July 2019
5 Stories From The Road
The CAFÉ Team all agree that one of the best parts of the job is getting to visit places and meet people throughout Maine that we might not have otherwise. Here are a few stories from our travels that we hope you will enjoy!
Maria MacDougal, College Access Counselor
One of the benefits of being a College Access Counselor is that I get to travel to places I might never otherwise. One such place is Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Rockland. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful island to help families at the small Vinalhaven Community School complete the FAFSA. To get there, I have to catch a ferry in Rockland and spend 90 minutes on Penobscot Bay. One recent November day trip was after a few days of wind and rain and the water was quite choppy. About 10 minutes into the trip, I began to feel very ill. I’ll spare details, but suffice it to say that when I got there, I needed a few minutes to get my land legs back and regroup. I assisted six families that day, and during lunch made my way to the little store on the island for food, coffee and Dramamine; I wasn’t going to risk feeling sick on the way back. The clerk at the store, the students, families and teachers I met were all kind, and that plus the beauty of the place made the trip memorable, even if I was a little green when I was there.
Jessica Whittier, College Access Counselor
I love food! I’m lucky enough to have some of Maine’s foodie hubs in my territory. Portland, Lewiston/Auburn, Brunswick and the York County coast offer tons of great food options, but one of my favorite spots is a little farther off the beaten path. I make an annual visit to Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico to play Claim Your Future and talk with 8 th graders about planning for college. After a full day of learning and fun I needed to stop and recharge. I discovered The Lure when it was just over the line into Rumford. I was craving curry and was blown away by the freshness and flavor of the lunch I had that day. One of the best things about working in many places in Maine is that you never know what treasure you’ll find in a hidden corner.
Nikki Vachon, College Access Counselor
I’m a County girl so traveling Downeast has been an adventure! I would say one of my most memorable experiences on the road was when I visited Lubec Elementary School to play Claim Your Future with 5th – 8th grade students. While grabbing lunch, I parked by the water to make some phone calls. There were so many sea gulls flying around I couldn’t believe it! I was stunned to see many seals bobbing around and laying on rocks. I was so excited when I got back to the classroom to finish out the day, and I explained (with much excitement) that “I saw seals!!” The students were nonplussed, explaining that it happens every day when the fishermen come back and drop their chum. We all had a good laugh. I’m sure they are used to out-of-towners being delighted by the daily sights of Downeast Maine. I’m always happy to return so I can take it all in again.
Mila Tappan, College Access and Outreach Manager
I’m the opposite of Nikki – a Downeast girl who loves visiting The County! A trip that stands out was my first visit to Madawaska. After a day of playing Claim Your Future with enthusiastic 6 th graders, I spent the night in Caribou. Following a meeting at Cary Medical Center sharing information about the Alfond Grant, I headed north. Under a clear blue sky, my GPS took me along Route 161 and then Route 162, where I became a little concerned as I wound my way through the woods. Before I knew it, though, I was at the Lakeview Restaurant. From there the views were spectacular as I drove along Long Lake, which seemed to go on forever. When I arrived in Madawaska, I met with several people, including a concerned grandfather who needed help supporting his grandchildren through the financial aid process. As I made my way back to Caribou I saw my first moose, which was huge! As he meandered across the road I lamented for the umpteenth time that day about not having a camera. Driving home I remember feeling so lucky that my job allowed me to visit places and meet people that I would not have otherwise, a thought that I’ve had countless times over the years.
Floreka Malual, College Planning Advisor
As we travel the state we are privileged to meet many students, both native and New Mainers, who have powerful stories. A thread that unites students is the desire to have financial stability and hope for the future. This spring I traveled to Kennebunk High School where I met Alvaro Huezo Coto. Alvaro was is born in El Salvador but came to the U.S. by himself to better this life and provide hope to his family. Alvaro excelled academically in high school while working hard to improve his English. As a senior, he also took a course at York County Community College, while participating in track and wrestling and working two part-time jobs. Together, Alvaro and I were able to complete the FAFSA, a process he was nervous about given that his parents aren’t in the U.S. We also worked on college applications, during which time we talked about his goals and what a college degree would mean to him. Alvaro’s goal is to become a lawyer and ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to experience financial freedom, regardless of where they are born. No matter where we travel in Maine, we are fortunate to meet people who reminds us what desirable, supportive, and beautiful place Maine is to live.

Click here to learn more about Alvaro.
For additional helpful information and resources, find  previous issues of 5 on the 5th on our website.

FAME's College Access and Financial Education Team:

Mila Tappan , College Access and Outreach Manager
Jessica Whittier , College Access Counselor 
Nikki Vachon , College Access Counselor
Maria MacDougal , College Access Counselor
Floreka Malual , College Planning Advisor
Mary Dyer , Financial Education Officer
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