The University of Maine and the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program have partnered this year to offer a new Pathways to NROTC Program. The program works to provide scholarship opportunities for students who may not have the academic background to be competitive for an NROTC scholarship directly from high school. The program also seeks to highlight under-recognized students and gives them resources to thrive in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies. 

The program is a vigorous challenge for the students, as the Pathways to NROTC Program will lead to students becoming commissioned naval officers. Currently, there are 10 total undergraduates enrolled in the program, However, Pathways to NROTC hopes that with success, it can enroll 10 or more students per year into the program. 

The students that are currently enrolled in the program were chosen from high schools that offered Naval Junior ROTC programs. The students are offered a full scholarship through UMaine during their first year, which covers the cost of tuition, as well as room and board fees. After the completion of their first year, if the students are able to meet GPA and performance requirements, they will then be granted a scholarship for their second through fifth years through the NROTC. At the end of their academic careers, ideally, students will graduate with the skill set that will allow them to be commissioned as Navy ensigns. 

Madeline Peyton, a first-year marine science student, is one of the students who is part of the new program. Through the NROTC Pathways Program, Peyton has found a home away from home. For her, the sense of community has helped her find a place of belonging at UMaine. Many of the incoming NROTC students work closely with upperclassmen who serve as mentors that help them figure out time-management skills, their duties in the NROTC unit and other day-to-day challenges that new college students face. 

Even though the program is extremely challenging, Peyton says that she and the other students have received a huge amount of support from the UMaine community. 

“The University of Maine has been extremely accommodating and supportive, the UMaine community doesn’t ostracize us at all, everybody is very welcoming. All of the staff, the faculty, are all very supportive, they know that we put in a lot of work and it is a little bit of a different path and they all are very supportive,” Peyton said about the program. 

The program functions on the hard work that students put in and that in turn creates a feeling of pride in its participants.

“The whole goal of the program is to produce officers for the navy. The huge thing is that it pays for schooling costs, the University has given us free room and board. For all of us though, it’s more than that. It’s bigger than that, we have a bigger purpose,” Peyton said. “We’re going to be officers in the Navy, we’re going to be leaders, that’s a great feeling to think about being a part of something that big. We are all very, very patriotic and it’s great to have that support.”