Austin Bear working on a project in New Mexico. Submitted photo

HANOVER — When Austin Bear of Hanover was a youngster, his parents “encouraged me to get involved,” he said.

It was a message he took to heart – and then some.

A 2016 graduate of Telstar High School, Bear said he “had friends in Maine Adaptive Sports when I was little.”  That connection led him to be an instructor in the ski and paddling programs, which he continued through high school.

And one thing led to another.  ‘It got me interested in medicine in order to help people more,” said Bear.

Today, he’s a senior at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, majoring in medical biology with a focus in pre-med.

He hopes to attend the University of New England to become either a doctor or a physician’s assistant.

This spring he earned his emergency medical technician license and has been working for Bethel Rescue when he is home.  The experience has him leaning toward emergency medicine.

“I like that it’s always different, and it’s a challenge to think on your feet and solve problems,” he said.

But medicine isn’t the only area in which Bear is helping his community, both in Bethel and in Standish.

While at Telstar he helped re-establish the Interactive Club, which is a student arm of Rotary clubs – in this case the Rotary Club of Bethel.

Telstar Interact members provide support and additional volunteers for the activities of the Bethel Rotary Club, such as the biannual Rotary Club Breakfast at Gould Academy, which raises funds toward scholarships and other community projects.

Interact also helped out on a self-help housing project in South Paris, Bear said.

He served as president of the student group for two years.

When he moved on to St. Joseph’s, Bear started the college version of an Interact club, known as Rotaract. He again became president, handing those duties off this year as he prepares to graduate.

That group traveled to Puerto Rico two years ago to help with hurricane recovery. Members have also participated in the Polar Plunge in Sebago Lake to benefit cancer research, and have helped with a Habitat for Humanity project in South Portland.

Bear has also participated with another St. Joseph’s organization that takes annual trips around the country to work on community benefit projects, traveling to Kentucky, New York and New Mexico during his time at the college.

On the academic front, he did an internship in Grenada, Spain, in a program for children with disabilities (non-licensed medical personnel are prohibited from doing medical internships).

But Bear was still able to get a look at how a government-based medical care system works, which he said was interesting.

Thanks to Telstar’s arrangement with Central Maine Community College that allows high school seniors to take college classes there, Bear will graduate from St. Joseph’s a semester early.  While he applies to medical school, he hopes to use the time to “graduate” to the Bethel Rotary Club.

“I hope to become a full-time member,” he said.

Austin Bear on the Bethel Common on Go Gold day, in his capacity as EMT for Bethel Rescue. Bethel Citizen photo by Alison Aloisio Buy this Photo

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