February 13, 2013

Paper company pledges $100,000 to USM science program

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A Maine paper company is giving $100,000 to a University of Southern Maine science and tech program for Maine’s top high school graduates.

Sappi Fine Paper North America pledged the money, over four years, to support the USM Pioneers Program, which was established in 2011 for students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Each Pioneer gets a full, four-year scholarship, a computer, special on-campus housing, faculty mentors, paid internships and opportunities to work directly with USM faculty on research projects. The Sappi donation will be used for scholarships and off-campus trips.

“We are delighted to have Sappi as a supporter of the USM Pioneers Program and our STEM initiatives,” says Mike Wing, director of the Pioneers Program. “Support from leading Maine companies, like Sappi, is key to producing positive outcomes in our STEM initiatives that strengthen our state’s efforts to flourish economically in the future.”

State, education and business leaders have forged new partnerships and dedicated resources to support STEM education in recent years, as the skills gap in Maine widens. The state does not currently have enough college graduates in the STEM fields to fill the demand by Maine companies, officials say.

“We anticipate having nearly thirty percent of our workforce retire in the next 5 years and so there is a huge demand for STEM-related jobs,” said Donna Cassese, managing director of Sappi’s Westbrook Mill.

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