Scholarships awarded to local students
by Barbara Van Reed
AUBURN – It was all about education at the Auburn Chamber of Commerce's scholarship breakfast on May 21, and it started at the top, with a talk by Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.
Mr. Freeland gave a compelling picture of the Vision Project, which aims to take education in Massachusetts on the road to national leadership. The state's economy is knowledge-based, he said, driven by innovation and invention, and therefore “needs the best-educated citizenry and workforce in the nation.”
He cited statistics that 72% of Massachusetts jobs will require college credentials by 2020, that 146,500 jobs are unfilled, that historic low funding compromises public higher education quality, and that high fees compromise affordability.
Mr. Freeland said that in his State of the State address in January, Governor Patrick proposed the best budget in 40 years, noting that two things will determine our future: infrastructure that supports our enterprises and a world-class system of education, including public higher education. “That was music to my ears.”
The Vision Project seeks to specifically address the areas of college participation, college completion, student learning, workforce alignment, preparing citizens, and closing achievement gaps. He noted that the last item, achievement gaps, was particularly troublesome, as the significant existing gaps across race, ethnicity, and income have remained flat for five years.
Following Mr. Freeland's talk, eleven local high school students received scholarships provided by the Auburn Chamber. They were Matthew Blais of Auburn High School, Catherine Hoey of Auburn High School, Emily King of Millbury Memorial High School, Christian L'Heureux of St. John's High School, Cassidy Mackintire of Auburn High School, Matthew Bissaillon of Auburn High School, Kathryn Coughlin of Auburn High School, Claire Hutner of Auburn High School, John Leger of Auburn High School, Jeannelle Wheeler of Auburn High School and home schooled, and Christian Matthews of Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School.