Story posted December 03, 2012
By: Rob Wood, Director, PAE
Portland Adult Education’s best gift of 2012 was a $30,000 grant written by a recent college graduate interning at the program.
Samantha Collins began volunteering at Portland Adult Education (PAE) in her junior year at Bowdoin College. She also taught adult students in Chile for six months during her senior year. Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin in May 2011, she inquired about an internship at PAE.
"Her request was a welcome surprise at a school where most of the students are not only older than Collins, but could be her parents," said Rob Wood, PAE’s director. "Few young American college graduates know much about adult basic education because they do not need it. Before the age of 18, they learn to speak English fluently, earn high school credentials, succeed on standardized testing and find funding to attend college. The 1,500 adults in PAE’s academic program must work on some or all of these tasks just to get ready for college."
Since no formal internship existed, Collins had to design the experience. She assisted in the busy front office. Struck by the limited infrastructure of the former elementary school that houses PAE, she also decided to write grants seeking additional funding to support the program.
Collins collaborated with a small team on the grant-writing.
"She quickly led in identifying possible foundations, setting a schedule, compiling data and composing drafts," said Anja Hanson, PAE’s academic advisor. "Her energy and pluck enabled the team to submit six grants in six months, setting an unprecedented pace and showing senior staff how it could be done. But as she boarded the plane to attend graduate school at Emory University, she knew that five of the grants had been unsuccessful."
A couple of weeks after Collins left, a slender envelope arrived from the John T. Gorman Foundation. Collins had applied to the foundation unsuccessfully for a prior grant. This time, the news was good; PAE received $30,000 for operating expenses. The grant was rare in its flexibility.
Collins, who is pursuing a master’s in development practice, described PAE as "a magical place where devastation, thirst for learning, dreams and toil collide." The grant that she helped write will ensure that more adult students in Portland achieve their dreams of getting an education.
"Like adult students, Collins refused to give up when she met with failure."
— Rob Wood, Director, PAE