Nationally-acclaimed author Gigi Georges has created the Downeast Exploration Fund to support rural, Downeast youth. In 2021, Ms. Georges published the non-fiction book, Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America with publisher Harper Collins. Following the first edition printing, Ms. Georges expressed interest in establishing a scholarship with Maine Seacoast Mission to honor the continued strength and resilience residing in the young populations of the Downeast region of the state. Beginning in spring 2022, the Fund will provide financial support to eligible applicants who wish to explore their own passions and pursue experiences not otherwise available to them.
Any student in grades 6 through 12 within the Mission’s service area, including rising 6th graders and just graduated seniors, may apply. The Downeast Exploration Fundwill pay for awardees’ participation in camps, outdoor learning experiences, and lessons in music, art, sports, or equestrian pursuits. Additionally, the scholarship covers registration fees for enrichment activities or programs as well as materials, equipment, or supplies. Accepting applications on a rolling basis, the Fund will award up to $5,000 annually.
Mission President John Zavodny said, “The Downeast Exploration Fund is a result of Gigi’s generosity of spirit and her continued recognition of the aspirations Downeast youth harbor. We’re excited to hear about and fuel their interests and activities. The Mission’s existing work in this area as well as education make the Fund a perfect fit.”
The Fund was created in honor of the book’s five young women. “They played a central role in developing the fund’s objective and defining its scope: to help expand opportunities beyond the classroom for other Downeast kids.”
Lanie Perry, depicted under the pseudonym McKenna Holt in the book, explained, “We recognized that there are so many kids who want to pursue their dreams are set back by financial issues as well as by other issues. Through the Fund, we wanted to see Downeast youth push for their dreams and start out on the right foot. I hope people living Downeast stay determined and don’t give up on who they are or who they want to be. There are always ways around the obstacles you face. You can do what you want to do by being consistent and keep pushing forward.”
Kelli Kennedy is portrayed as Audrey Barton in Downeast. When asked about the anticipated impact of the Fund, she said, “I guess it’s no secret that there are children and teens and people Downeast who struggle with financial well-being. I was very fortunate in what I was able to do as a child. My family could support me to play basketball year-round and that set me up for so many things in life including life lessons. My hope is that others can experience the same. This scholarship can help push them toward that. My hope is that everyone can find something to drive them.”
Sophia DeSchiffart, depicted as Josie Dekker, grew up attending EdGE summer camps. She also served as an EdGE mentor during her teenage years. She shared, “I hope the Fund allows young people to try new things or pursue something they haven’t had the financial ability to pursue. Expression through art is important, but it can be expensive. Playing on a traveling sports team also has a lot of associated costs. I grew up in a privileged position by visiting extended family in Canada. My 8th grade class went to Boston and it was the first time for many to leave the state. I would like the Fund to expand their attraction to the world. I hope the Fund continues to grow and the public feels compelled to contribute to it.”
The Downeast Exploration Fund is available for anyone to donate to. “The Fund will honor the leadership, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and passion for a range of pursuits exemplified by the five remarkable young women portrayed in the book,” explained Ms. Georges. “What I discovered in Downeast Maine runs counter to the conventional narrative about rural hopelessness and that young people must flee to succeed. Yes, there are significant challenges, but there is also much to celebrate.”
Maine Seacoast Mission accepts applications for the Downeast Exploration Fund on a rolling basis. Interested applicants ages 11-18 in may apply through this website or a school guidance counselor. Eligible students are grades 6-12 including just-graduated seniors and must live in the Mission’s service area of Hancock and Washington Counties as well as the outer islands. Applications will begin the review process on April 1.
To donate to the Fund, donors should click the gold Donate Now button on our Donate page.
To learn more about Ms. Georges and the book Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America, or to secure an interview, please visit the author’s website https://gigigeorges.com/downeastbook. The soft cover edition will release in early June 2022.
For more information, please contact: Kierie Piccininni, Director of Marketing (207) 801-6011, [email protected]
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME — Maine Seacoast Mission’s Scholarship program application for the 2022-2023 academic year is now available. The deadline for applying is February 26, 2022.
Mission Scholarships are open to individuals who graduate from an accredited public and independent high school or live in Hancock and Washington counties or the islands we serve. Scholarships are based on academic achievement (at least a 2.5 GPA), motivation and aspiration, community service, future academic plan and career goals, an individual’s plan to reduce their financial debt burden, application, and strength of interview. Preference is given to students with a financial need and those interested in living and working in Maine upon program completion.
