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A message of community pride
RUMFORD -- Giving back to your community or considering life here after graduating were ideas suggested recently to Mountain Valley High School seniors by Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia and selectmen Jeff Sterling and Greg Buccina.
The hour-long session in Muskie Auditorium was part of a senior workshop day at the school.
Puiia noted that when he was a high school senior, there were no personal computers. Obiously, things have changed with technology and will continue to change. Through technology, people can do business with the world from anywhere.
"Just last week (Oct. 12), we had a ribbon cutting for a new business in town called Landmark Appraisal Services. And the guy who started the company is a Mountain Valley graduate. He went away and lives in Los Angeles and started this company. He's up to like 9,000 employees. So I think he's probably doing pretty good," he said.
"He (Erik Richard) decided he wanted to expand his company and to pay people wages, for rent and office space was very expensive in Los Angeles. So he came back home and visited the area, from Mexico originally. He said we need some jobs here.
Maybe I can help my community by bringing some jobs," said Puiia.
"So he brought a division of his company in Rumford to the River Valley Technology Center and provided six jobs. His plan is to grow that business here up to 50 jobs. It's all done on a computer and over the internet. There is this little office in Rumford, but they're dealing with the entire country," he said.
Puiia noted that Richard is a Mountain Valley graduate. "You guys have that same potential when you get out there. You have the same potential to take the bull by the horns and do what you want to do. We know not everybody can come back to their home town. But there's going to be some of you that are going to have the opportunity to do like he did, maybe bring some jobs back to town, or maybe even work from home."
Sterling began by noting, "In eight months, you'll graduate and off you'll go. When you graduate, if you can, go away for awhile."
Using his son, MVHS graduate Nick, as an example, he said, "He couldn't wait to get out of here. He's doing a great job at Husson, but he came back this summer and said he wants to come back to this school as a physical education teacher. This is from a kid who couldn't wait to get out of here."
"As a selectmen, what we try to do is, amongst other things, try to bring opportunities back to the community," said Sterling. For example, thanks to the efforts of Board Chairman Greg Buccina, they've been able to bring the Fourth of July event back, which has been a great addition.
He asked the students, "As selectmen, what can we do in this area to bring industry, something back here that you could come back and do if you so chose? That's the underlying question."
Buccina then walked in front of the seniors with a crimson Rumford Panther t-shirt draped over his shoulder.
"I was always proud to be a Rumford Panther. It built my foundation. The one word I don't here enough is 'care.' It's nice to have respect and everything, but you need to care. You need to care about yourself, the people around you and life will be good," he said.
"And you will go away, and you should go away. You should go out and get a feel for what's out there. You're going to go to college and meet a whole different group of people. You'll get all kinds of different opportunities. Then, at some point, you're going to want to come home. What we work hard to do is to give you something to come home to," said Buccina.
He closed by noting, "What each of you is going to be is an ambassador of this community or this community you live in. How you choose to represent yourself is very important."
Puiia said, "The future of Rumford does depend on you. I'm paid to be the town manager. I've got two gentlemen over here (selectmen Sterling and Buccina) and they get a small stipend. They go to a lot of meetings and workshops. They don't get paid extra for that. They do it because they want their community to be better."
"We need that kind of thinking from you as well. We're getting older and we get set in our ways. But you guys have great ideas and we want to hear from you. Instill that community pride. We need you because you're the next generation," noted Puiia.
Several seniors raised their hands when the town manager asked who was eligible to vote in the upcoming referendum. "You have a chance to influence on what direction your country takes by going to vote."
Puiia noted that Rumford has always been an industrial community with the paper mill. "We're known worldwide for making paper and that's a great legacy. But maybe it's not always going to be as it was."
To that end, he said the town is working to create tourism through efforts like bringing a zip line company here as well as a mountain bike park. They're also looking at ways to promote use of the Androscoggin River as well as snowmobiling and skiing.
"We've got a great recreational area but we've never capitalized on it," he noted.
"So when you go off to school or work in the city that you represent your home town. Be proud of that. Be proud of where you come from. A lot of people would like to come back to Rumford. Hopefully, they'll be those opportunities up the road," said Puiia.
MVHS Principal Matt Gilbert told students, "Remember what these guys said. I'm sure it's not that different from what you're parents are saying, from what we're saying here at school. When you guys leave Mountain Valley High School and go to live, wherever that might be, what you're going to find is how good you had it here. Because when you go off to college, to the military or the world of work, you're going to come back and you're going to find out that not everyone has a ski slope like Black Mountain in their backyard. Not everyone has a golf course, and most communities will never have a Hosmer Field Complex. Most communities don't have rec centers, two of them. Most communities don't have these resources or a river in their backyard."
"What are we missing? Some of the urban stuff. Yes, we're missing that. There's industry waiting to happen here. The infrastructure in there; it's waiting to happen. But who is going to make it happen? The people who are here have their niche, have their pathways established. It needs people sitting in auditoriums, 17 and 18 years old, people off to college right now who were sitting here last year or the year before, coming back and making Rumford the town it can be again. When I say Rumford, I truly say, the Mountain Valley community, western Maine," he said.
"There's businesses cropping up under our noses without us even realizing it. It was somebody who took advantage of an opportunity. An example is 49 Franklin. Who looks at an old church and says 'this could be a great business?' Someone had to have ingenuity to do that. And those people are connected and have strong roots in this community, and they're very proud to be here," said Gilbert.
"Is today going to be the day that lights that fire? Maybe not. But hopefully all things added together give you enough thought to reflect on," he said.