Riley Peterson / Staff Photographer

Laura St.Pierre, Staff Writer

The University of Southern Maine has received $100,000 from Hannaford Supermarkets to boost USM scholarships supporting diversity and equity in educational opportunities.

The donation will cover the entirety of USM’s Access to Education Scholarship Fund (AESF) for two years. AESF encourages a dynamic and diverse student population at USM and was established in 2017. It provides scholarship aid for deserving students who are not eligible to receive Federal Financial Aid. 

The program gives these scholarships to individuals from traditionally underrepresented populations, first-generation college students, students with diverse experiences, or students coming to Maine from an international geographic location; these could include new Mainers or asylum seekers.

In a recent press release regarding the donation, President Glenn Cummings stated, “Hannaford’s gift goes to the heart of our mission at the University of Southern Maine and will help grow the USM Access to Education Fund, which targets support for highly qualified students who are not eligible for federal and state aid.” 

Donations for USM’s scholarship programs are essential; by making higher education more affordable, they allow students from underrepresented groups to concentrate on academics, excel in their studies, and graduate with less debt, allowing them to focus and succeed in their desired field.

Hannaford President Mike Vail commented on the inspiration behind this donation, “At Hannaford, we understand that we have a responsibility for helping build strong and healthy communities, where our customers, our associates, and our families can thrive. No community can be healthy so long as racial injustice and inequity persist. Today, we are investing in efforts to help empower individuals who too often face unfair disadvantages. In the days and years ahead, we are committed to working across our region, within our business, and through collaboration with others to create meaningful and sustained change, so that our entire community can succeed together.”

This gift to USM’s scholarship fund is part of $500,000 in donations created to support racial equity and justice initiatives, economic empowerment efforts, and educational opportunity scholarships focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion across the five-states Hannaford operates in. 

Included in the list of recipients is the University at Albany to help support diversity and equity in educational opportunities, The Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council to help minority-owned businesses, The Racial Equality fund which is sponsored by Greater Portland United Way, and the Racial Justice Fund initiated by the Maine Justice Foundation. As well as the NAACP state and regional conferences for New England. 

If you would like to make a donation to the Access to Education Fund or other scholarship opportunities at USM, you can find the form here at USM Foundation.

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