By James Scott, Contributing writer

University of New Hampshire student Ian Gagnon of Enfield received Stay Work Play’s College Student of the Year award at its 2014 Rising Star Awards Event in Manchester on Oct. 6.

“I got roped into it by Jeanne Sokolowski [Director of UNH’s Office of National Fellowships], who is a tremendous resource for applying for scholarships. I had applied for a lot with her help, but this is the first one which I’ve actually gotten,” Gagnon said. “I think she might have just felt bad about how I hadn’t won anything yet,” he said with a smile on his face.

Gagnon, a senior mechanical engineering major and club ski racer at UNH, had not heard of the Rising Star Awards prior to his nomination.

The College Student of the Year award is attached to a $500 scholarship, which recipients may put towards things like books or their tuition.

Signed commendations from Gov. Hassan and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, are also part of each award package.

The event itself was filled with a certain amount of pomp and circumstance. The event was held in a high-rise building in downtown Manchester. Multiple limousines were parked outside the building, and the event space featured a red carpet where nominees and award-winners were photographed. Suits, ties and cocktail dresses were a part of an unwritten dress code, and the event was lavishly catered.

Virginia Prescott, from the NHPR program “Word of Mouth,” was the master of ceremonies, while NHPR itself served as one of the primary co-sponsors for the event, alongside UNH and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, among many other for-profit and nonprofit New Hampshire businesses.

With more programs like the Rising Star awards, time will tell if Stay Work Play’s efforts towards keeping graduates of New Hampshire’s higher education institutions within the state will pay off.

It was beneficial that Gov. Hassan herself made an appearance halfway through.

She gave the closing remarks for the proceedings, where she underlined the importance of the work Stay Work Play is accomplishing.

“We know it is central to keep young people in New Hampshire,” she said to a packed room. She also made sure to expound on her efforts to “keep higher education affordable.”

She has done this, she explained, through an “almost full restoration of [university] funds,” and by working with UNH to “freeze tuition.”

She also was proud that community college tuition rates have “actually seen a five percent reduction” over the last year.

If Gov. Hassan’s goal is to keep graduates in the state, Gagnon will be one to please.

Gagnon plans on remaining in the Granite State after he graduates. “We have a pretty good economy, good things to do … Some of, if not the best, ski hills on the east coast,” Gagnon said. “In the summer, there’s amazing hiking and camping. UNH … I think everybody can be proud of New Hampshire’s university. The people here tend to be down to earth. People from New Hampshire play hard and work harder than anybody.”