July 27, 2012

Maine students to LePage: Our educations prepared us

The governor said Maine students who go to college are "looked down upon" because of a poor education, but graduates say that's not true.

Ashley Graffam, a 2006 graduate of South Portland High School, headed to the University of New Hampshire for her college education, along with a number of other Maine students. At no point, she said, did she feel judged as inferior for being from Maine.

Today's poll: 'If you come from Maine ...'

Do you agree with Gov. LePage that “if you come from Maine, you're looked down upon” ?

Yes

No

View Results

Jackie Richio said, “I’m proud of my state and the education I got there.”

Contributed photo

click image to enlarge

Benjamin Kissin, 22, of Freeport, said “In some cases, I was more prepared" by his Maine education.

Contributed photo

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines

"I feel like I was prepared to go to college," Graffam said Thursday. "No matter what state they're from, some kids learn better than others."

The 23-year-old was among several recent and current students who reacted to comments by Gov. Paul LePage on perceptions of the quality of public education in Maine. At an appearance Wednesday with Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, LePage rolled out an education reform plan and said Maine's reputation for a quality public education was suffering.

"I don't care where you go in this country -- if you come from Maine, you're looked down upon," the governor said.

LePage's plan includes several familiar initiatives -- such as expanding school choice through vouchers and creating more charter schools -- as well as some new ones -- including requiring local school districts to pay for remedial courses for their college students.

LePage cited a recent study by Harvard University that showed Maine was not making strides in student achievement as proof that the state is falling behind.

But several students interviewed Thursday offered contradictory views.

Benjamin Kissin, 22, of Freeport, recently graduated from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. He's home for the summer but is enrolled in graduate school at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa., this fall. He said his education in Maine more than prepared him for college, and he disputed the governor's notion that Mainers are looked down upon.

"That wasn't the case for me at all. In some cases, I was more prepared than students from other states," he said. "This is another instance of the governor embarrassing our state and its citizens."

Jackie Richio, a 2002 Portland High School graduate who went to college in Florida and now lives and works in New York, said she doesn't pay much attention to Maine politics. When told of the governor's comment, Richio said, "That's absolutely absurd. It's insulting."

Being from Maine has given her an advantage, she said.

"I'm proud of my state and the education I got there," Richio said.

Riley McCarthy, 18, graduated from Windham High School last year and is a freshman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.

"There aren't a lot of people from Maine that go there. I don't feel like people judge you," she said.

Students proved their capabilities by being accepted to a competitive school, she said, and the state they grew up in or where they went to high school is irrelevant.

Alana Gregoire, 30, went to Deering High School and then to the University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut. She said when people think of Maine, they think of "flannel shirts, moose, no social skills," and a lack of education goes along with that stereotype. Compared to her education, the education of her classmates from wealthy Connecticut towns "was way hardcore," she said.

But she thinks that wealthy Maine towns also have more rigorous schools. "I think it's no different than any other state," she said.

LePage's remark also spurred criticism from other sources, including the Maine Education Association, the state teacher's union, which has opposed much of LePage's education agenda, and the Maine Democratic Party.

"(The governor) again degraded our own people, saying that Maine students are 'looked down upon' in other parts of the country. Of course, he has no evidence of this, but reality doesn't stand in the way of his plan to privatize K-12 education in Maine," Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said in an email to supporters.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Riley McCarthy said, “I don’t feel like people judge you" because you're from Maine.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Alana Gregoire said, “I think it’s no different than (being educated in) any other state."

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Ashley Graffam said, “I feel like I was prepared to go to college.”

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Gov. Paul LePage

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

  


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)


Today's poll: 'If you come from Maine ...'

Do you agree with Gov. LePage that “if you come from Maine, you're looked down upon” ?

Yes

No

View Results