May 15th, 2017

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Sarah Holbrook moved to Fort Fairfield, Maine as a young girl with her mother and siblings, and immediately began to feel welcomed and supported in their new community. Soon, volunteerism and community connections served to bolster her place as a valuable and influential member of the town. Sarah credits much of her support to the people of Fort Fairfield, whom she served in outlets such as the local soup kitchen. “Someone else who also volunteered for the food pantry bought me my first graphing calculator for a calculus class, and I still have that with me,” Sarah said, sitting in her lab in Little Hall, working over spring break.

“I’d just love to thank everyone for helping me out so much. I hope to continue making you proud in grad school and in my further studies. I will give back in any way I can.”

— Sarah Holbrook, Class of 2017

As a first-generation college student, Sarah gained most of her knowledge and context for college readiness from the Upward Bound program at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. “Upward Bound [at UMPI] really prepared me a lot for college — meeting motivated, like-minded individuals and preparing for college life,” said Sarah. The Fort Fairfield Class of 2013 consisted of 30 graduates, and the 300-person, BIO 100 class during Sarah’s freshman year proved to be a bit of a shock. Now, Sarah says the friendships she made here will continue throughout the rest of her academic career and lifetime.

Along with the support she received from programs like Upward Bound, Sarah credits scholarship support from Foundation-held scholarships as a key factor in her success at the University of Maine. Since her freshman year, Sarah’s scholarship support has come from funds that help students like her flourish in their programs at the university.

Sarah was awarded the Smith & Charlene McIntire Scholarship, and the Edward and Lea Anne Cote Scholarship. The majority of the recipients of these scholarship funds are natives of the County, as per the wishes of the donors, allowing them to give back to one of their own. Sarah has been studying the effects of ethanol alcohol on the brains of mice. Her research focuses on the way mice respond to withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is introduced, and subsequently taken away. The ways that alcohol affects circadian rhythms and anxiety symptoms are also facets of her findings.

Now, as she approaches graduation, Sarah is looking forward to further education. “I was just accepted into the biology master’s program here [at UMaine],” said Sarah. Sarah has accepted her spot in the UMaine Master’s program, and she will continue to study neuroscience. “We could go on studying the brain for centuries and still not know exactly how everything works. It’s such a mystery,” Sarah said, “Really, I just love learning, and the more we can learn about how we think about what we think, and understand how we understand through neuroscience, that will benefit everyone.” Sarah’s experiences have been influential on her little sister, a UMaine first-year student who is taking advantage of the path that her sibling has forged.