Starting on April 1, young adults living in Washington and Hancock counties, and on Maine’s outer islands, can apply for the Downeast Exploration Fund. The fund, started by Gigi Georges, author of Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America, and her husband, Jeff Oxman, provides scholarships for students to explore their own passions and pursue experiences not otherwise available to them. The first fund awardees, who received scholarships last year, went to immersive summer camps, developed their artistic skills, took piano lessons, and more.
Any student in grades six through 12, including rising sixth graders and just-graduated seniors, within the Mission’s service areas may apply for an award. The Downeast Exploration Fund provides up to $1,500 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.
In 2021, Gigi Georges published the non-fiction book, Downeast, with HarperCollins. Following the first edition printing, Georges and Oxman founded the Downeast Exploration Fund with Maine Seacoast Mission to celebrate the continued strength and resilience residing in the young people of the Downeast region of the state. Georges says, “The Fund honors of the book’s five young women. They played a central role in developing the Fund’s objective, which is to expand opportunities beyond the classroom for Downeast children.” The couple actively involved the five young women in developing the Fund.
Maine Seacoast Mission President John Zavodny says, “The Downeast Exploration Fund is a result of Gigi’s and Jeff’s generosity and their appreciation for the incredible spirit of Downeast young people. We’re excited to hear about and help fuel their passions. The Mission’s education and youth development work in Downeast Maine makes the Fund a perfect fit.”
Interested applicants may apply through Maine Seacoast Mission’s website or through a school guidance counselor. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until funds for the 2023 award year are exhausted.