WATERVILLE — Thomas College has announced it will allocate a portion of the $13.5 million grant it received in October to its Jobs for Maine’s Graduates College Success program. 

The grant was awarded to the college on West River Road in Waterville as part of the Harold Alfond Foundation’s $500 million investment aimed at boosting the Maine economy.

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, known as JMG, is a nonprofit organization aimed at improving the state’s workforce and economy by partnering with secondary and post-secondary schools to provide students with opportunities and guidance to advance their careers.

Thomas officials said they plan to allocate $1.5 million to the JMG program.

The JMG program launched at Thomas College in 2014 as a way to help high school students transition into the college environment, according to Ed Cervone, executive director of Thomas’ center for innovation in education.

“Thomas was the first college in the state to create a JMG program bridge into the college experience,” Cervone said Monday in a telephone interview. “Both us and JMG saw a real value in need for those going to college and those coming to Thomas to continue that type of resource and support for the students.” 

Thomas students involved in the JMG program receive a range of individualized services, including academic, social and financial support, according JMG officials.

“In terms of what we’re going to do with the Alfond gift is two basic things,” Cervone said. “One, to continue to have that office on campus. We have JMG specialists right here on campus who work with our JMG students and offer that added layer of support.

“The other part of the money will be used for what the kids really need, which is scholarships. JMG students will be able to access portions of that money for JMG-specific scholarships that come to Thomas.” 

Thomas College has announced it will allocate $1.5 million of the $13.5 million it received in October from the Harold Alfond Foundation to its Jobs for Maine Graduates program. Above, freshmen move into their residence hall in Augusta at the Waterville college. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

Thomas College currently has about 80 students involved in the JMG program.

This fall, 35 new JMG high school graduates enrolled at Thomas, the most since the program launched in 2014, according to college officials.

“So many students and their families focus on securing enough financial aid and scholarships for the student’s first year of college, but then find that the funding can fall short as the student progresses,” JMG President Craig Larrabee said in a prepared statement.

“Very few private scholarships support students for a full four years, and Thomas College leadership has the vision and the commitment to make this happen. The Harold Alfond Foundation grant will remove this barrier faced by so many JMG students.”

Because of programs like JMG, Thomas College has been ranked seventh in the Northeast for upward mobility of its graduates, according to U.S. News & World Report.

In terms of upward mobility, Maine kids are coming here, get a great education that places them on a lucrative sustainable career path that will provide them with the financial means to have a great quality of life,” Cervone said. “JMG students are a part of that from when they start to when they finish.” 

Cervone said the success of JMG at Thomas led college officials to invest further in the program.

“The reason why we’re doing this is because JMG students do really well at Thomas College,” Cervone said. “They are great students and we’ve had tremendous success with them.

“That’s why we’re making this committed investment to the partnership and to those kids. We want more JMG students to come to Thomas College. It’s a great investment for us, and for them. They succeed and they go far here.”

In addition to Thomas College, JMG has on-campus specialists at Central Maine Community College, Eastern Maine Community College, Kennebec Valley Community College, Southern Maine Community College, University of Maine at Augusta, University of Maine at Fort Kent, University of Maine at Machias, University of Southern Maine and Washington County Community College.

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