Alfond Leader Award Recipients Announced, New Application Cycle Begins

The Harold Alfond Foundation and the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) announced the 23 newest Alfond Leader award recipients. Collectively, they qualified to receive about $670,000 in student loan debt relief. To date, 67 Maine-based STEM professionals have been named Alfond Leaders and over $2 million of their student loans will qualify for repayment assistance. A new application cycle is now open until November 15, 2018. Interested individuals can learn more and apply at AlfondLeaders.org.

The ground-breaking Alfond Leaders student loan repayment assistance program was launched in 2017 and provides student loan repayment assistance to people who either currently live and work in Maine or who come to Maine for a position with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-designated occupation at a Maine-based employer. The program was designed to help Maine employers attract and retain talented workers. The Harold Alfond Foundation has committed $4 million over the next three years to the program and anticipates it will give about 150 recipients up to $60,000 in college debt relief per person. The Alfond Leaders program is administered by FAME.

“Maine needs to attract and retain highly skilled STEM and other professionals to strengthen Maine’s economy,” said Greg Powell, Chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation. “This program is one incentive that we think can help build up Maine’s workforce.”

Each awardee receives loan repayments up to half of their outstanding student loan balance, not to exceed $60,000. These payments are made in two installments, the first paid at three years, and the second paid after the completion of an additional three years of qualifying employment and state residency. The payment periods have been shortened from five and 10 years since the program was originally launched and are retroactive to include the first two rounds of Alfond Leaders.

The second application cycle concluded on May 15th. More than 160 applications for the competitive loan repayment program were received to select the 23 most recent recipients. The awardees work in a variety of Maine-based organizations as scientists, engineers, information technology professionals, and entrepreneurs. They are: Mikayla Bolduc, Skowhegan; Shawn Brackett, Auburn; Laura Brown, Portland; Julie Cross, Gorham; Jordon Cyr, Freeport; Tyson Girsa, Millinocket; John Golder, Poland; Katherine Kelley, Steep Falls, Jonathan Hardingham, Sanford; Joel Hyde, Veazie; Shane Kelly, Portland, Jacob Keniston, Prospect; Jonathan Labrecque, Ellsworth; Joshua Libby, Gray; Austin Moore, Gardiner; Matthew Moretti, Portland; Giovanna Patrizio, Portland; Joel Plunkett, Brunswick; Scott Rizzo, Lamoine; Aric Rogers, Ellsworth; Scott Webber, Auburn; Ann Wells, Southwest Harbor; and Sarah Wheatley, Gardiner.

Below are details on three of the recipients:

Matthew (Matt) Moretti, President of Wild Ocean Aquaculture, LLC, a company he co-founded with his father, graduated with a degree in biology from Bates College and then headed off to Boston to pursue a master’s degree in marine biology at Northeastern University.  After obtaining his master’s degree in 2010, he knew he didn’t want to pursue a research career, but instead wanted to return to Maine and immerse himself in the state’s vibrant and growing aquaculture industry. To start Wild Ocean Aquaculture, he and his father acquired Bangs Island Mussels in 2010. In the last eight years, he has spearheaded the growth of the business from three small farms producing less than 30,000 pounds of mussels a year to the largest rope-grown mussel farm in New England with 10 employees producing 250,000 mussels a year, 60,000 pounds of farm-raised kelp and a ground-breaking new venture into farm-raising sea scallops. Matt lives in Portland but grew up in the Bangor area. He came back to Maine because he says, “Having grown up here, I have a strong affinity for Maine, especially the ocean, and I knew my home state was poised to become a leader in the Northeast aquaculture industry. About student loan debt, he says, “It can be an enormous hurdle that at times seems impossible to overcome. This award will go a long way in helping me to manage my student debt load so that I can continue to pursue by professional dreams.”

Katherine Kelley, a New Hampshire native, moved to Maine in 2011 after receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of New Hampshire. As a civil engineer, she started her career at the Maine Department of Transportation and worked. While at the MaineDOT, she pursued and obtained her master’s degree in civil engineering from Norwich University in Vermont through its online graduate school program. Today, she is the Wastewater Division Manager for the City of Westbrook and wears many hats from working closely with the engineering team, to planning, to erosion control, and to waste water back-up coordination. She’s also a recent newlywed and lives in Steep Falls, Maine. Becoming an Alfond Leader is “life changing,” says Katherine. “Student loan debt is like a lingering shadow that is always in the background. With the award, we can really consider having a family and buying a bigger house – something I didn’t think would be possible.”

Saco native Nathan (Nate) Lareau attended USM and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 2016. While at USM, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which got him thinking about how electrical devices are linked to the medical world and compelled him to pursue his master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Boston University. Armed with passion, knowledge and skill, Nate recently returned to Maine to start his career and is an Electrical Design Engineer at Enercon Technologies in Gray, a local company that manufacturers some of the country’s leading medical devices. He says, “Student loan debt impacts your ability to save for the future because you are putting so much of your paycheck toward debt reduction.” Although Nate is just starting his career, he noted, “This award will help me save for my future. I want to stay in Maine long term, and this type of program shows a commitment to growing the STEM industry in Maine. It’s a program that can help attract talent to our state, and for those of us who want to live here, that you don’t have to move to Boston or New York City to have a successful career.”

Who is eligible to become an Alfond Leader?

  • Maine residents or individuals who become Maine residents when hired by a Maine-based business
  • An individual employed or about to be employed by a Maine-based business in a designated STEM occupation
  • An applicant must have a higher education degree or certificate
  • An applicant must have outstanding student loan debt

The current application period is open until November 15, 2018. For an application to be considered it must be completed in full. The application components include: an application form, a written essay, a resume, a statement of intent to live and work in Maine for 6 years; an employment certification by a Maine-based employer; and disclosure of the amount, source, and terms of the student loan indebtedness.

About the Harold Alfond Foundation

The Harold Alfond Foundation furthers the legacy of Harold Alfond by investing in education, healthcare, youth development, and other philanthropic charitable causes that hold the promise of making enduring transformative contributions to the community and state of Maine. To learn more about the Harold Alfond Foundation, please visit www.haroldalfondfoundation.org.