Since 1918, the Mission has awarded almost $3 million to 3,692 deserving students from Maine’s outer islands and Downeast coastal communities. Each year twenty-five scholarships are given to students based on financial need and academic promise. Because our scholarships can be renewed for multiple years, the Mission has nearly 100 active scholars in any given year.
“Each year the Mission provides scholarships to more than 25 high school seniors and 40 students enrolled in a higher education institution or a career preparation program in Maine, New England, and across the U.S.,” said Downeast Director Melvin D. Adams III, EdD.
Some of our generous donors endow scholarships exclusively for youth in our region. The Mission’s Angus MacDonald scholarship, for example, offers an award of $14,000 over four years to an exceptional high school graduate who has demonstrated superior academic achievement, leadership skills, integrity, and commitment to the community.
For inquiries about Scholarships, email Scholarship Program Coordinator Wendy Harrington at [email protected] or call 207-546-5870.
Rooted in a history of compassionate service and mutual trust, Maine Seacoast Mission seeks to strengthen coastal and island communities by educating youth, supporting families, and promoting good health. We offer healthcare, education, food, shelter, and spiritual support by land and by sea. For more information, please visit https://www.seacoastmission.org/
Davis Maine Scholars visiting partner college campuses.
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME — First-generation, college-bound students from Washington County will have an opportunity to pursue undergraduate studies with full scholarships through a new partnership. Starting with the Class of 2023, students in Bowdoin College’s Upward Bound Program are eligible to apply for Maine Seacoast Mission’s Davis Maine Scholarship. This is a full four-year scholarship to one of three partner colleges: Clark University (MA), University of New England (ME), and Wheaton College (MA).
Bowdoin’s Upward Bound Program supports Maine students from low-income backgrounds, including those attending Washington County’s eight high schools as they progress through high school and plan their post-secondary futures. The Washington County high schools included are:
Calais High School
East Grand High School
Jonesport-Beals High School
Machias Memorial High School
Narraguagus High School
Shead High School
Woodland Senior High School
Since 2015 Bowdoin’s Upward Bound Program has supported over 200 Washington County students, with 89% entering college the fall after their high school graduation.
In announcing this partnership, Davis Maine Scholarship Director Christina Griffith said, “This partnership was seeded three years ago through Maine Seacoast Mission’s collaborative work with Narraguagus High School. I am thrilled eligible Bowdoin Upward Bound participants will join Narraguagus and Sumner High School students in applying for this life-changing opportunity. Collaborative partnership is foundational to the Davis Maine Scholarship program and Upward Bound has a record of exemplary student support. This new partnership elevates and deepens our shared belief in, and commitment to, increasing higher education access and success for Downeast students.”
Bowdoin College’s Upward Bound Director Bridget Mullen said, “Whenever trusted organizations aligned in mission can strengthen services and increase opportunities, it’s a big win. With deep roots in Washington County, Upward Bound and Maine Seacoast Mission have demonstrated longstanding commitment to area students. This support from the Davis Maine Scholarship and the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund makes it possible to provide greater student support after they’ve completed high school and while they’re in college. I’ve been working with Upward Bound in Washington County schools for over 30 years and I couldn’t be happier or more excited for our students.”
Our inaugural cohort of Davis Maine Scholars enters college in Fall 2022.
Maine Seacoast Mission has been committed to the people of Maine’s outer islands and Downeast coastal communities since our founding in 1905. Our mission: Rooted in a history of compassionate service and mutual trust, Maine Seacoast Mission seeks to strengthen coastal and island communities by educating youth, supporting families, and promoting good health.
Davis Scholars Emilee, Ana Rosa, and Rachel on the Wheaton College campus.
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME — November 8th marks the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor students who will be the first members of their families to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. The day falls on the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. It is sponsored by two organizations: The Center for First Generation Student Success is a national research and advocacy organization. The Council for Opportunity in Education is a national advocacy organization that expands higher education opportunity for historically under-served students.
For decades, Maine Seacoast Mission has demonstrated support for students transitioning to and through college. Each year, we work with, learn from, and celebrate many Washington County and Eastern Hancock County first-gen students through our Mission Scholarship program and – beginning this year – our Davis Maine Scholarship program.
The Center for First Generation Student Success research on first-gen college students shows that nationally, in their first year of college, while 65 percent of first-gen students engage financial aid services, when it come to accessing other vital support services:
14% access health services 55% access academic advising 30% access additional academic support services such as tutoring 16% access career services
This data underscores the importance of the mentoring we provide, beginning early with EdGE, Journey, and island education initiatives, through college and career initiatives with our high school and college students. Helping students find their voices, advocate for themselves, and access opportunities and resources is vital for their college success and hopeful futures.
