Boothbay Region Elementary and High schools are on track to have what teachers and administrators have said will be one of the greatest kindergarten through 12th grade science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) programs in the state, thanks to an ongoing wave of donations to Boothbay Region Education Foundation.
Businessman and philanthropist Paul Coulombe recently donated over $128,000 for tools and equipment toward the program, including the funds to create a fully equipped maker space adjacent to the BRHS basement shop space.
The donation extends the streak of gifts STEAM has been on, starting in 2019 with BRHS’s acquisition of a laser cutter bought through an anonymous donation. Last year, a $25,000 anonymous donation funded a computer numerical control (CNC) router.
Coulombe said he has kept in touch with Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 Superintendent Doctor Keith Laser about potential classroom and program needs and the potential for a new school building. After a contribution from Coulombe helped repave the AOS 98 central office parking lot, Coulombe asked Laser, BRHS Principal Tricia Campbell and BRES Principal Shawna Kurr to connect with teachers and come up with a list of needs and wants for the STEAM programs.
“When they gave me the details for the STEAM program, I was really impressed … They were ambitious enough and took the ball and ran with it to … put together a complete program of what would be extremely beneficial, what they would want tomorrow available for the students in the high school, middle school and elementary school.”
Innovation toward a successful state-of-the-art STEAM program is expensive, but Coulombe said it is necessary to promote proficiency in areas like computer assisted design (CAD) and programming. “They really will use this technology in their lifetime. I think the students can relate, I think they feel good about it, they feel creative, they're learning something that applies to the real world. It was easy for me to write the check, I just think the students are really going to love it once they get the opportunity to experience it themselves.”
Another facet of Coulombe’s philanthropy is to bring people of means together to invest in the communities. Coulombe said many who can afford to support projects would not know where to begin, so he and Knickerbocker Group President and CEO Steve Malcom talk regularly about the region’s future and have been trying to herd about a dozen people into a committee or board.
The means for virtually any project should be attainable, Coulombe said.
“Over the last six months to a year, I've raised almost $38 million for Maine Medical's new hospital in Portland and that $38 million all came from the Boothbay region. So, there's the capacity … and I think if we had an organization from different segments of the population and towns, we could get … a much greater number of people contributing not only with their money, but their time and energy and experience and their knowledge. I mean, there's a lot of people with great backgrounds from all parts of the world. We should tap into those resources and help the community.”