MBTA awards $18,500 in scholarships to 15 Maine students, several who already are carving out impressive careers in transportation
Every one of this year’s scholarship winners has proven to be a scholar in his or her chosen field and has also, through outside work, come to understand the role transportation plays in Maine.
Case in point: the three Transportation Trailblazer sustaining scholarship winners – Casey Cobb (for the second time), Yi Peng (who also won a Lucius Barrows Award) and Erik Ryan. All three, despite their young age, have considerable on-the-job experience working for construction firms and MaineDOT. “Casey, Yi and Erik exemplify the breadth of Maine’s extraordinary talent,” said Stuart Welch, chair of the MBTA Educational Foundation. “We established this scholarship in 2009 to foster our best and brightest, and every year the quality of the applicants exceeds our expectations. These three students are excellent scholars and have worked very hard to achieve so much so early in their lives.”
All of the 2013 class of scholarship winners have a different story of how they came to their studies. For example, Yi Peng’s journey began as a child on a farm in China; Lyndon Whitcomb has worked on construction projects while on mission trips in the Dominican Republic; and Gerard Grondin has earned an MBA and served in the U.S. Army on several tours of duty in the Middle East.
The MBTA Educational Foundation, through the application process, identifies students like Casey, Yi, Lyndon, Gerard and Erik who have demonstrated a strong interest in the industry and show promise as future advocates for Maine’s transportation community.
The MBTA began offering scholarships decades ago for students pursuing transportation-related studies. By 1990, the organization had established a fund for scholarships, and in 2000, the MBTA formalized its commitment to education by establishing the MBTA Educational Foundation. The foundation, which has a separate board, means the organization is now able to better focus on planning for and management of scholarship funds. It also gives MBTA members and friends the opportunity to make tax-deductible donations to the foundation. And, thanks to the generosity of its members, the fund has grown from $4,500 in 1990 to nearly $500,000 today. The major fundraiser for the foundation is the annual Super Raffle held in November and December, but members also may make donations throughout the year.
Since the days when the organization was known as the Maine Good Roads Association, education and leadership have been closely linked with the MBTA’s mission
“MBTA has been around for three-quarters of a century protecting the public’s investment in a safe, efficient transportation system, and we want it to be around a lot longer,” said Welch. “Scholarships are one of the smartest investments we can make in the future of the industry.”
Kenneth Burrill Scholar
The oldest child in a family of seven, Brooke Glidden grew up in Palermo, attended Erskine Academy and is now at the University of Maine majoring in civil engineering and minoring in construction management with a concentration in transportation engineering.
At school, she is involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Golden Key National Honor Society, Concrete Canoe team and Associated General Contractors. She holds officer positions in several of these organizations and participates in community service activities. She is also a member of the Maine Chapter, National Association of Women in Construction and a student member of the Maine Better Transportation Association. For the past three summers she has worked for FGS/CMT on MaineDOT projects as a bridge and paving inspector. As a result, she has been able to earn her ACI Concrete Testing Certification, NETTCP Paving Inspector Certification, and Portable Nuclear Gauge Certification.
“I have loved working on bridges and roads,” she said. “I found it extremely interesting and learned something new every day.” This is the second year Brooke has received the Kenneth Burrill Scholarship.
Casey Cobb grew up on a potato farm in Masardis, Maine and graduated from Ashland Community High School in 2010. He is presently a senior at the University of Maine at Orono, majoring in civil engineering and minoring in engineering leadership and management. He is interested in transportation and structural engineering. He serves as vice president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, is the historian of Club Canada, a member of the Concrete Canoe team and plays on several intramural soccer teams.
During the summer following his freshman year, he signed on as a project worker for the Maine Department of Transportation. He also interned at Reed & Reed, Inc. on a wind project and developed an interest in structural engineering. This past summer he worked as a structural intern at VHB in South Portland.
After graduation, he would like to pursue a master’s degree in structural engineering. After graduate school, he hopes to work in the design field and get a professional engineer’s license. “Ultimately, I would like to combine my interests in transportation and structural engineering to design innovative new bridges that are more integrated with urban transportation needs,” he writes. This is his second year as recipient of the Transportation Trailblazer scholarship.
Yi Peng was born in a small village in Ba’nan, Chongqing, China into a farming family who worked one acre of land. Yi finished middle school in 2000 but could not attend high school because they were too poor. In 2009, she came to America with her daughter, Emily, and her ex-husband. She received a GED diploma from Lawrence Adult Education in 2010, and then enrolled in Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. In 2011, she received a full scholarship from the Exploring Transfer Program at Vassar College. In 2012, she transferred to the University of Maine (Orono).
She has always loved math and problem solving and with an interest in the field of transportation, Yi has chosen to major in civil and environmental engineering. In 2013, she worked as a summer undergraduate research assistant through the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership. Currently, she is a student research assistant at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Her goal is “to help others be successful, using her knowledge as a civil engineer and what she has learned on the journey from her small village by way of a higher education to her dream of a better life.”
Yi also has been awarded a 2013 Lucius Barrows Scholarship.
