Empowering young Maine students to build a brighter future . . . for themselves and for their communities.

Why we do what we do.

Aspirations.

You won’t be successful at . . . whatever.

Aspirations give students a purpose throughout their education. Aspirations give them a reason to put some extra effort into their schoolwork today. Aspirations help students see that they are doing this work not for someone else or to meet someone else’s standards, but for their own future.

Community aspirations help a community move forward and into a constantly changing future. Economic poverty is closely attached to aspirational poverty.

We can’t build a brighter future for others, but we can empower them to build a brighter future of themselves. Over 25 years of talking with students of all ages, we have learned that aspirations in rural communities start to veer left or right around the 5th or 6th grade. So, beginning to talk with students about their aspirations and their opportunities for the future in high school is just too late. It may work in more affluent suburban schools, but it doesn’t usually work in rural communities.

Success in higher education in rural American communities is challenging, in part because rural communities have a harder time seeing a breadth of opportunities for the future, and in part because most rural communities have an economic history not dependent on skills taught in a four-year college. These communities are more likely to express doubt about the value of higher education to their youth. We could ignore rural America, but we shouldn’t. Rural America is the foundation of this country, and an essential part of a healthy democracy.

We are constantly questioned about our focused on “college.” We define “college” very broadly to include all post-high school educational opportunities. There is a pride and excitement in the minds of younger students that comes with the word “college.” We don’t like implying that there is a difference in value between a “trade school” (usually at the local community college) and a college with a four-year bachelor’s degree. Higher education should align with a student’s highest aspirations.