AAI presents awards at annual gala

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Aroostook Aspirations Initiative hosted their fourth annual Night with the Stars Gala Sept. 16 at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Shawn Cunningham of WAGM-TV was mistress of ceremonies at the event, which celebrated the nonprofit organization’s current and past Gauvin Scholars, business and community supporters and annual award recipients.

Newly inducted Gauvin Scholars were introduced and were given the opportunity to network and make connections with community, education and business leaders. Kevin McAfee, 2017 Judy-Ann Carroll Veteran Gauvin Scholar, said he truly enjoyed the networking opportunities available throughout the event.

“The people at my table were really fun to talk to. We were able to have conversations about almost anything, and kept the conversation alive throughout the whole night,” said McAfee. “The networking portion gave us all the opportunity to meet new people, have future connections, and broaden our horizons.”

CEO of Cary Medical Center, Kris Doody, was keynote speaker.

“Certainly being invited to be the keynote speaker at the gala was an honor and privilege for me personally. Cary Medical Center has been an ongoing, major sponsor of AAI and we believe strongly in its mission to keep young people here in the County by supporting them in multiple ways as they complete their college education at a local college or university,” said Doody.

2017 Katahdin Trust Company Gauvin Scholar, Megan Cole, was the evening’s Scholar speaker. She shared some heartfelt advice with the newly inducted Gauvin Scholars as well as all others in attendance.

“Despite everything that is stacked against you, and when it feels like there is no way out, there always is. Fight as hard as you can to succeed. Don’t let anything or anyone hold you back,” said Cole.

Aroostook Aspirations Initiative also presented awards for Mentor of the Year, Innovative Educator and Business of the Year. The third Road Back Home Award was also presented.

The Mentor of the Year award was presented to Don Hanson, a shop teacher at Washburn District High School. Hanson was nominated by Jacquilin West, 2017 KFC-Taco Bell Gauvin Scholar, and Kelsea Jencks, 2017 Gauvin Scholar.

The Innovative Educator of the Year award was presented to Gina Jandreau, a science teacher at Madawaska Elementary School. Jandreau was nominated by Denise Duperre, Executive Marketing Director for NorState Federal Credit Union.

The Business of the Year award was presented to F.A. Peabody Company. Although representatives from the company were unable to attend this year’s event, Chris Anderson, President and CEO of F.A. Peabody Company, accepted the award in a video. The company was nominated by the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce.

Lastly, the third Road Back Home award was presented to University of Maine Chancellor Dr. James H. Page. This award goes to an individual whose actions demonstrate continuing dedication for Aroostook and its bright future.  

Aroostook Aspirations Initiative’s Executive Director, Kristen Wells, was pleased with the opportunities this year’s event offered to all those in attendance.

“During Aroostook County High School graduations, the message to the graduating class is a farewell and good luck as they go on to pursue the next phase in their lives. The Night with the Stars Gala demonstrates to the Gauvin Scholars that people are supporting them, proud of them, and encouraging them in their pursuit of a college degree and professional opportunities right there in Aroostook County,” said Wells.

“They are pursuing the next phase of their lives here with an incredible community of supporters who purchased tickets and got dressed up for the evening, who traveled from a distance, and who sponsored the event for the chance to meet them. That is a special opportunity for both the scholars and those that attend.”

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