PORTLAND — MaineSpark has awarded four $5,000 grants to innovative initiatives promoting postsecondary success for underrepresented student populations. Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange and Rural Aspirations were two of the recipients. The grants were made possible with support from the MELMAC Education Foundation and Educate Maine.

Grant applicants were asked to focus on improving postsecondary success for racially, socioeconomically or geographically underrepresented populations by developing innovative best practices.

Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange will hold a virtual job fair; will increase awareness in local internship programs for high school students; is engaging area businesses to develop more job shadow and informational interview opportunities for students; and will revive and redesign the Aspire Higher program — their community’s annual signature event.

Rural Aspirations will support the second year of the Maine Forest Collaborative programming and plans to work with more than 50 students from six rural districts in Oxford, Piscataquis, Somerset and Franklin counties to contribute to the vitality of Maine’s forest communities. The group will also gather throughout the year to test their idea of “how we can use natural resources to positively impact local communities.” Through programming, school counselors will also become informed about programs and opportunities that they may not be aware of within the forest industry.

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