NorthStar program participants Zachary B., Emma C., Meshia L. and Olivia H. enjoy hot chocolate on the ice at last week’s check presentation celebration with Norway Savings Bank.

NORWAY — Norway Savings Bank recently announced a gift of $120,000 over six years to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s NorthStar 4-H Youth Mentoring program.

The gift was made as part of UMaine Extension’s Adopt a Cohort fundraising campaign to support individual classes in the six-year mentoring program aimed at raising aspirations of students in rural Maine.

“We are proud to support this important program, which has already made an incredible impact in the lives of participating students,” Dan Walsh, chief executive officer of Norway Savings Bank, said. “It’s impressive that NorthStar is able to provide a six-year program, which is going to bring long-lasting memories and positive experiences that some of these kids may not have had otherwise.”

NorthStar is a hands-on mentoring program that connects young people with caring adults through community engagement, cultural exchange, and adventure challenge and leadership.

The NorthStar model follows students over six years from the seventh grade into adulthood. The program is based at Bryant Pond village in Woodstock, one of UMaine Extension’s four 4-H camp and learning centers across the state. Students and their adult mentors participate in outdoor adventures such as paddling and camping, and educational opportunities like the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership. They also work on building financial, cultural, health and environmental literacy.

Studies consistently show that rural youth lag behind their urban/suburban peers in college aspirations and attainment. They also face significant risk factors associated with poverty, isolation, substance use and domestic abuse.

The NorthStar program serves about 60 students each year with support from 12 volunteer mentors and many local organizations. Mentors support students in community building, academics, hands-on skills, job searches and college preparation.

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