Aroostook — On April 27th, the Maine Community College System (MCCS) recognized this year’s Student of the Year award recipients on a statewide Zoom call with an audience of educators, legislators, the MCCS Board of Trustees, and Maine business leaders. Traditionally, winners are announced at a luncheon near Augusta; however, with communities still adapting after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s ceremony took place virtually.
NMCC was the fourth of seven colleges to present their award winner, and Dean of Students Matt Grillo introduced business administration senior Ryan Ashby as the 2022 NMCC Student of the Year. Grillo called attention to Ashby’s excellent academic standing, abundance of motivation, and passion for supporting mental health through fitness within the community.
In describing the decision to select Ashby as this year’s award recipient, Grillo highlighted Ashby’s resilience and service to the community through his church. After a life-altering car accident last November, Ashby worked closely with NMCC instructors and staff to complete his courses and stay on track for graduation this May.
“That he had undergone such an experience only months ago, recovering from brutal injuries while not only continuing his education but earning all A’s and being nominated for this award by multiple faculty members — left me in awe,” said Dean Grillo, broadcasting from NMCC’s Edmunds Conference Center.
Ashby first enrolled in NMCC’s automotive collision repair program after high school in 2005, graduating two years later with his associate’s degree. Rather than working in the automotive industry, he used his hands-on trade skills to work for a local water district for 10 years.
The career was not the right fit and Ashby found himself becoming more involved in health and fitness, discovering his desire to help others. To build a career more aligned with his interests, Ashby earned his certification to become a personal fitness trainer and began a company called NorthPeak Wellness, partnering with local gyms and providing fitness training to members of the community.
“Fitness helps keep you balanced, mentally and physically,” Ashby explained. “Some people see the gym as a hectic environment, but for me, it provides a sense of calmness. It’s where I do a lot of my thinking, planning, and decision-making. I not only get the physical results, but I get the mental results as well.”
When the pandemic began in 2020, Ashby could no longer provide training and quickly decided to take advantage of the change and enrolled in NMCC to pursue a degree in business, which he’d discovered a passion for while building his startup. “I joked at first, saying ‘This will take about two years for COVID to pass, at least I’ll be getting my degree.’ It’s been about two years! Enrolling in school allowed me to keep my mind focused.”
Ashby earned a cumulative 3.75 GPA and will graduate May 14th with honors, earning an associate’s degree in business administration. After graduation, Ashby plans to enroll at UMPI to pursue his bachelor’s degree, and ultimately earn a master’s degree in business.
Student of the Year recipients are selected by NMCC faculty and staff for their academic success and their campus and community involvement. In addition to being named Student of the Year, recipients receive a John and Jana Lapoint Leadership Award in the amount of $1,000. The Lapoints both served as trustees of the Maine Community College System. After John’s death in 1995, Jana Lapoint helped establish the fund for the annual awards.
“I know how proud (John) would be of all of you,” said Jana Lapoint while addressing this year’s recipients. “We both would encourage you to never give up, keep pursuing your dreams, never accept it can’t be done, and always give back to society whenever and whatever you can. You all have my deepest respect and admiration for all your accomplishments.”
After the virtual ceremony, Ashby joined members of the NMCC faculty and staff, as well as family and friends, for a reception held in the NMCC library with refreshments.
Due to this recognition, Ashby will speak to the graduating class at NMCC’s 57th Annual Commencement on May 14th, which will be available for streaming on nmcc.edu and the college’s Facebook page.
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