News icon The Mitchell Institute Stokes the Flames of Interest in College at Camp Susan Curtis

Sometimes the best place to talk and think about college is around a campfire.

That’s how it was on a mid-July evening at Camp Susan Curtis in Stoneham, Maine, where a dozen campers and apprentices (counselor-in-training staff) gathered to hear from Osage Crie, the 2019 Mitchell Scholar from Fryeburg Academy. Crie, who was a camper and later an apprentice at Camp Susan Curtis, returned to encourage attendees to pursue higher education and field their questions about college and the application process.

For Crie, a senior Applied Social and Cultural Studies major at the University of New England, the Camp Susan Curtis visit was a homecoming.

“As a past counselor at CSC, it’s always held a very special place for me because it was the first job I ever had where I truly felt I was making a difference in someone’s life,” he said. “Though current obligations don’t allow me to still work their full time, I will always jump at the chance to help make a difference for campers getting ready for college.”

Crie had two main pieces of advice for participants: to look past any doubts about not getting admitted to college or not receiving enough financial aid, and to understand that attending college will result in personal growth.

“It’s okay to change and embrace the new person you have become,” he said.

Jared Cash, President and CEO of the Mitchell Institute (above), joined Crie for the evening presentation, along with Kayla Girardin, the 2013 Mitchell Scholar from Presque Isle High School and current MI Project Assistant. Cash says Scholars have been making annual summer visits with Camp Susan Curtis for more than a decade to help set their sights on college and the Mitchell Scholarship.

“Camp Susan Curtis’ mission closely aligns with that of the Mitchell Institute. We both believe in providing young people from Maine with transformative experiences and opportunities,” he said. “It’s an ideal place for Scholars to complete their community service because they are helping the next generation overcome barriers to earning a college degree.”

Girardin (above), who facilitated this year’s campfire discussion, says part of the reward is “seeing the shift in participants” over the course of the program.

“At the beginning, you can tell that some of them firmly believe college isn’t for them or it’s completely out of reach because of the expense,” she said. “By the end, some of them are seeing it as a real possibility. They’re even saying, ‘Thank you for telling me that college can be for me and what it’s really like.’”

Terri Mulks, Director of Camp Susan Curtis, puts the Mitchell Scholar visit on the docket year after year because it helps campers and apprentices envision the possibilities beyond high school.

“We make this opportunity available because we want apprentices to know that college is attainable, especially when they struggle financially and think that it might be out of reach,” she said. “The partnership is important because former campers and staff members have been recipients of the Mitchell Scholarship, and it helps our campers to identify that people like them can go to college and succeed.”

What’s more, Mulks said the apprentices’ comments during and after the event are proof that the Mitchell Scholars are making a difference.

“Last year, one of our young staff had planned to go to trade school for automotive technology after high school. But after the meeting with a Mitchell Scholar, he developed a broader plan that included college. Before the Mitchell Scholar visit, he had never been told that he could pursue a degree.”