Portland, ME – At its recent Annual Meeting of Policyholders The MEMIC Group awarded $15,000 in scholarships to three children of workers who suffered serious workplace injuries. Louis Laurita of Hope, Maine; Natalia Hinman of Liverpool, New York; and Derek McGraw of Brooklin, Maine are this year’s MEMIC Harvey Picker Horizon Scholarship recipients.
As one of the fastest growing workers’ compensation insurers on the Eastern Seaboard, MEMIC recognizes that although workers’ compensation insurance covers medical treatment and replaces a large percentage of lost wages, it cannot eliminate entirely the stress and strain that an injury can cause a family.
“While MEMIC’s mission is to protect lives and help workers avoid injuries in the first place, we hope these scholarships will lead to a brighter future for these resilient students and their families,” said MEMIC President and CEO Michael Bourque.
Louis Laurita is the son of the late veterinarian James Laurita who was killed in an accident while tending to the care and rehabilitation of elephants at Hope Elephants, the nonprofit elephant sanctuary Laurita founded. Louis, a graduate of Camden Hills Regional High School, will attend Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He is the co-founder and senior editor of a school newspaper and is involved with the MidCoast Interact Club, Camden for Community and the Liberian Education Fund.
“Mr. Laurita currently works for one of our businesses as a coach and mentor to younger athletes,” said Jonas Contakos of HopeAir, a gymnastics and movement facility in the transformed space that formerly housed Hope Elephants. “He has a natural ability to work with kids by simply being present. He is magnetic in the most humble and subtle way and can put a positive spin on all of his interactions as a coach.”
A friend and classmate said of Laurita, “He is one of the kindest people I have ever met. He has a strong intuition for people and their emotional states, and I have seen him reach out to people who were struggling and help them stand on their own feet. He does it so subtly that the struggling person and the observers can’t tell that he knows what he’s doing; he did it with me as well, when my father died, and I didn’t notice until some months after that he had turned the worst year of my life into something bearable, single-handedly.”
Natalia Hinman will begin her junior year this fall as a transfer student at Cazanovia College in New York pursuing a bachelor’s in business administration. Her mother, a single parent of four, is out of work due to a herniated disc. Natalia said she is truly grateful for the Horizon Scholarship during this difficult time for her family. “I cannot support the family on my part time job. I work but I also go to school full time. I go to the food bank at school and bring home what I can but resources are lacking.”
“I really look forward to watching her succeed in life, I definitely see her as continuing to be an asset to her community no matter where it may bring her,” said Sara Westcott who volunteers with Hinman at the Cuse Pit Crew and the Syracuse St. Patrick’s Hunger Project.
“Natalia is a dedicated, hard-working, conscientious student who cares deeply about her academic success,” said Carolyn Bice, Professor of Communication at Onondaga Community College. “I wish that I could fill my class roster with copies of her. She is a most deserving candidate!”
Derek McGraw will begin his sophomore year at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania studying sports management. Last year, he received a $5,000 Horizon Scholarship when he graduated from George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Maine. McGraw said he loves the opportunities outside of the classroom like his work-study job with the Drexel Athletic Communications Office, working at the U.S. Squash Open and having a team in each of the four major American sports leagues at his doorstep.
“My dad severely injured his back working on fiberglass boats when I was seven,” said McGraw. “Because of his injury, he couldn’t play with me much as a kid or do a lot of physical activities, like baseball, which we both enjoy. We always wanted to go to a professional baseball game, but were never able to because my dad’s back would hurt too much to travel all the way to Boston to watch a game.”
“I took it as a good omen when Derek went to a Phillies game on his first Drexel outing and caught a grand slam ball from way up in the bleacher seats,” said Dede Ragot of Blue Hill. “I realized that I had nothing to worry about – Derek was following his dream and had found his new home. It was the Harvey Picker Scholarship that made it possible for Derek to attend Drexel, neither of Derek’s parents are able to help him with his tuition expenses, which make scholarships crucial for Derek in realizing his dream of becoming the first college graduate in his family.”
The MEMIC Harvey Picker Horizon Scholarship has been awarded annually since 2001 to the spouse or child of a worker who has suffered a serious injury or death at work. With the 2018 awards, MEMIC has granted scholarships totaling $170,000 to 34 young scholars.
The scholarship is named after former Camden, Maine resident Harvey Picker, a renowned physicist, educator, philanthropist and advocate for education. In 1992, Picker was appointed by then Governor John R. McKernan as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Workers’ Compensation, which led to the formation of MEMIC 25 years ago. Picker also served as a member of the Board of Directors at MEMIC.