Mainely Character, a decade-old college scholarship program that recognizes high school graduates’ personal development, is seeking new donors so it can keep growing.

From 2001 to 2007, the program awarded a $5,000 scholarship each year to a high school senior who demonstrated courage, integrity, responsibility and concern for others. Time Warner Cable became the scholarship’s official sponsor in 2007.

The program expanded in 2009, when it added a $2,500 scholarship sponsored by Northeast Bank, and again this year, when it added a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by R.M. Davis Wealth Management.

The volunteer-run scholarship program continues to focus on students’ character, said Mary Lynn Engel, vice president of Mainely Character’s board of directors. Academic achievement, athletic prowess and financial need aren’t considered.

“Often, our applicants have excelled in other ways, but we don’t ask about grades or sports or anything like that,” Engel said. “It’s all about character.”

Mainely Character was founded by Arnold Bushner, a financial consultant who lived in Old Orchard Beach and believed that a student’s character should count as much as academics and athletics. He died in 2008.

This year, the program received 250 applications from students across Maine, said Engel, a marketing expert who teaches at Southern Maine Community College, the University of Southern Maine and Saint Joseph’s College.

Mainely Character board members reviewed the applications, which required students to write 500-word essays on how they demonstrated the principles of courage, integrity, responsibility and concern. The board interviewed five finalists.

The Time Warner scholarship was awarded to Chris Strout of Fryeburg Academy. The Northeast Bank scholarship, which honors Bushner, was awarded to Samira Abdul Karim of Windham High School. The R.M. Davis scholarship was awarded to a Thornton Academy student who declined to be identified.

The scholarship winners have made significant contributions to their communities, often overcoming great personal adversity in the process, said Judy Katzel, a board member who is president of Burgess Advertising & Marketing in Portland.

“These kids really stand out in their communities and among other kids,” Katzel said. “Often, they make very different choices. In the face of what is expected of them, they choose a different path.”

Chris Strout’s mother died from alcoholism when he was 6 years old. His father was in jail, so he went to live with his grandparents. Soon, he became their caretaker, paying bills, scheduling doctor’s visits and managing medications.

Strout abstains from alcohol and drug use and encourages friends to do the same. He organized a drug-free graduation trip to New York City. He plans to study heavy equipment operation at SMCC.

Samira Abdul Karim is an immigrant from the Republic of Ghana, in West Africa, who came to the United States in 2007. She raises money to fight multiple sclerosis and volunteers at Mercy Hospital.

She plans to attend the University of New Hampshire, become a doctor and one day improve medical care in her native country.

“In Ghana, there is no health care system,” Karim said. “Without money, you cannot go to the hospital. For poor people, there is no hope of getting medical care. I want to change that.”

To apply for or make a contribution to the scholarship program, go to mainelycharacter.org.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]