Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Children, Youth and Families

Emily Thielmann

Policy Associate
Emily Thielmann


332I Wishcamper Center

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 780-5868

Emily Thielmann has been part of the Youth and Community Engagement team since 2012.  Her work involves leveraging opportunities for youth- and community-led systems change at the local, regional, and national levels in order to improve long-term outcomes for young people.  She specializes in empowering youth and community members through leadership opportunities, facilitating conversations toward adaptive solutions, and building networks for social change.  Her graduate and professional research has focused on best practices in mentoring programs, volunteer management, and education and career pathways development.

Prior to joining the Youth and Community Engagement Team, Emily worked in nonprofits in Maine, as well as Virginia, New York, Michigan, and Indiana.  In Maine, she served alternately in design, education, and program coordination roles in community-based education and mentoring programs, working primarily with students in need of extra academic or emotional support.  Emily has a Bachelor’s from Vassar College and a Master’s in Public Policy and Management from the University of Southern Maine’s own Muskie School of Public Service.  Also from Muskie, she holds three graduate certificates in Nonprofit Management, Applied Research and Evaluation Methods, and Performance Management and Measurement.  She is a Fellow with Maine Network Partners.

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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