Neither crime nor writing this month, but something definitely Maine that I believe deserves your attention. Full disclosure—my wife Anne is on the Board of the organization I’m describing below, and takes an active part in awarding these scholarships to Maine High School Seniors. And we support the organization financially.
Mainely Character (https://mainelycharacter.org/) is an organization formed in 2001 to award college scholarships to Maine High School students based solely on character. The scholarship process does not consider a student’s academic achievement, athletic prowess, musical ability, artistic talent or financial need. Character, demonstrated through personal action, is the sole criterion the board uses to decide who receives scholarships.
Character is defined as:
- Courage—taking appropriate risks and following one’s conscience
- Integrity—being truthful and trustworthy
- Responsibility—conveying commitment and conviction
- Concern—demonstrating compassion and care toward others
I’m particularly taken with the notion that the usual marks by which we rank high school students are explicitly thrown out of the mix here. So often, some of the strongest kids we have are the quiet ones, not the athletes or high-achieving academic students, the socially ept. So I’m pleased to see that there is an effort here to seek out the students who maybe don’t get the accolades or attention they might deserve, simply for modeling good citizenship and humanity.
Students awarded Mainely Character scholarships come from all over the state. This year, the awardees came from seven of Maine’s sixteen counties: Hancock, Lincoln, Kennebec, Washington, Cumberland, Penobscot, and York.
Here are a couple of their stories, names and details redacted to preserve their privacy.
A young woman from Midcoast Maine, diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, pushed through that challenge to organize activities at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital while she was receiving treatment. Even with the impact on her academic life, she made it to graduation and will attend the University of Maine in the fall.
A remarkable young man from southern Maine with muscular dystrophy turned his own challenges into helping other young people with the disease adjust to summer camp, many of these kids away from home for the first time. He led fundraising efforts for research and for scholarships to send kids to camp. He will attend the University of Southern Maine.
Another young woman from Downeast, who works summers on her brother’s lobster boat, respectfully and successfully challenged her high school’s administration to ease the way for transgender students and expand athletic possibilities for young women. Her peers voted her “Voice of the Students” at her high school. She will attend the University of Maine.
Other stories of these remarkable young people are here.
In 2022, seven other Maine young people were awarded scholarships by Mainely Character. These are often students with other challenges, for whom a scholarship might make the difference between college education and none. I’m proud to have met some of these kids and proud of the way they are emblematic of the state of Maine’s character.