First published in, Landings, August 2017
The Maine Fishermen’s Forum has awarded a total of $385,886 in scholarships since 1998 to students related to a person who is actively involved in the seafood industry. The scholarship criteria are simple: Applicants must be a sophomore, junior, or senior in college; they must have an immediate family member actively participating in Maine’s seafood industry; they cannot have won the scholarship before. The awards given each year are based on the amount of money donated and raised through the annual Fishermen’s Forum Scholarship Auction. Landings introduces you to some of the award recipients throughout the year.
Stormi Steele, a 24-year-old Maine Fishermen’s Forum scholarship recipient from Deer Isle, attended Husson College in Bangor to earn her a B.S. degree in nursing in 2014. Throughout high school and college, she held a student lobster license and hauled her traps (150 tags) from a skiff. And she also worked at Island Fishing Gear and Auto Parts. Her jobs had a purpose. “I paid my way through college with what I earned and with the help of numerous scholarships including the Fishermen’s Forum scholarship,” Steele said.
“The Fishermen’s Forum scholarship allowed me to invest in my future and ensure I didn’t start my career with a mountain of debt.”
Steele has many family connections to the fishing world. But she was inspired at a young age to be a nurse after spending a lot of time in hospitals with her
father, lobsterman Sammy Hardy, who suffered from heart disease. He passed away when Steele was in her sophomore year of college.
“I always had a connection to the medical world because when I was growing up I spent many days in various hospitals due to my father’s poor health. When he was being treated, I met and talked with the registered nurses during each of his procedures and admissions. I always looked up to the nurses who cared for him and aspired to be like them. Through my father’s misfortune, I found the career path I wanted to follow throughout my life,” Steele explained.
Leaving Deer Isle to further her education was a major change for Steele. “Going to college opens you up to so many more experiences and opportunities that may not be present in your community,” she said. “For me, a move to Bangor seemed like a completely different way of life. I much prefer the small-town, slow-paced living we have in Deer Isle. The desire to be home on the island while studying in Bangor was the most challenging part of going to school for me. When you know where you are meant to live it’s hard to be anywhere else.”
Steele credits the support of her boyfriend, now her husband, Garrett Steele as the greatest inspiration to further her education and become a nurse. Steele is a Stonington lobsterman. “My husband was huge in all of this. He was with me for everything. He took me to haul my traps and I was also his stern-person for two summers as well,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had my student license if he hadn’t helped me get it and fished with me. He has always been a great support port when it came to making decisions about going to school and then where I wanted to work after graduation.”
Today, Steele works at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth in labor and delivery. She began working on the night shift in the medical/surgical unit. Eighteen months later she moved to obstetrics. “I absolutely love my job. It is incredibly rewarding,” Steele said. “I also greatly enjoy being a part of each woman’s individual journey to becoming a mother and bringing new life in to the world.”
She remains grateful for the financial assistance the Fishermen’s Forum gave her, and other students like her, when they most needed it. “I truly appreciate [the scholarship] and thank the program for all it does for fishing families,” Steele said.