So, it is graduation time.
It’s a time when we think about the future, about the present, and about the past. A time when the world has limitless potential, and a time when fear is the most powerful emotion on earth (at least in the population we work with). This period begins the window of choice for our young people, when they can CHOOSE to live here, in this amazing place, because they WANT to, not because someone else chose it for them. This week’s blog is dedicated to them, to the many young people who will follow them, to the many people who have left Aroostook and want to return, and to the amazing men and women who CHOOSE Aroostook County every day. If you are reading this blog, it is meant for you. These are the 5 reasons why THIS is the BEST time to live in Aroostook County.
5. Education – Oh I know…you can get education anywhere right? WRONG. You can get “school” anywhere, but education? That is something you can get in abundance in Aroostook County. Not only do we have some of the top schools in the NATION (MSSM recently score THIRD in the NATION for magnet schools), we also have the second highest high school graduation rate in the state of Maine; 88% of all high school seniors graduate in Aroostook (which in case you are wondering is 2% higher than the state average). And…we the two of the top performing highs schools, Hodgdon and Houlton; each at the top of the list for high school graduation rates. Presque Isle High School and Madawaska were two of the three schools listed in Maine in the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of the best high schools in the nation, both awarded the silver medal for their performances.
We also have a great percentage of minorities graduating from high schools in Maine. Coupled with the growing desire for more culture in Aroostook, it is the perfect time to diversify our communities! We are such an accepting community…COME HERE! We have intensely amazing schools, 16 districts, small class sizes, incredible, inspiring teachers. And…that is just our Pre-K – 12…we also have another aspect to our incredible education offerings: our postsecondary community. With four incredible postsecondary options for our populations and dozens upon dozens of programs and majors, along with one of the lowest debt ratios in the nation, our amazing postsecondary partners just make this reason that much more solid. UMFK has one of the premiere nursing programs in New England; NMMC has a powerful liberal arts major and many of specialty majors like welding, computers, and the emerging technology of wind power. Husson has 15 (FIFTEEN) Master’s Degree programs and an incredible professional development course offering, and last (but certainly not least), my alma mater, UMPI is leading in experiential learning, criminal justice, social work and education. Want a great education for your children? Move to Aroostook. They have the best chance at success in our top notch system.
4. Crime–Aroostook has the second lowest crime rate in the state and the highest solve rate. We have community based policing here, our police departments (local and state) are massively involved with the community. Our Sheriff’s Department patrols a HUGE area and does so with integrity and compassion. I don’t think you could find a more caring and concerned group of men and women in law enforcement anywhere else. Do we have crime? Absolutely, but we have community too. We take care of each other, that goes a long way in solve rates and in occurrences. Our children play in the park; they ride their bicycles; they play in their backyards; we have huge community events with hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of people, and we all watch out for one another. This is an amazing place to be, and it is a safe place to be.
3. Nature–it is literally everywhere, and the best part–it’s free. There is no admission fee to see this amazing County…just look out your window, throw on your sneakers, hiking boots, snowshoes, or just walk out in your bare feet and enjoy! (Except for in winter perhaps…it would be a might bit nippy!)
Amazing right? Nature is one of my very favorite aspects of Aroostook County. I love nature, I seek it out frequently. Just sitting in my back yard with a fire in our small little family area is such an important part of my summer existence.
I can’t imagine living in a place where I didn’t have access to nature or where I could only enjoy it in a park with hundreds (or thousands) of other people. Love to hike, fish, hunt, farm, snowmobile, bike, or mountain climb? Come on up…we got you covered.
2. Real estate is cheap…the cost of living is lower…and the people are nicer. Maine is a great state to live in period. But there are areas in Maine where living is EXPENSIVE. The housing market is a buyer’s market right now, but in Aroostook, it is even more so. The real estate market is at ten year low. Just for fun, I looked up a price for a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom home in Presque Isle, Bangor, and Portland. The results? For about the same square footage (though a bit more in PI but it was the closest I could find) Portland’s price was $190,000, Bangor was $157,000 and Presque Isle’s was $127,000. These prices do not take into account the tax bases (which I know would make a huge difference) nor do that compare apples to apples in that the land offered with the houses varied drastically, but with my limited experience in real estate, that’s what I came up with. And land here is CHEAP, and I mean CHEAP. In Aroostook acres are selling for $500 per acre, in Bangor, things are a bit more expensive at about $1000 per acre…and in Portland, well, let’s just say the prices are far higher and leave it at that.
1. Opportunity for professional growth. (Check out opportunitiesaroostook.com, tons of great jobs are posted every week!) This is the NUMBER ONE reason to be in Aroostook right now. Young professionals will have the world at their fingertips AND get to have the incredible quality of life we experience every day. Our lives are not just about our jobs…they are also about our families, our hobbies, and our down time. You can have the incredible professional success and have an amazing “outside of work” life as well. Our retirement rate in Aroostook over the next five years is stupid, just plain stupid. In some sectors, it can reach over 30% of the workforce…and a TON of those jobs are management positions. Now is the time to be young in your career and be in Aroostook. And it isn’t just “employment” opportunities that abound here…small business opportunities are wide open as well. There are so many gaps here in Aroostook, business markets that NEED businesses, an up-starter with energy and passion could do very, very well here. We have a place for you in Aroostook, regardless of what your job is.
This really is the most amazing and incredible time to be right here. I’m so excited to watch the future unfold, and to watch as all the pieces to this emerging Aroostook begin to come together. I hope you can be a part of that future. And, if you can’t physically be here, physically be a part of that future, help us nurture and support the young people of Aroostook County who will. I know you’ve seen these faces before, but just in case you’ve forgotten — this is what we do…we guide the tomorrows of Aroostook today.
We work with young people, help them learn to lead, to find their places in Aroostook County, and then we step back and let them shine. Want to help us guide the tomorrow of Aroostook? DONATE TODAY! We can use your help, every single penny, in the work we do each day. Visit our website: www.gauvinfund.org, learn a little more about what we do; like us on Facebook; join our mission! We can do this…miles don’t matter anymore…all that matters is heart…and we have a ton of it right here.
Did I leave something out? Not rank the items in the order you would have put them? Let me know in the comments…what are YOUR top reasons for choosing Aroostook? Let’s hear your thoughts!
I’ll talk with you again soon!