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Six Gorham High Grads Find Their Families and Futures at USM

None of the six siblings of the King, Benson, and Guidi families would have guessed they would all wind up at the University of Southern Maine, but that is exactly what happened. Most of these Gorham High School grads held dreams of attending out-of-state colleges and spent more time than many students travelling the world, but all six, for one reason or another, returned to Maine to attend USM and build their careers in their home state. Brain drain? This group of friends and family members – boasting two marriages among them – are not contributing to it! Here are their stories:

Kati Benson King, GHS ’03, grew up on a dairy farm in Gorham and chose to commute to USM from home for a one-year trial, expecting to transfer to one of the out-of-state colleges she had applied to. Realizing that study abroad was a real possibility with the money she saved by commuting to USM, she stayed and found her academic home in USM’s Communication and Media Studies Program. Good relationships with her professors led to an internship in USM’s Office of Public Affairs and her first job at Garrand Marketing Communications as an assistant account executive after graduating from USM in 2007.

In 2009, Kati married Brian King, GHS ’04, who graduated from USM with a degree in English the same year. They spent a year in South Africa working with Youth with a Mission (YWAM), a non-denominational, international Christian volunteer organization.

Brian spent a year between high school and college in Australia working in a juvenile detention center for YWAM. Feeling the call to be a high school teacher, he cancelled enrolment in an out-of-state engineering program to come to USM, finally majoring in English with a math minor. He also played on USM’s men’s soccer team. Brian is now in USM’s ETEP Unified Program, a two-year graduate program that allows students to work while taking courses that lead to teacher certification. Upon graduation in 2013, Brian will be certified to teach mathematics and special education, and hold a MS in teaching and learning. Brian says the opportunities Greater Portland provided and USM’s affordable tuition enabled him to travel, contributing to his overall college experience.

Currently, Kati is a staff associate with Young Life, a non-denominational Christian organization that reaches out to high school students, an organization she was involved in at both Gorham High and USM. Brian hopes to teach in Gorham where he now is employed as a resource room teacher teaching special education mathematics at Gorham Middle School.

Deandra Guidi, GHS ‘06, attended a local community college for two semesters, then took off on a trip around the world volunteering for the same organization that brought Kati and Brian to South Africa, YWAM. Over the course of that year, Deandra found herself in New Zealand, the Middle East, and Europe. She never expected to attend her hometown university, but enrolled at USM upon her return. Her first economics courses, “Shopping: American Consumerism” and “Intro to Microeconomics,” piqued her interest in the subject, and she declared economics her major. Deandra found more than her family and GHS classmates at USM -- she enjoys the community of fellow commuter students. She works at Coastal Insurance Group and will soon have her broker’s license, a career path she never planned, but one her USM education made possible.

Last year, she married Garrett King, GHS ’07, the younger brother of Brian, and a 2011 graduate of USM’s economics program. Garrett transferred to USM from a private out-of-state college that he says didn’t suit him, and shared an apartment with Brian. In addition to the money saved on tuition, Garrett feels the education he received at USM comparable to the college he transferred from. Currently, he is employed by Unum.

Kati’s younger sister, Erica Benson, GHS ’07, is beginning her senior year majoring in business with minors in both political science and English. She credits USM for allowing her the flexibility to study a semester in Florence, Italy and take time off to help work on her family’s Gorham dairy farm. She, like her sister Kati, commutes from home. Initially planning to transfer out of state after two years, Erica decided to continue her degree at USM.

Saying that a career in business suits her best, she hopes to work in Portland upon graduation. She currently works for H&R Block and completed an internship with Coastal Enterprises, a private non-profit community development corporation. She feels her major will provide various career options upon graduation.

Deandra’s younger sister, Kimberly Guidi, GHS ’07, unsure about her academic goals, took time off to work after high school, and spent a year with YWAM working with individuals overcoming addiction and homelessness in Italy and Scotland.

By the fall of 2009, Kimberly had enough real-life, hands-on experience to know nursing was the career for her and enrolled in USM’s School of Nursing. Taking advantage of attending classes offered during Winter and Summer Sessions, she’s had barely a few weeks off since 2009. After graduation, Kimberly plans to pursue a Certificate in Midwifery.

While none of them would have predicted in Gorham High School where life would lead them, they all found their academic home at USM. They praise USM’s professors for guiding them into career choices they love, took advantage of internships, and enjoyed opportunities they may not have been able to afford had they chosen to be residential students out of state. And, contrary to what we are being told about Maine’s brain drain, they are keeping their talents in the state they love.