First published in Landings, September, 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 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.
Emmanuel “Manny” Aretakis, 22, was born and raised on a small farm in Pembroke in Washington County. The oldest of three children, he grew up in a non-fishing family. He found his way, however, to the local clam flats during his high school years at Washington Academy. “Clamming was a way to earn money and a living alongside my friends,” he said. “Now I have found employment that is more in my desired career path.” Aretakis praised the independence that clamming gave him and the fact that he could make money when he wished. “Having spent many days clamming double tides, I learned to appreciate the fact that the harder you worked the more income you could earn,” he said
After graduating from high school in 2013, Aretakis went on to a mechanical engineering program at Clarkson University for a year before transferring to Vermont Technical College in Randolph, Vermont, where he is studying mechanical and manufacturing engineering. “I’ve always had a fascination for machines and how they work. I knew I wanted to be able to design and build projects of my own and this program has really given me the skills to be able to pursue this goal. Plus I’ve learned business skills used in marketing and cost analysis of various products,” Aretakis said. Furthermore, he’s having fun. “I’m learning how to design complex parts and assemblies and then learning how to manufacture them with some of the best industry equipment, while at the same time learning about how to develop various business plans,” he explained.
Although he is pleased with his college experience thus far, there are some things he does miss while at school. “The most challenging part about going to college for me has been being away from home,” he admitted. “Being in Vermont, away from my family and the ocean I’ve grown up with is definitely the most difficult thing.”
Aretakis credits his parents for motivating him along the way and keeping him steadfast in his education. “My mother, Ann Cannizzaro, has had a career teaching in elementary education for over 25 years and my father, Jonathan Aretakis, is an independent publishing professional. Their unwavering support has been the backbone of my entire college career.”
Funding college has been challenging. “Since both my parents work my financial aid is right on par with most students who’ve grown up in the working middle class, which is to say it’s quite poor. I have to give so much credit to my parents for supporting me in any way they can financially. I have taken out many loans myself necessary to cover my education and so far I’ve managed,” Aretakis said. He works multiple jobs during the summer and the school year to cover books and general college expenses. “I have been fortunate enough to receive scholarship money from organizations such as the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. I can’t thank them enough for helping me achieve my goals. It is my hope to be able to give back in future years so that others may also be afforded the same opportunities I’ve been so fortunate to experience,” he said.
Aretakis will graduate in the spring of 2018 with a dual degree in mechanical/ manufacturing engineering with an additional minor in entrepreneurship. “My ultimate goal is to be able to start a manufacturing business of my own, possibly back home where I grew up. It would be awesome to be able to employ local people who are interested in engineering with an exceptional work ethic and a wide array of technical skills,” he said.
Alexis Poland, 19, grew up in a fishing family in Bremen. As a young girl she lobstered with her father, Fernald Poland, on his boat, which was also once his father’s boat, named the Laura P. “My family has been fishing, primarily lobstering, for years, many more than I’ve been alive. Fishing isn’t just a form of income, it’s also a lifestyle for us,” Poland explained.
Poland went to Lincoln Academy in Newcastle and graduated in 2015. She is now attending the University of Maine at Farmington. “I’m majoring in psychology with a minor in anthropology.
The former was something I’ve known I wanted to do for years, ever since I started considering college when I was in seventh and eighth grade,” she said. “I want to be able to help children, adolescents, and families by becoming a psychiatrist one day, hopefully working in the same area I grew up in. I find that my minor, anthropology, gives me insight into people in terms of culture and society.”
Poland reflected on the ups and downs of college life. “I’m enjoying the independence and ability to create my own schedule, both with classes and my on campus job at the library. Most importantly, I love the learning-rich environment,” she said. “Learning makes me incredibly happy and encourages me to do well. The most challenging part of my experience so far has been learning how to be easy on myself. I strive to do well, so when I don’t do as well as I expected, I tend to be really hard on myself. I’ve learned to be easier on myself and take constructive steps following the bump in the road so that I can improve.”
Poland’s family encouraged her to follow her dreams and pursue a college education. “They have always assured me that I can do anything I set my mind to, that the sky’s the limit,” she said. “I know that they will always be there for me, no matter what. I’m beyond thankful for them and I don’t know what I would do without them.”
To fund her college education, Poland received scholarships, including one from the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, and some grants. But, like most college students in this country, the majority of her college expenses are being covered through student loans.
“I refuse to let the fear of being in debt keep me from pursuing further education. My education feels invaluable, impossible to have a price tag put on. I’ll pay my student loans off one day, but right now I want to focus on getting to where I want to be,” she commented.
Getting help from the Forum really made an impression on Poland. “I’m incredibly lucky to have received a scholarship from the Fishermen’s Forum and others and I won’t soon forget the kindness of the people just like my family. I would like to say thank you so much! I want to be able to help make the world a better place in my own way, and you’ve all helped me get one step closer to that goal,” she said.