A great American was recently honored by the Maine Legislature for his towering achievements and his years of service to Maine and our nation (“George Mitchell tells Maine legislators: Work together,” Jan. 28).

George Mitchell’s lengthy list of accomplishments, from his tenure as majority leader to his peace missions in Ireland and the Middle East, were acknowledged and praised by many.

But for Sen. Mitchell and those closest to him, the most important achievement, and indeed his legacy to our great state, is the establishment of the George Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute.

Bill Nemitz’s column of Jan. 29 (“Special vote of confidence for Maine students”) profiled one of our incredible scholars, Jessica Boyle. Jessica’s story is one of nearly 2,300 others – each one of these young Mainers has been touched by George Mitchell’s vision and generosity.

At the Mitchell Institute, we do more than give our scholars a check. We give them an opportunity. We open a door and ask them to walk through it with us to make the most of their college education.

Each of our scholars has the opportunity to participate in Mitchell Institute programming, which ranges from leadership seminars, to mentoring, to fellowships. Our support programs make an enormous difference to our students and, as Bill Nemitz pointed out, more than 85 percent of Mitchell Scholars complete college, as opposed to the national and state average of only 50 to 55 percent.

Sen. Mitchell has often said that next to his family, the Mitchell Institute is the most important thing in his life. He believes in Maine students, and our scholars like Jessica Boyle prove that he is right. Give our young people a fair chance to succeed, and they will shine.

Mary Mitchell Friedman

Cape Elizabeth