PORTLAND — The Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute recently hosted its sixth annual year-end celebration. During the virtual event, the institute graduated its fourth class of seniors, composed of more than 150 young women from high schools in every Maine county.

More than 750 students, mentors, and school contacts participate in the institute’s program each year, which is a three-year progression through the themes: “My Values” (10th grade), “My Voice” (11th grade), and “My Vision” (12th grade). The evidence-based curriculum is designed to raise the confidence and aspirations of high school girls by helping them develop the skills required to be leaders in their lives, families, careers, and communities. Without confidence, girls are less likely to take the lead or pursue some classes, passions, and opportunities.

“Olympia’s Leaders,” as participants are called, engage in unique programming blending statewide events, experiential activities in small groups, individual development and reflections, and tailored connections with Maine’s business and community leaders. Throughout all three years, each Olympia’s Leader is supported by one or two trained mentors, who facilitate monthly activities and serve as an adviser and role model. Throughout the pandemic, the program adapted to Maine CDC guidelines and continued without pause — enriching the content and continually operating in in-person, hybrid, remote, and mail-based models to match each of the 540 students’ needs.

The 2021 year-end celebration included remarks from Olympia J. Snowe, former U.S. senator and founder of the institute; Erin French, owner and chef at The Lost Kitchen in Freedom; Christina McAnuff, executive director of the institute; and Craig Larrabee, president and CEO of Jobs for Maine Graduates.

Class representatives also shared creative presentations — including an original song and music composition by senior Ashley Blais of Belfast Area High School.

Chef and author Erin French.

Among the gifts and memorabilia given to institute graduates was, thanks to Unum, a corporate partner of the institute, a signed copy of Erin French’s book, “Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch.”

Ashley Blais, a June graduate of Belfast Area High School.

Ashley Blais of Belfast Area High School and Amaya Ireland of Sanford High School received Sharon Y. Miller Leadership Awards, named in honor of the woman who chaired the institute’s founding board of directors and celebrating students who have used their values and voice to positively influence their school community.

Scholarship winner Jacie Nickerson, graduate of Mount View High School.

Hailey Calder of Calais Middle/High School and Jacie Nickerson of Mount View High School received former Gov. John R. McKernan Jr. JMG Scholarships after excelling academically, within the institute, and during their Jobs for Maine Graduate programs.

From the class of 2021, 98% of Olympia’s Leaders are graduating from high school immediately; 100% will begin higher or specialized education, military service, or enter the workforce by 2022; 76% will stay in Maine; and 59% will study a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field. This statistic is significant because it demonstrates that those Olympia’s Leaders interested in STEM now have the confidence to pursue it.

Graduating Olympia’s Leaders from Mount View High School were Calla Collins, who will attend College of the Atlantic to study human ecology with an art and anthropology focus; Gabriella Hanks, who will attend the University of Maine to study kinesiology and physical education; Jacie Nickerson, who will attend the University of Maine at Farmington to study elementary education with a mathematics minor; and Sage Pound, who will take a gap year to study before entering Husson University to study business.

Their accomplishments of note: Collins graduated in the top 10% of her class, won the Maine High School Poetry Championship, and won a Liberty Graphics art contest and scholarship. Hanks graduated with high honors, was elected class president, and was named captain of a varsity sport. Nickerson graduated eighth in her class, was inducted into the National Honor Society, and played a varsity sport for all four years. Pound graduated in the top 10% of her class.