September 20, 2002
Six years ago when then Gerber Childrenswear announced they were closing their production facility in Fort Kent, Maureen Jarrett, a worried employee of 20 years, decided that she needed to prepare herself for a career change in the event that efforts to save her job and those of more than 150 co-workers would be unsuccessful.
Jarrett, of Fort Kent, who had worked her way up the ranks in the company from an office clerk position to the person in charge of human resources, decided to take matters into her own hands and enroll as a student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent in January of 1997, for the spring semester.
At the time it was a bold step for a mother of two school-aged boys, who had never before attended college, and worked most of her life for the same employer, but Jarrett was determined to follow through with her decision and had the full support of her husband Mark and sons Jacob and Lucas.
She was so resolute that even after the Town of Fort Kent, State of Maine, and a group of investors worked to re-open the plant a few months after Gerber closed it, Jarrett turned down an offer to return to her former position, choosing rather to continue at UMFK.
"It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Sure it was scary, but sometimes you just need to make a change and stick with it," said Jarrett.
And stick with it she did. That first semester quickly turned into four years and two majors of study, nursing and business.
In addition to a heavy course load, coupled with her responsibilities at home, Jarrett somehow found time to be very involved on campus. During her tenure at UMFK, she served as president of Alpha Chi, an honor society that recognizes scholarly merit and character elements that contribute to the academic advancement of the entire student body. She was also a member of the Student Nurses Organization, and worked for two years as an editorial assistant in the university relations office, all the while maintaining an impressive grade point average.
"I had never attended college before and wanted to experience everything I could. It wasn't always easy. Thankfully my husband and sons were incredibly supportive of me. They knew it was my dream to earn a degree," said Jarrett.
That dream was achieved in two parts. First in 1999, when she earned enough credits to be awarded an associate degree in business, then in May 2001, at UMFK's commencement exercises she earned her bachelor of science in nursing degree.
Before she even had a chance to don the cap and gown and be officially handed her diploma, the new nurse had received and accepted an offer from Cary Medical Center in Caribou to fill a registered nurse opening in their acute care unit.
Today, Jarrett is enjoying her new line of work and has never once regretted taking that first step enrolling at UMFK.
"I'm doing something I really care about doing. I'm helping others and doing things I never thought I'd do. I'm feeling better about myself," said Jarrett.
Her experience has been so positive that the former Gerber employee turned registered nurse highly prescribes the pursuit of higher education to anyone who has always dreamed about furthering themselves or just making a positive change.
"Anybody who decides to go back to school makes the right decision in the long run. I thought UMFK was wonderful. Getting the courage to take that first step makes all the difference," said Jarrett.