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Stories of Promise: Androscoggin Bank’s Impact at the University of Southern Maine

Stories of Promise: Androscoggin Bank’s Impact at the University of Southern Maine

Androscoggin Bank has pledged $15,000 over three years to the University of Southern Maine’s Promise Scholar Program. Through this program, our Bank is not just investing in individuals; we are investing in the future of Maine. By providing opportunities for students across the state, Androscoggin Bank is helping to build a stronger, more empowered community—one Promise Scholar at a time.

In the fall of 2023, the University of Southern Maine (USM) welcomed a remarkable cohort of first-year students, with 43% proudly identifying as first-generation college students. This statistic reflects a national trend, with over half of postsecondary students across the United States being the first in their families to pursue a bachelor’s degree. These students often face unique challenges, coming from low-income or minority backgrounds and juggling responsibilities as parents, caregivers, veterans, or first-generation Americans. Aside from this segment, there still lies a large population who do not qualify as first-generation students but still see finances as a roadblock to their higher education journey.

In Maine, these facts ring ever so true. Our new Mainer families have already made so many sacrifices to be here; only to be burdened by the weight of a complex education system that is difficult to afford for so many. Moreover, many of us who grew up in rural areas of the state, know the feelings of being the first in our family to begin this journey with little or no money to support it. This can be a lonely, discouraging acclimation, and for so many is the reason to not start or continue.

The Promise Scholar Program at USM provides a lifeline for these determined students, covering 100% of tuition and fees for all four years of their education. Supported by Androscoggin Bank and other financial institutions across the state, this program aims to bridge the financial gap for those who experience financial hardship or are first-generation students, to overcome common barriers and persist to graduation. Beyond merely addressing financial constraints, this initiative also offers a diverse range of enrichment activities and establishes a supportive network comprising both peers and professional staff. These resources are instrumental in assisting first-generation college students in overcoming common obstacles, thus ensuring their journey to graduation is met with success.

For individuals like Joshua Mutshilia, a Political Science student at USM, the Promise Scholarship has been transformative. Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo and spending his formative years in South Africa, Joshua’s journey to Portland was marked by hardship and uncertainty. Joshua’s family experienced homelessness and he even recounts thinking that there might not be chances for people who look like him in this country. Yet, he has a remarkably resilient approach, claiming that he is “A big believer in finding time to work, putting in the effort and not just sitting down and waiting for things to come to you.” Joshua followed his own advice and with the support of the Promise Scholarship, found the financial security he needed to pursue his dreams of attending college.

With plans to graduate this spring, Joshua is preparing for the LSAT and has his eyes on furthering his education within the University of Maine system with a law degree. Eventually, he hopes to work in public policy where he can directly make an impact on the homeless and housing challenges our cities face.

Similarly, Hamda Mohsin, a Social Work Student from Lewiston, found solace and validation through the Promise Scholar Program. Mohsin explained that, “Receiving these scholarships not only reduced the financial burden of my educational pursuits but also provided me with a sense of validation and appreciation for my efforts. It has inspired me to strive for greatness and grasp each chance that comes my way. Thank you so much for believing in my potential. Thank you for being a constant source of support and encouragement for everyone. Most of all, thank you for your generosity and kindness, which have truly made a significant impact on my life.”

With aspirations to earn a master’s degree and make a difference in her community, Hamda’s journey is another testament to the transformative power of education. As Andrew Bossie, Director of Engagement at USM, aptly puts it, “Support from Androscoggin Bank and others help remove obstacles and help our students become the leaders of tomorrow, be them lawyers, social workers, technology innovators, or other change agents. Androscoggin Bank has been incredible in helping us further build out support for students like Hamda, Joshua, and so many more.”