SKOWHEGAN — Wesserunsett Arts Council recently presented $1,500 to three Skowhegan school students for its first Youth Scholarship.

The idea for this scholarship originated from WXNZ HooSkow Radio’s volunteer DJ, Earl Boyd. After interviewing several youth artists for his Guest Room program, he was amazed at the talent blossoming in Somerset County. He wanted to give these young people a thank-you gift of money to put toward art supplies, lessons, and even gas for the cars that would bring them to theater camp or a music rehearsal, according to a news release from the council.

A scholarship of up to $500 is awarded each year to applicants between the ages of 10 and 18 residing in Somerset County. These applicants are recommended by a parent, teacher or community member who will attest that s/he is qualified. The applicants can submit a cover letter describing why they feel they are a good candidate, and they also need to attend an interview with the Youth Scholarship Committee. Each year, the application deadline is by Feb. 14 and the recipients know if they won the scholarship by April 1.

This year, the five members of the Youth Scholarship Committee were so impressed with the variety of talents of the three applicants, that they could not just choose just one of them to win the $500. Therefore, they divided the scholarship three ways and a committee member added a little extra to make each award equal $1,700. However, after seeing a post about the scholarship on Facebook, an anonymous couple reached out and gave council a $1,000 check, so that these young artists could have $500 each.

Amelia Cooper Submitted photo

Recommended by music teacher, Gail Kelly, Amelia Cooper is a sixth-grade musician at Skowhegan Area Middle School who plays the clarinet beautifully after just learning how to play five months ago. In her cover letter, she wrote heart-warming stories about her inspirational grandmother and also how music brings her peace on hard days. Being in the school band has helped her to form friendships. During her interview, she played “The Pink Panther Theme” by reading music on her cell phone. She would like to use the award money for private clarinet lessons.

Cooper dreams of being a police officer or FBI agent and playing in jams and bands on the side.


Cailyn McKechnie Submitted photo

Recommended by artist, Iver Lofving, Cailyn McKechnie is a freshman at Skowhegan Area High School who showed the committee some outstanding drawings and paintings. In her cover letter, she wrote of drawing for as long as she can remember. She has moved forward from drawing clothing and characters to flowers, people and landscapes using many different mediums of acrylic and watercolor paints, colored pencils, alcohol markers, pens and an iPad, and she often saves up her allowance to buy them. She would like to use the award money to buy art supplies on her wish list.

McKechnie dreams of going to an art school and business school, being an animator, and opening an art shop.

Charlie Staples Submitted photo

Recommended by his parents and by Boyd, Charlie Staples is an eighth-grade actor/singer at Skowhegan Area Middle School with years of experience. He has been doing theater since he was 6 years old with Midge Pomelow in Midge’s Theatre Arts Studio, was in the musical “Big Fish” at Lakewood Theater, made recordings of public service announcements and character voices for the Short Stories & Tall Tales program on WXNZ Radio, sung in school chorus since second grade, sung in multiple KV junior choruses, and was Reinholt Schultz, a 1941 German soldier, in “Not On This Night” at Skowhegan Opera House. He would like to use the award money to pay for part of the tuition for Lakewood Theater’s Teen Tech & Tour program this summer.

Staples dreams of going to college in New York for acting and becoming a professional actor.