Erik Ryan was born and raised in Ludlow in Aroostook County. He graduated as salutatorian of Hodgdon High School and was a member of the National Honor Society and student council. He then worked four years at K&T Fire Equipment in Island Falls, where he did general mechanic work and light fabrication on fire trucks and other equipment. Last summer, he worked on a paving crew for SteelStone Industries in Houlton. It was there, he remembers, “gaining insight regarding our infrastructure and its importance to a functioning society.”
When he is not studying, Erik spends most of his free time in the outdoors, fishing, hunting and canoeing. Currently he’s a sophomore at UMaine, majoring in civil engineering. He said he chose civil engineering as a major because it seemed like the best way to make a positive impact on the world directly out of college. Post-graduation, his goals are to obtain a job, pursue a PE license and “work to better the world in any way I can.”
Patrick Verville was born in Portland and attended Deering High School where he played soccer, hockey and lacrosse. After his first year in construction management at the University of Maine, he worked as a masonry tender for Maine Masonry.
“It was my first job in the construction industry, and it was hard work, but I really enjoyed myself. I was able to see how a construction site was run and the progress of the project each day,” he said.
His second summer, he interned for Knowles Industrial Services Corporation and worked as a laborer, attended scheduling and construction management meetings, assisted his superintendent with material orders and worked on as-builts. This past summer, he interned for Wright-Ryan Construction as a laborer, doing demolition and cleanup and light carpentry. He also served as a foreman for a project cleaning crew.
For the last three years, Patrick has been a member of the ABC UMaine Chapter. “This has been a great experience for me, because it has allowed me to network with construction professionals and be involved in the local community around the school,” he said.
After graduation he hopes to be “part of an established company with an excellent reputation with an eye for quality.”
Millard W. Pray Scholars
Spencer Allen Bernier has always looked up to his father and admired his work ethic. And it was watching his dad on the job as a truck driver for CPM Constructors that gave him his first glimpse of a potential future in the transportation industry. That career interest was cemented in 2010 when he took a job as a summer laborer at CPM (he worked there last summer, as well).
“When I needed to start thinking about what I would like to do for my career, I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an engineer and find an easier, safer and more reliable way to transport equipment and materials.”
Two years ago, he enrolled in Southern Maine Community College in a pre-engineering program. He is transferring to UMaine this spring to pursue a mechanical engineering degree. This is the second year that Spencer has been awarded the Millard Pray Scholarship.
Taylor Light-Surek grew up in Appleton and attended Appleton Village School until seventh grade at which point the family moved to Belfast where he attended Troy Howard Middle School. At Belfast Area High School, he was on the swimming and diving teams.
After graduation, Taylor worked at CPM Constructors for two summers on jobs in Carmel, Augusta, Lewiston, Scarborough, Yarmouth, and Avon with the bridge crew and dirt crew and helped with many tasks ranging from highway work to erosion control. In 2011, Taylor enrolled at Maine Maritime Academy, in the marine engineering technology program and is currently a junior.
”I wanted to pursue a career in the field of marine transportation because nearly 90 percent of all world trade travels by water. [Marine transportation also] insures job security through my lifetime, which was one of my concerns when choosing a career path. Maine Maritime Academy has over a 90 percent placement rate upon graduation which enables most graduates a career in their field of study immediately upon graduation.”
Jessica Woods is a senior at the University of Maine studying accounting. She grew up in a few small Maine towns and graduated from Hall-Dale High School in 2010. At the University of Maine, she is involved with her community service sorority, Kappa Delta Phi NAS, serving as both the treasurer and secretary. She also plays club field hockey and participates in the Institute of Management Accountants.
She has spent the past two summers working in the office at CPM Constructors as an intern, learning the ins and outs of the construction industry from a management perspective.
As a junior, she took two semesters of cost accounting and discovered a passion she knew she wanted to pursue, she says. “Cost accounting, also known as managerial accounting, captured my interest almost immediately, and I knew that instead of becoming a certified public accountant or an actuary like most accounting majors pursue upon graduation, I wanted to become a certified management accountant with a focus in the transportation industry.” Jessica is a second year recipient of the Millard W. Pray Scholarship and graduated in December.
Paris Snowe Scholar
Lyndon Whitcomb grew up in Morrill, dirt bike riding, fishing, hunting deer and birds, snowmobiling and camping and went to school in Belfast and enjoyed wrestling for eight years. He also attended Waldo County Technical Center, completing the diesel and welding programs, and was a member of the National Technical Honor Society. He has been on mission trips to the Dominican Republic, where he helped with building and distributing school supplies for 180 children.
Lyndon has worked on equipment at Springdale Farm, prepared dairy cows for showmanship at Blue Hill Fair and has pulled modified and stock, lawn and garden tractors—modified and stock at local fairs every summer for eight years. He has worked for J.V. Hurd Logging, Jim’s Burner Service and Bonville Boys and currently has a diesel mechanic internship at Milton CAT, where he hopes to work after he graduates this spring from Northern Maine Community College with an associate’s degree in diesel hydraulics. On his application, he wrote, “I chose this career because diesel engines are cool and necessary to keep Maine’s economy moving forward and meet consumer demand. Everything you and I consume is transported by a diesel engine.” Eventually, Lyndon would like to own and operate a heavy equipment garage and create jobs.