Congratulations, Mission first-gen students and families! We see you, believe in you, and are with you this day and all days!
Photos and story by Davis Maine Scholarship Director Christina Griffith.
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – The Mission’s first Davis Maine Scholar cohort just returned from a 660 mile, four-day road-trip to visit Wheaton College, Clark University, and University of New England in Massachusetts and Southern Maine. The cohort’s six scholars traveled with two mentors: Davis Maine Scholarship Director Christina Griffith, and Journey Program Director Dakin Hewlett.
Scholars enjoyed campus tours and information sessions, and time with admissions counselors learning about the application process. At lunch, college students shared stories of their studies and life on campus. Our cohort learned about support resources (i.e. academic tutoring, advising) and enjoyed conversation (and even a pizza dinner) with each college president.
From the peace of Peacock Pond on the Wheaton campus, to Clark’s extensive community service engagement in local neighborhoods, to UNE’s research and study abroad opportunities, our Scholars learned much and returned inspired. They represented well their families, schools, and Downeast communities. In the weeks ahead, Scholars will focus on completing their college applications with new focus and insight given their own lived experiences on each campus.
Davis Maine Scholarship recipient Rachel Colby of Gouldsboro.
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME — Six hardworking Downeast high school juniors learned recently they were selected as Maine’s first Davis Maine Scholars. The students — all first-generation college bound— will each receive a full four-year cost of attendance scholarship at one of three Davis Maine Scholarship partner colleges: Clark University (MA), University of New England (ME), and Wheaton College (MA).
It is through the generosity and vision of Andrew Davis, Director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund that these Downeast students now have a clear path toward a bachelor’s degree from one of New England’s leading private liberal arts colleges. In collaboration with Maine Seacoast Mission and the Davis Maine Scholarship partner colleges, this scholarship program was created to ensure that more first generation college students from rural Washington County and eastern Hancock County have the opportunity to complete undergraduate degrees, untethered by financial burden.
The Davis Maine Scholarship is modeled after the highly successful Davis New Mexico Scholarship and the Davis United World College Scholars Program. In announcing Maine’s inaugural recipients, Director Andrew Davis of the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund said:
“Congratulations to our first Davis Maine Scholars. Such talented, motivated students have earned this opportunity to shine. These first role models will serve as inspirations to and bridges for younger students to recognize the opportunities that come with a collegiate education and ultimately will strengthen the Downeast communities they call home.”
The six inaugural Davis Maine Scholars attend Narraguagus High School and Sumner Memorial High School. They were drawn from Maine Seacoast Mission’s college exploration and engagement program which they joined during their freshman year. Applicants were assessed based on academic achievement, personal strengths, school and community engagement, and an application process that included essays, recommendations, and interviews.
The Narraguagus scholarship recipients are:
Holly Lisett Anderson of Harrington, the daughter of Rachel Vincellette
Mali Smith of Columbia Falls, the daughter of Jason and Kimberly Smith
The Sumner scholarship recipients are:
Mya Abbott of Franklin, the daughter of Chris and April Abbott
Rachel Colby of Gouldsboro, the daughter of Jason and Laura Colby
Emilee Hutchins of Winter Harbor, the daughter of Jeff and Tracey Hutchins
Ana Rosa Valencia Jungo of Sullivan, the daughter of Elio Valencia Guzman and Rosalba Jungo Zavala
Narraguagus High School Principal MaryEllen Day said, “We are so very proud that Lisett and Mali were selected as Davis Maine Scholars. This program will open many doors for these wonderful students. They have worked hard throughout their years and are very deserving of this opportunity. Narraguagus looks forward to them doing great things!”
The Sumner Guidance Team of Corinna Domagala and Lucille Null, reacted to the news by saying, “Sumner Memorial High School and our students are incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have the Davis Scholarship and all the wonderful avenues it will open for them.”
Working closely with partner high schools and colleges, the Davis Maine Scholarship program will provide students ongoing mentoring and guidance as they apply to college and transition through it. The program also includes parent workshops and support. The expectation is that Davis Maine Scholars will earn their undergraduate degrees in four years.
Davis Maine Scholarship Director Christina Griffith said, “Our Davis Maine Scholars each demonstrate inspiring academic commitment and remarkable persistence, including through the pandemic. Their achievements reflect their courage, heart, and unwillingness to give up no matter the weight of the challenge. Alongside their families, I am so honored to celebrate and support them on their continuing academic journeys.”