Fall 2020
Seizing the Moment
Whether students are in the classroom or learning from home, JMG is wishing them and Maine's 15,000 teachers well as we all navigate an unusually challenging time. In the midst of so much uncertainty, never has the relationship between students and educators been more important. As the new school year was about to begin, the following message went out to our 138 JMG Specialists working with middle school, high school and college students across the state - a reminder to seize the moment.
One Student's Struggle to Stay on Her Path
“I suffer from anxiety and haven’t always had much self-confidence.” Jenna Braley has just started her second year at Kennebec Valley Community College. She’s in the JMG College Success Program and says without her program Specialist, Jess Rodrigue, she’s not sure where she would be. “Last year, I remember many times I’d go to Jess’ office in tears worried about something and she was always so welcoming and calming. She always said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out'."

Jenna was studying to be a respiratory therapist – her dream job. Before she could be accepted into the program though, she had to pass the TEAS exam: Test of Essential Academic Skills. She was scheduled to take it in April. “This exam had been hanging over her head," Jess Rodrigue said. “Now it was just a few weeks away. She was signed up for workshops to prep for the test when COVID-19 hit. She was yanked out of class and into remote learning. The test was postponed. The workshops were canceled. She knew she had to pass the test by the end of summer, or she wouldn’t be accepted into the program this fall. It was a lot of pressure for someone who is already dealing with anxiety and self-confidence issues.”

Jess immediately reached out to Jenna to see how she was doing; offering whatever support the freshman needed to stay connected to school. Since the test workshops were canceled, Jess found some prep resources for Jenna to practice with. “Even after school ended, Jess was checking in, making sure I was OK and staying on track,” Jenna said. “She made me feel like someone was always there, looking out for me. I knew she believed in me.”

The exam was rescheduled and Jenna took it online in mid-July. Despite her fears, she passed and was on her way to pursuing her dream job. “I was just so excited for her,” Jess said. “She had worked through so much anxiety and self-doubt. I was so proud of her. Her life was no longer on hold.”

“Oh my gosh. I was so happy, I was laughing out loud!", Jenna said. “I called my best friend and said, ‘You won’t believe what happened’. Ms. Rodrigue made a big difference. She is definitely my number one support person. I probably would have dropped out by now. She always encouraged me and wouldn’t let me give up.”
JMG’s Summer Academy

As Maine and the rest of the world transitioned into summer, educators around the globe expressed concern about the negative impact COVID-19 would have on student aspirations. Keenly aware of the increased challenges faced by Maine students, JMG remained committed to keeping students engaged and on their path to reach their education and career goals.
In partnership with Thomas College, JMG offers a summer college intensive prep program for rising high school seniors. Students typically spend a full week living on the Waterville campus, experiencing college life first-hand. While COVID-19 threatened to derail this year’s Academy, Program Coordinator Nicole Lazure says that threat was avoided. “When I was told that we were going to run the Academy, I was very nervous about being able to make all of the adjustments needed to make it a virtual experience in such a short time. But, I was quickly reminded of how much our JMG family comes together to support our students and our organizational success.”

Twenty-two seniors from across the state took part in the fourth annual JMG Summer Academy. For two weeks, they logged onto their computers, spending three hours a day in a college- level personal finance class. The course is taught by Thomas College Professor and JMG alumnus Ryan Wheaton who, according to Lazure, “teaches with empathy, integrity, and is always the students’ favorite part of the Academy.” In addition to daily classes, students participated in two-hour academic support sessions and optional activities in the evenings. Those activities gave them an in-depth look at JMG’s College Success Program, which is a program that supports students from high school through college completion.

At the end of the two weeks, we proudly celebrated the efforts of all 22 students who succeeded in earning three credits that will transfer to the college of their choice. 
JMG has always been committed to meeting students where they are, regardless of who they are or where they come from. This responsibility has taken on a new sense of urgency in light of the increased awareness of racial inequity in America. This summer, JMG’s staff began the process of examining their own contributions to this disparity by taking on a 10-Day Racial Equity Challenge. We’ve read stories of people suspected of wrongdoing solely because of the color of their skin. We’ve listened to others recount what it’s like to live in fear of being misjudged or harmed because of their physical appearance. And, we’ve been meeting in groups to share our own personal reactions to these stories, how they are changing our perspectives, as well as what we can, and have to do, to make sure the 10,000 students we work with, and all Maine students, have the access and opportunity to pursue their goals and lead meaningful lives.

While the 10-Day Challenge is over, JMG remains committed to this work. Here are some of the thoughts and feelings shared by two Specialists. Watch
With the challenges and turmoil we face today, it is important to take every chance we get to celebrate - and for JMG that means recognizing the commitment and longevity of our staff. We want to congratulate Victor Esposito, Jr., Master Specialist at Vassalboro Community School, for choosing to spend 20 years believing in and supporting Maine students.
Additional congratulations to Specialists Alex Ricker of Brewer Community School, Carl Ripley from Woodland Jr/Sr High School, Jason Drake at Wiscasset Middle High School, and South Region Manager Kelly Bourassa, for making a difference in the lives of Maine students for 10 years.
Thank you for all that you do for Maine students!