SEARSMONT — A group of 18 fourth- and fifth-graders at Ames Elementary School were chosen as winners of $100 College Aspirations Scholarships, as a result of working with Bob Stuart, director of Maine College Circle, on discussing college and aspirations.
All 60 children currently in fourth and fifth grades participated in the year-long program, which focused on inspiring students to envision and plan for their future, according to Principal Lori Smail.
This is the program’s first year at Ames Elementary, though it is has been around for more than 15 years, according to Maine College Circle.
For his part, Stuart stressed the importance of reaching out to help younger students plan for their future career.
“I spent much of my life talking to 11th- and 12th-graders and I discovered it’s too late [to make a difference], particularly in rural Maine,” he said.
Of the 115 different Maine communities he has reached out to over the life of the program, Stuart said the vast majority are rural. The program has reportedly accessed more than 60,000 students since its inception.
After determining that fourth- and fifth-grade were pivotal years for developing career aspirations, Stuart got to work trying to inspire kids to actively engage in planning their future.
Smail said that when she brought the idea for the program to teachers at the Ames School, they were all not only on board, but very excited.
The school hosted a career day during the school year, which had 13 different careers represented. Children were expected to conduct research and formulate questions for the presenters, which started with their very own Superintendent Paul D. Knowles, who holds a Doctor of Education degree. Knowles discussed the difference between a doctor of education and a doctor of medicine.
While the humidity left the air feeling heavy, the energy in the kid-packed auditorium was downright giddy. Many of the school’s 141 students were seated on the floor in neat rows, all waiting for the winners to be announced.
Winners of the competition were chosen based on their effort in the class, in school, and through the final essay they crafted for the program. The essays included the respective student’s career aspirations, which college they might like to attend, and the types of courses they would need to take for their chosen profession, according to Stuart.
One fifth-grade scholarship recipient, Emma Thomas, said she plans to have a career spent outside.
“I want to become a game warden and go to the University of Maine,” Emma said of her career plans. At least part of her inspiration is a love of the outdoors. “I love being outside with my animals, and I love helping animals as well, and taking care of wildlife,” she said.
Fellow fifth-grader, Erin Robbins, has a different future in mind. She plans to become a salesperson in the family business, Robbins Lumber.
“It seems like a really fun job,” she said. Robbins said she also knows exactly what she’ll do with her $100 scholarship. “I’ll put it in my college bank account,” she said.
Amaris Zuniga-Delgado, another fifth-grader, also plans to put her scholarship into a college fund. When asked what she thought of the program, Amaris had three words: “I loved it.”
The awards ceremony and the swag received by winners were her most favorite part. In addition to a certificate, T-shirt and a mug, winners received a gift card for Sweet Frog frozen yogurt - the perfect end to a sweaty summer day.
Following is a list of all the winners of the program, broken down by class grade.
Ms. Ryan, fifth-grade: Sully Bryant, Hailey Hutchinson, Katie Leach, Erica Pendleton, Emma Thomas and Owen Woodbury.
Ms. Federle, fifth-grade: Alyson Johnson, Faith Littlefield, Noah Neal, Elyza-Star Paige, Sara-Jo Richeson, Erin Robbins, Sophia Taylor, Eli Veilleux and Alivia Whitcomb.
Ms. Ladd, fourth-grade: Amelia Lepow.
Ms. Curry, fourth-grade: Zachary Martz.
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org