once their aspirations are set.
Ann Sargent of Ellsworth Adult Education described that tactic this way: “It’s about planting that seed at an early age, and then cultivating it.”
So in addition to what they are already doing with workshops and scholarships, the Future of Eastern Maine Council plans to start helping teachers and guidance counselors connect their students with mentors in their chosen field.
Businesses or individuals interested in getting involved as scholarship donors or mentors can contact the Maine College Circle at [email protected]