Aspirations Incubator high school graduates may be eligible for $500 annual scholarships and direct admissions, the University of Southern Maine announced Oct. 20.

In a recent news release, USM President Jacqueline Edmonson said the school observed the program’s success and established partnership with AI to further support the graduates’ aspirations. The program’s first cohort of 60 students will graduate from high school in spring 2023 and those who maintained a minimum 3.0 grade point average qualify for the scholarship.

Aspirations Incubator was established by Rural Futures Fund in 2017 as a six-year pilot initiative to bring long-term, comprehensive mentoring programs to Maine’s rural communities. Rural Futures Fund committed its entire $8 million-plus endowment to AI programs to help increase resiliency, build aspirations and create new opportunities for Maine’s seventh through 12th grade students by providing experiential learning, social and emotional development and college and career readiness, according to the news release.

“Graduates of the Aspirations Incubator program are making a commitment to advance their education and their lives, and the University of Southern Maine is committed to helping them succeed and meet their goals,” Edmondson said. “As someone who grew up in a rural area, I deeply appreciate the partnership with the Rural Futures Fund as we seek to engage youth from rural communities of Maine.”

Over 280 students from 10 school districts and organizations participate in AI programs through five partner sites: University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H Center at Bryant Pond and School Administrative District 44 in Bethel; Maine Seacoast Mission’s EdGE Program and School Administrative District 37 in Harrington; Old Town/Orono YMCA and Regional School Unit 34 in Old Town; Game Loft and Regional School Unit 3 in Unity; and Chewonki and Regional School Unit 1 in Bath.

Rural Futures Fund Executive Director Don Carpenter said USM’s commitment indicates AI’s mission is vitally important in bridging middle school and postgraduate learning for Maine’s rural students.

“What an incredible opportunity this is for our students whose aspirations we have sought to nourish over the past six years, Carpenter said. “This scholarship … offers (students) the chance to continue to cultivate their curiosity and learning interests as they solidify their career paths.”

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