Southern Maine Community College
During summers and winter breaks at Falmouth High School and in college, Gerard Grondin worked as a laborer for R.J. Grondin & Sons on small and large-scale projects – from small site prep jobs in South Portland to the Casco Bay Bridge.
While enrolled in the University of Maine engineering program, he joined the Army ROTC program and upon graduation, was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army.
Gerard then served more than five and a half years active duty with multiple overseas tours to several Middle Eastern countries. He then earned a masters of business administration from Plymouth State University and currently is enrolled at SMCC with a double major in construction technology and precision machining.
“While I do not have a civil engineering degree, my technical background from my training at University of Maine and my practical experience from my days as a laborer will put me in a position to be an asset to a company in the transportation field,” he said.
Northern Maine Community College
Ryan Turcotte grew up in Mechanic Falls. He went to Elm Street School and Poland Regional High School and, with characteristic dry wit, he readily admits that it took him a while to appreciate the importance of education: “I wasn’t the best student that graduated from Poland Regional High School.”
With the support of his extended family, he enrolled at Washington County Community College for the mechanical technologies associate degree. Ryan has worked diligently to support himself through school. He worked as a resident assistant on campus and also nighttime maintenance. He also has served on the student senate for two years and this year was named student senate president.
This fall, his fiancé gave birth to a son, and he said that has “pushed [him] to become a better man than I was before.” As a result, he has devoted more time to his education. He said he chose transportation as a career because it would always provide for him and his family.
Lucius Barrows Scholars
Nicholas Mathon was born and raised in Lewiston, and attended Lewiston High School where he played hockey. He currently is attending the University of Maine and enjoys spending time outdoors hunting, four wheeling, hiking, fishing, or playing hockey. For the last two summers he has worked as an intern in the engineering department for the city of Lewiston and continues to work there during school breaks.
“The transportation field is something that interests me because in order to efficiently design an intersection for example, you must work with a team of people from different disciplines, and I find that appealing,” he writes. “Also, seeing a finished product, such as an intersection, and seeing it be used by potentially thousands of people every day, would give a sense of satisfaction that I would enjoy.”
Upon graduating, he plans to stay in Maine and hopes to have a job before the end of the summer. After getting a job, he plans to save money in order to buy a house with his girlfriend and then get married. “Moving up the ladder and obtaining my P.E. license is also something I will be striving towards.”
Please see Yi’s biography under “Transportation Trailblazer.”
MBTA/ASCE Maine Transportation Conference Scholars
A senior majoring in construction management technology and minoring in engineering entrepreneurial at UMaine, Chad James plans to remain in Maine to pursue a career in the heavy civil or commercial building construction field.
Chad earned an associate of science degree in civil engineering technology at Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC) where he achieved dean’s list status all four semesters before his transfer to UMaine. At graduation from EMCC, Chad received the Award for Excellence in Technology and also graduated with honors, achieving a grade point average of 3.688, the highest GPA among graduating civil engineering students in his class. Since his transfer, he’s maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.612.
Recently, Chad achieved the associate constructor designation and is scheduled to complete the fundamentals of engineering exam in the spring of 2014. Over the past two years, Chad has completed internships with The Lane Construction Corporation. A few of his duties included: working as an acting hot mix asphalt (HMA) plant foreman, creating structural and plant layout designs, managing numerous aspects of HMA projects, and supervising HMA plant crews for safety, quality and productivity.
Corey LaRue graduated from Edward Little High School in 2008, then decided to pursue a degree in construction management after playing junior hockey for two years in Saco, Maine. He is a senior in the engineering technologies program at UMaine. He worked as a laborer for St. Laurent & Sons in Lewiston for three summers, learning how a small excavation company works on a job site. Last summer he interned with Sargent Corporation, providing him experience with large-scale projects, including a 33-acre cut-to-fill project in the Mid-Atlantic, using two scrappers for the majority of the hauling. He remains active at UMaine, serving as vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) student chapter, while handling a full course load. He noted ABC allows him to get involved with the community and prospective CMT students, assisting with engineering expos and service projects.
Jacob Stevens is a senior at UMaine majoring in construction management technology, with a minor in entrepreneurial studies and surveying.
He enjoys several hobbies in his free time including hunting, fishing, hiking, intramural sports on campus and spending time with family and friends.
He decided to pursue a degree in construction management because of a high school job, working summers on a construction crew based out of Machias. This job, he said, gave him a great appreciation for attention to detail, keeping standards high and holding accountability for billing and left him with an overall interest in the field of construction.
This past summer he was awarded an internship from the Sargent Corporation. This, he said, allowed him to use skills from his previous construction job and much of the information he’d learned in his construction management program. “Working as an intern was a very rewarding experience, and I would recommend it to anyone before graduating from college,” he said. Jacob hopes to stay in Maine and continue working in the heavy civil industry.
FMI: Donations to the MBTA Educational Foundation are tax deductible. Learn more about the foundaton’s work at www.MBTAonline.org (click on “Scholarships”).