BUCKSPORT — Regional School Unit 25 (RSU 25) Superintendent Jim Boothby announced Tuesday that the district was the recipient of a grant “just shy of a million dollars” aimed at inspiring pre-K-to-12 students to plan for careers and postsecondary education.
“It will help us design and implement a systemic approach PK-12 and beyond for aspirational development and planning for life beyond high school in a manner that will be integrated into our curriculum,” Boothby said. The goal of the program is to enhance student aspirations through early and continued learning experiences, career exposure and increased student participation in postsecondary and career planning.
The grant is the result of a partnership between the MELMAC Education Foundation and Generation US — an affiliate of Jobs for Maine Graduates.
“It is a customized process to enhance our curriculum and our experiences for our students and our families,” said Boothby. “I am thrilled. I’m excited. I think it’s going to position our students for success.”
Representatives of both MELMAC and Jobs for Maine Graduates spoke at the RSU 25 School Board meeting, where the grant was announced.
Wendy Ault, a former Maine legislator and executive director of the MELMAC Education Foundation, said the foundation funds projects at high schools so the schools can implement strategies to expose students to education beyond high school.
“This came about for a variety of reasons,” said Ault. “Bucksport at one time had a traditional MELMAC grant.”
The leadership in the RSU 25 school system is another reason the district was chosen. Ault cited the college access team, with Bucksport High School Principal Josh Tripp and science teacher Katie Hunter.
“I have learned over the course of my years directing the foundation, if leadership is not engaged, not much happens,” Ault said. “Jim Boothby, Josh Tripp, Todd West [Bucksport Middle School principal] have been so pleasant to work with.” They have “enthusiasm and high energy,” said Ault. “I’m thrilled we’re working with Jobs for Maine Graduates and you.”
Craig Larrabee, president and chief executive officer of Jobs for Maine Graduates, also spoke.
Larrabee said he grew up in Belfast and as such was familiar with Bucksport, “usually over the losing end of sports competitions.”
“When the mill closed down, a lot of people were wondering what was going to happen to Bucksport,” said Larrabee. “I’m just so impressed.”
Larrabee explained that Jobs for Maine Graduates is a private nonprofit organization created by the Maine Legislature to provide dropout prevention services.
“We’re working with over 10,000 students in 140 locations,” he said. The organization’s mission is to help Maine students graduate from high school and transition to higher education or the workforce.
“Not every student is headed to a four-year university, but there are many, many opportunities,” said Larrabee. “None of this would happen without Wendy and her board paying for this work. Somebody has to be the investor. I really believe we are on to something very special here.”
“The reason we chose Bucksport is because of its tremendous leadership base,” said Larrabee.
Boothby replied, “Thank you for the faith you have in us. This will be impactful and it will provide greater opportunities for our students.”
“The initial year of this project is dedicated to planning and inventorying activities and learning opportunities that currently exist and enhancing connections with the community members and employers in and around RSU 25,” Boothby said.
Specific goals will be developed during the planning year and refined as the initiative moves into the implementation phase, he said. “Continued funding, by the MELMAC Education Foundation, for the five-year award will be contingent upon annually meeting the high performance and organizational standards.”
“Remember, it’s not just college access — it’s career access,” Boothby said. “We’re past the day and age where every child needs to go to a four-year college. We’ve learned that doesn’t work for everybody.”
Boothby said there are only a few other school districts, none of them rural, that have done this program.
“It’s groundbreaking work,” the superintendent said. “It’s a new venture but it’s yet to be totally defined.”