Winners of the Innovation Challenge pitch competition, from left, were Kaysee Leary of Thomaston, Jackie Gordon of Wayne, and Emma Mora of Canaan. They worked with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates on a restorative justice project, and received $1,000 for their first-place win. Contributed photo

WATERVILLE — Teams of Thomas College students recently competed in the President’s Innovation Challenge. Students collaborated with Maine employers and used design thinking for a semester-long project to solve real-world problems.

Winners of the Innovation Challenge pitch competition were Kaysee Leary of Thomaston, Jackie Gordon of Wayne, and Emma Mora of Canaan. The trio worked with JMG (Jobs for Maine’s Graduates) on a restorative justice project. They won $1,000 for their first-place win.

President Laurie Lachance was the visionary for this project, which piloted last academic year and is part of the re-envisioned Guaranteed Job Program.

“I am incredibly proud of all the students who participated in this innovation challenge,” Lachance said, according to a Thomas College news release. “This is truly a unique opportunity for Thomas College students and one that will set them apart in the workforce after graduation.”

“I really enjoyed participating in the President’s Innovation Challenge for JMG,” said Leary. “Learning the task of design thinking was a new challenge for me and my team but it was truly rewarding, and I know it will be useful in the future. I’m really looking forward to working with my team and President Lachance to use our prototype and provide the Thomas College community a more comprehensive way to resolve conflict.”

Gordon said “It is extremely rewarding to share this accomplishment with my teammates. We’ve spent the semester studying the effectiveness of restorative justice practices in a multitude of environments which helped us to stay knowledgeable when creating our pitch. I am most excited to see where this idea branches off into, and overall I am so grateful for such a unique opportunity.”


Employers who were involved with this semester’s innovation challenge were JMG, Bangor Savings Bank, and CGI Waterville. Employers collaborated regularly with the students throughout the semester leading up to the pitch competition.

“The Innovation Challenge is another important example of why JMG values our partnership with Thomas College. We are so proud of our JMG College Success students at Thomas College, including those who won first place, and all who pushed themselves to participate in this real-world skill-building event,” said Craig Larrabee, CEO and president of JMG. “I was so impressed watching our students pitch their solutions, and I have every confidence they are ready to contribute to the business world.”

Participants of the President’s Innovation Challenge also earned the Design Thinking digital badge as well as made connections with Maine employers.

The next President’s Innovation Challenge will launch at the end of January 2022.

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