AUBURN — Friday is College Day in Androscoggin County — a day when teachers share their college experiences with students and people wear their favorite college shirts, hats or pins on the job.

Friday is also the annual College Day luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn. Awards will be given to students who overcame odds to go to college, and to organizations and individuals who helped people go to college.

The keynote speaker will be former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, founder of the Mitchell Institute. Each year, the Mitchell Institute gives a scholarship to a graduating student from every public high school in Maine.

Mitchell is one big reason Friday’s luncheon is sold out, said Maggie Davis, executive director of College for ME-Androscoggin.

After leaving the U.S. Senate as majority leader in 1995 and after helping broker peace in different parts of the world, Mitchell founded the Mitchell Institute to help more Mainers go to college. While in the Senate, he spoke at graduations at every Maine high school at least once.

Interacting with so many students prompted him to do something to help them, which led him to create the Mitchell scholarships.


The scholarships award $8,500 to individual students over four years. Since 1995, the institute has awarded more than $13 million to 2,500 Maine students.

There’s no one better to talk about college aspirations than Mitchell, said Rick Speer, Lewiston Public Library director and an organizer of Friday’s College Day.

“He has been a leading advocate of education in Maine for decades,” Speer said, adding that Mitchell not only raises money for Maine students, he gives his own money and has turned over excess campaign funds.

Mitchell grew up in Waterville, came from modest means and received help to go to Bowdoin College, which eventually allowed him to rise to Senate majority leader and a peace broker in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Davis said. Mitchell is “a lifetime hero of mine.”

Mitchell’s investment in Maine education is huge, Davis said.

“He has put his time and legacy into developing the Mitchell Institute,” she said. “He understands that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, and improving our workforce.”


After the luncheon, Mitchell will sign copies of his new book about the Middle East, “A Path to Peace.”

Kassie Schmidt, who dropped out of Lewiston High School, will speak at the luncheon. She resumed her education, first attending adult education and is now in her first semester at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.

“She wants to be a small-business owner,” Davis said.

Like many adults returning to school, Schmidt got help from College for ME-Androscoggin, which provides individual counseling and help paying for the first college class.

Friday is about celebrating going to college “and inspiring other people who might be thinking about going to college,” Davis said. “College for ME is a resource to make this happen, to show there are people who had the courage to go back to school” as adults.



Expert: Higher college rate in Androscoggin would boost job growth

LEWISTON — In Androscoggin County, 29 percent of adults age 25 and older have some kind of college degree, compared to the national rate of 38 percent, said Maggie Davis, executive director of College for ME-Androscoggin.

Another 21 percent of Androscoggin County adults have attended college but did not graduate.

“That means 50 percent of adults have nothing beyond high school,” Davis said.

College for ME-Androscoggin would like to see more adults attain degrees, and is there to help. The nonprofit organization is there to boost college aspirations, support successful college experiences and celebrate educational attainment.

“In Maine, we have a real need for workforce readiness,” Davis said. “The majority of our jobs require some kind of post-secondary training.”

It’s important to instill the college-going mindset and learn a set of skills to participate in the workforce, get a better paycheck and improve your quality of life with a fulfilling career, Davis said.

College for ME-Androscoggin at 150 East Ave. can help adults decide which career might be a good fit, as well as provide counseling and payment for their first college course.

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