RUMFORD — Twenty-six students from the River Valley region will receive Future of Maine College Aspirations Scholarships from the Maine College Circle and Dead River Company at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Black Mountain Ski Lodge.

The $100 scholarships are “awarded to grade-school students based on an essay about college and career aspirations,” according to a news release by Dead River Company.

Bob Stuart, the Executive Director of the Maine College Circle, said that the Maine College Circle visited different schools in the River Valley region and held workshops for third- to sixth-grade students from Rumford, Mexico, Dixfield, Sumner, Buckfield, Peru and Hartford.

“We go into the schools, sit down and talk with the students about college and different things that they could major in,” Stuart said Thursday afternoon. “Usually, when we leave, they’re left with some vocabulary related to college and have at least one college in mind that they would want to apply to when the time comes.”

Stuart said that following the workshops, the students write essays about their college and career aspirations.

“They don’t just get a free $100,” Stuart clarified. “They have to work for it. I’ve heard some great stories from families and teachers about the kids getting really into the process of researching and writing the essay.”

Though $100 may not seem like much in comparison to the cost of college loans, Stuart said it’s not necessarily about the money.

“When we hold the ceremony, there are about 120 to 150 people showing up,” Stuart said. “Sometimes, families will come with 8 or 9 people. That’s what this is about. When you see those kids going up to get their scholarships, and their families are cheering them on, you can see how important it is.”

Stuart said that he’s been involved with the Maine College Circle for 25 years, and that this is the third year that they have focused on the River Valley area.

“I’m hoping that 20 years from now, we’re still doing this,” Stuart said. “I also hope that eventually, the different towns in the area, whether it’s Rumford, Mexico or Peru, will get more and more involved at this until they’re able to provide scholarships for their students on their own.”

Barb Radmore, the afterschool program director of the Western Foothills Kids Association, said in a news release, “I cannot say enough about how much of a difference this program is making in our schools. The lasting impact of this program on schools, students and families is immeasurable. The work and thought that goes into the students’ essays shows the power of the scholarship process in getting students to think about their futures in a positive and meaningful way.”

Maine College Circle is a nonprofit organization that helps give Maine students support and encouragement in achieving higher education.

For more information, contact Stuart at 846-6770 or Lisa Morrisette at 358-5800.

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