Opportunity Scholars


The Opportunity Scholars initiative at USM strives to support people with lived experience in the carceral system to connect to higher education and fulfilling careers. Though housed at the University of Southern Maine (USM),  the initiative supports anyone interested in any type of higher education. The initiative also connects individuals with other opportunities at USM to grow personally, professionally, and academically.

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Thinking About School but Not Sure Where to Start?

Figuring out what to do with your life is difficult, and for those with a lived experience of the justice system it can seem impossible. At Opportunity Scholars, we get it, and we can help connect you to resources and supports to reach your goals. One possible path forward is through higher education.

Our Higher Education Resources page is a great place to start thinking about your future goals. And reach out to the team to learn more and connect with others just like you!

Higher education resources

Flowering trees near a sidewalk

What Do Opportunity Scholars Do?

Choose your own pathway to success:

  • Weekly zoom meetings are available for anyone interested in learning more about higher education programs, services, or resources, or connecting with other people with similar interests.
  • Schedule individual meetings with staff or peer mentors to work on professional and personal goals.
  • Potential to earn compensation in the form of stipends, temporary employment, work study, and research assistantships
  • Each scholar is encouraged and supported to pursue personal projects, research, or other work that they are passionate about related to incarceration, educational pathways, pubilc serving systems, abolition, or social justice. These individual pursuits inform the rest of the group as well as future research and development.

Connect with others!

Through Opportunity Scholars, you can connect with many other initiatives and supports at USM and in the greater community. For those who are interested, there are ways to become involved in paid work in the areas of advocacy, research, mentorship, and leadership. 

Two students on the USM campus waving to other students

Make An Impact & Gain Experience!

Many Opportunity Scholars get paid to do real work on the issues that matter to them. Some of our past scholars have worked on research projects, planned and participated in advocacy events, shared their voice through creative methods, and completed internships with a variety of organizations.


Project Examples

Abolition Night at The Strand logo

Watch the event

Mapping the Impact of Systems and Places on Youth Pathways Report cover

Read the report

Research and Resources

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Reach out to us!