The work of the John T. Gorman Foundation focuses on four priority populations, Young Children, Older Youth, Families and Seniors. At the start of the summer, we issued our inaugural policy brief, “From Adolescence to Adulthood: A Blueprint for Helping Maine Youth Succeed.” The brief aims to improve public understanding about issues facing youth who are poor, homeless or involved with the child welfare or juvenile justice systems. It also offers some common-sense recommendations to help policymakers at the State and local levels improve the odds that these young reach their full potential. In support of that brief Tony authored an OpEd with Senator George Mitchell in the Portland Press Herald and Sara appeared on MainePublic to discuss its release. Our commitment to promoting the recommendations in the brief does not end as the days become colder. This autumn we will be hosting events around the state to promote the brief’s recommendations.
One innovative comprehensive program highlighted in the brief is the Mitchell Institute’s “Promise” Scholars program. In 2014, the Foundation partnered with the Mitchell Institute to offer scholarships and other comprehensive supports to outstanding young people in Maine who have experienced adversity and wish to pursue higher education. Currently, 32 percent of the Promise Scholars have experienced homelessness, 43 percent grew up in foster care, and 93 percent came from families earning less than $35,000 annually. Promise Scholars are selected on the basis of academic achievement, community impact and financial need, and are provided additional personal and professional support to help them succeed in college and increase their social capital. As of 2017, there were 33 promise scholars attending 16 different institutions across Maine and the Northeast with the first class of scholars having graduated this past spring. The Promise Scholars program demonstrates that when provided with comprehensive supports, in addition to financial help, young people facing some of life’s most difficult adversities can earn a college degree, make lifelong connections, learn leadership skills, and gain the confidence that people believe in them and want to see them succeed.
In addition to the Promise Scholars program, we are proud to support other programs generating good results for Maine’s young people. For example, The Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, now in its 4th year, is successfully mentoring and empowering young women across the state and Gateway to Opportunity, a collaborative effort led by the University of Southern Maine, is connecting young people with meaningful, work-based learning opportunities in the Portland area. These programs give young Mainers a vision of what their future could be, and the real-life tools they need to achieve that future.
Major congratulations to all the participants who graduated this spring and summer, and to the staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure these young people have every opportunity to succeed.