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Gideon donates $3.5 million from campaign to program helping low income parents pursue higher ed

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D- Freeport, a candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks at a "Supper with Sara" campaign event at the Poulin-Turner Union Hall, in Skowhegan, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
House Speaker Sara Gideon, D- Freeport, a candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks at a "Supper with Sara" campaign event at the Poulin-Turner Union Hall, in Skowhegan, Maine.

Former U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon is donating $3.5 million dollars of unused campaign funds to create a program that will help low income working parents complete higher education.

The Build HOPE project will cover internet bills, unexpected car or home repairs, and expenses that might force a student to quit school before they graduate. The nonprofit Maine Equal Justice will manage the fund.

"Investing in parents is worth it, for Maine kids to grow up with greater support and opportunity, for filling gaps in skilled workforce, for growing our economy, and for showing Maine is a place that stands by its families, helping to make sure everyone can succeed," says Executive Director Robyn Merrill.

As speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Gideon sponsored a bill that created the Higher Opportunity Pathways to Employment, or HOPE, program at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

As of September, 67 HOPE students had completed higher training programs. The Legislature recently approved 300 additional slots in the program.