“It’s so much more than a scholarship,” said Gwyneth Ash, a University of Maine at Farmington student from Franklin. She was one of 80 current Mitchell Institute Scholars mingling with about 350 business and community leaders at the Sept. 28 Mitchell Institute Gala at the Marriott Sable Oaks in South Portland.

“A check is not enough,” said former Sen. George J. Mitchell, who founded the Mitchell Institute in 1995. “They need to know we believe in them as individual human beings aspiring to achieve in order to help themselves and their communities.”

The Mitchell Institute gives a $9,500 scholarship over four years to a graduating senior from each of the 133 public high schools in Maine each year. The institute also offers professional development opportunities throughout the year, including two annual retreats. Scholars are selected based on academic potential, community impact and financial need.

“The Mitchell Institute is a place where they want you to succeed and where they want you to meet people from all different backgrounds and perspectives,” said scholar Halima Aden, a University of Southern Maine student from Lewiston. “It feels like a family.”

Aden was excited to have just met the mayor of Belfast, Samantha Paradis, a Mitchell Institute alum who is the youngest mayor in Maine at age 27.

“When I graduate, I’ll have connections not only within engineering but with lawyers, medical professionals and business people,” said Hunter Curtis, a Richmond resident who is a sophomore engineering major at the University of Maine in Orono.

“This is our biggest annual fundraising event,” said finance director Lisa Sirois. “It’s a networking opportunity for our scholars and a recognition of our significant donors.”

“I am so lucky to have the Mitchell Institute family in my corner each and every day of my very hectic life,” said scholar Kim Donoghue, a senior at the University of New England. “I’m thankful that because of your generosity, thousands of Maine students, including myself, have been given the chance to succeed.”

Since the institute’s founding in 1995, $16 million has been distributed to nearly 2,900 students. This recent gala raised $250,000.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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