Elementary School Students Receive College Scholarships
Riverton Elementary School Scholarship Recipients pose with Bob Stuart of Maine College Circle,
Principal Jeanne Malia, cPort CEO Gene Ardito, and Earnie the Starfish.
Over 500 elementary students in Portland and Augusta know where they want to go to college! This year, about 510 third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students wrote and submitted essays describing what career interests them and the higher education they would pursue to achieve their future career goals. As part of its College Aspirations Scholarship Program, cPort awarded 53 $100 scholarships to students at ceremonies at Augusta’s four elementary schools and Riverton and Ocean Avenue schools in Portland.
“In the end, all of the students are winners, not just the scholarship recipients,” says cPort CEO Gene Ardito. “The scholarships are a great way to start saving for college, but what’s really important is that all of these students are thinking about their future aspirations, and how to achieve them, at an early age.” The cPort College Aspirations Scholarship Program is in its third year in Augusta and was founded at Riverton Elementary in Portland in 2008.
The program begins with college workshops led by Maine College Circle Executive Director Bob Stuart. In the workshops, Stuart provides an introduction to higher education options, degrees available, and provides each classroom with a poster of over 200 college major choices. He then helps students brainstorm possible college choices based on their career and major interests, size, and location.
“It’s really hard to end the workshops on time!” says cPort’s Augusta Branch Manager Beth Osborne, who attends the workshops to administer the scholarship essay contest. “There are always more hands raised with questions about colleges, and you don’t want to leave any of those questions unanswered.”
cPort employees read every essay and determine the scholarship winners; students receive marks for effort, creativity, overall message and recommendation letters. Students’ essays this year focused on careers ranging from marine scientists and video game engineers, to equestrian veterinarians and speech language pathologists, to clay animation artists and singers. They wrote about studying to achieve these career goals at colleges and universities ranging from those close by such as UMA, UMO, and Bowdoin, to Harvard University, University of Colorado Denver, and DigiPen in Washington State.
Starting in 2011, scholarship recipients also travel to visit a local college campus for a day. Students visited Bowdoin College in Brunswick in 2011, and Bates College in Lewiston in March this year. The campus visit helps to bring the program’s message full-circle that “everyone can go to college” by making college, which may seem like a distant concept to some students, a reality, and by getting students excited about the prospect of pursuing studies beyond high school.
All program participants are recognized with certificates and t-shirts at the ceremonies and the winners are announced with their families present.