Every year at about this time, at all of New England’s land grant colleges, a few members of the New England Outdoor Writer’s Association (NEOWA) visit the wildlife departments of these respective colleges with a mission: to award scholarships.

These scholarships are substantial. At each college, one scholarship is awarded to an outstanding wildlife ecology major, who is an undergraduate student or a graduate student.

The selection process is straightforward. The wildlife department selects four or five of their honors students, all of whom submit a short essay about themselves and their future plans. Then two or three members of the outdoor writer’s group sit down at the different colleges for a half-hour chat with the prospective scholars.

An aside: the money for the scholarships comes from a special NEOWA scholarship fund that is derived from an endowment bequeathed by the late Carl Braun. A Vermont outdoor writer and longtime NEOWA member who died in 2003, Braun was devoted to helping young people, especially natural resource students, understand the role of hunting and trapping in modern-day wildlife management.

My wife Diane and I have been conducting the University of Maine scholarship interviews since this program’s debut a number of years ago. It is one of our annual duties that we look forward to with anticipation. We recently completed UMO scholarship interviews for the 2017 season.

The selection process is not easy when you must choose among one of four college students, all of whom carry 3.8 point averages (or higher) and have impressive resumes.

Sometimes it is like threading a needle as we try to determine which of the students is most likely after graduation to communicate the conservation message in a way that would please Carl Braun.

It is a learning experience for us. Without exception we always come away from these interviews with renewed convictions that, despite the sensational headlines about the spoiled, intolerant millennials in the groves of academe, there is reason to be hopeful about tomorrow’s leaders. To a person, the students we interview are mature, poised and clearly-focused young people who are mission-oriented. They have it all together, personally and professionally.

As senior citizens who are concerned about our grandchildren’s future in a country seemingly divided and in disarray, Diane and I are always reassured and comforted by our scholarship interview experience.

Additionally, we have come to know and respect the University of Maine Wildlife Department, a nationally respected operation that attracts and mentors wildlife students of the caliber that we have gotten to know year after year.

Diane and I wanted you to know this. We see it as the rest of the story. Perhaps it will pick up your spirits a little the same way it always does us.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.


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