September 15, 2017

First 20 Alfond Leaders receive $685K in student loan debt relief

Photo / Amber Waterman
Photo / Amber Waterman
Bruce Wagner, CEO of the Finance Authority of Maine, is on the advisory committee for the new Alfond Leaders student loan debt relief program that was launched in February. FAME and the Harold Alfond Foundation announced today the first 20 awardees in the program, who collectively will receive up to $685,000 in student loan debt relief.

Here are the first-year Alfond Leaders

Here are the recipients in the first-year cycle of the Alfond Leaders program:

  • Katrina Christie, Yarmouth

  • Mick Daigle, Yarmouth

  • Kendra Emery, Rockport

  • Christopher Gauvin, Rumford

  • Jordan Hallett, Presque Isle

  • Brian Harris, Gray

  • Devan Houlihan, Portland

  • Paul Koroski, Portland

  • Zachary Leavitt, Buckfield

  • Amanda Lessard, Bowdoin

  • Alec Mackenzie, Freeport

  • Elisabeth Marnik, Franklin

  • Owen McCarthy, Gorham

  • Steven Munger, Mount Desert

  • Zachary Murphy, Waterville

  • Kristen Onos, Ellsworth

  • Cote Ward, Belmont

  • Ryan Whitt, Farmington

  • John Williams, Freeport

  • Nicholas Workman, Rome.

The Harold Alfond Foundation and the Finance Authority of Maine today announced the first 20 awardees of the Alfond Leaders program, who collectively will receive up to $685,000 in student loan debt relief.

The competitive program, which was launched in late February 2017, provides student loan repayment assistance to people who live and work ?in Maine in a STEM-designated occupation at a Maine-based employer. Since then, the Alfond Leaders Advisory Committee reviewed more than 400 applications from science, technology, engineering and math professionals throughout Maine.

The Harold Alfond Foundation has committed an investment of $5.5 million for this program, and anticipates it will give about 150 recipients up to $60,000 in college debt relief per person over the next three years.

The selected Alfond Leaders may receive payments up to half of their outstanding student loan balance, not to exceed $60,000, as loan repayments on their outstanding student loans. The payments will be made in two installments, the first installment will be paid after a participant demonstrates five years of qualifying employment and state residency, and the second installment will be paid after the completion of an additional five years of qualifying employment and state residency.

The Alfond Leaders program is administered by Finance Authority of Maine.

"We were delighted to receive such strong interest in our student debt reduction program for STEM workers," Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation. "Our hats go off to the advisory committee and the team at FAME for selecting our first group of Alfond Leaders. Given the very competitive applicant pool, the selection process was no easy task. But with this new group of outstanding professionals, and those chosen in the future, the foundation will be as pleased to help pay down their college debt as we are to have them here in Maine contributing to our economy."

Application period begins for second round

In addition to announcing the first round of awardees, the Harold Alfond Foundation and FAME set Nov. 15 as the deadline for accepting nominations in the second round of the Alfond Leaders program. Awardees in the second group will be announced by the end of this calendar year.

To learn more about the program and apply, go here.

Who is eligible?

  • Maine residents or persons who will become Maine residents upon being hired by a Maine-based business
  • A person employed or who will 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.

Candidates must submit an application, including a written essay and resume, a statement of intent to live and work in Maine for 10 years; an employment certification by a Maine-based employer; and disclosure of the amount, source, and terms of the student loan indebtedness.

Those selected to become Alfond Leaders will receive debt reduction payments made on their behalf paid in two disbursements after five and 10 years, respectively, of qualifying employment.

Grateful recipients

Nicholas Workman, a quality engineer at New Balance in Skowhegan who was selected as one of the first Alfond Leader awardees, said the reduction in his student debt load is a significant boost to his decision to return to Maine to raise his family.

He has a degree in engineering and initially upon graduation went from college in Massachusetts to work at a firm in Connecticut. Within a year, he returned to his home state of Maine with his fiancée.

"After 10 months, we decided to move back for the quality of life," he said. "We were making a financial turn backwards and would have to make some sacrifices, but we wanted a future in Maine."

But they also found that his student loan debt payments affect his family's ability to own a home and travel.

"I was fortunate to find a job at New Balance and recently started a family," Workman said. "The Alfond Leaders program will help me be less hampered by student loan debt and help us to keep living and working in Maine."

Another awardee, Alec Mackenzie of Freeport, studied engineering at Maine Maritime Academy and received his MBA from Babson College. In 2007 he started and continues to operate his own mechanical engineering firm, Mackenzie Design, in Portland with two employees. "The Alfond Leaders program drastically shifts the calculus of our family's planning. It eases the student loan debt we have and gives us confidence that we can make our lives here. It also frees us up to make further investments in human capital at Mackenzie Design. We can accelerate our growth and create more great STEM jobs in Maine."


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