Erik Bowen featured as a 2024 Maine Graduate to Watch in Portland Press Herald

This month, thousands of young people are making one of life’s great transitions at high school graduations across Maine. Each year, we seek seniors who have shown they have what it takes to make a difference in the world.

Here are the stories of 10 outstanding members of the class of 2024 and their accomplishments so far. They include several immigrants and top scholars, a few musicians and social activists, a couple of entrepreneurs, standout athletes, a barber in training, a spiritually inspired singer and a granddaughter who’s dedicated to preserving her Wabanaki roots.

They have overcome language and cultural barriers, family crises, disabilities, bullying, everyday teen insecurities and the challenges of living in a post-pandemic, sometimes violent culture. Their intended careers include music production, counseling, acting, law, firefighting, politics, advocacy and animation.

They have done so much already, and we’re excited to see what happens next.

Erik Bowen, Windham High School

Eric Bowen is a stellar student, community volunteer and three-sport varsity athlete who has participated in many clubs and activities at Windham High School.

But it’s outside school that Bowen has distinguished himself as a young entrepreneur who has several part-time jobs, including a barber’s apprenticeship with Keenan Pinard at the Crow’s Nest barber shop in Windham.

Since starting the school-endorsed Extended Learning Opportunity for extra credit, Bowen has completed about 700 of 1,600 hours of on-the-job training needed to get his state barbering license.

“I always liked getting my hair cut,” he said. “Keenan was willing to apprentice me and it went from there. I started cutting my friends’ hair and as I progressed, I cut more with the public. I like the environment and I like working on it as an art form.”

Bowen also works as a board-certified basketball referee, a DoorDash driver, a Walmart associate and co-owner of the Bowen-Moody Basketball Training Co., started with his friend A.J. Moody. They offer youth basketball training programs for individuals and small groups.

“Helping to have an impact on others is something that is very important to me,” Bowen said. “I have really enjoyed seeing them learn and the excitement they have.”

His volunteer activities include assisting at youth sports camps, teaching Spanish to elementary students and mentoring a middle school student.

“Sometimes we shoot some basketball and talk about things,” he said. “We’ll definitely stay in contact after I graduate.”

Bowen excelled at baseball, football and basketball, helping lead Windham’s basketball team to a state championship. An all-around sportsman, he also enjoys hunting, fishing, boating and sleeping under the stars.

He was a member of the National and Spanish honor societies, High School Quiz Show Team, student council and yearbook committee, and he helped establish the Investments and Finance Club.

He plans to study sports management and business entrepreneurship on presidential scholarship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, but he’d like to start his coaching career as soon as possible.

He sees himself following in the footsteps of coaches who have guided him through the years, especially Windham High basketball coach Chad Pulkkinen, who became an all-around mentor.

“He started out as my basketball coach, but now I feel I could go to him for anything,” he said. “I’d like to be that person for other people.”

And he’ll always have barbering as a side gig.

“Everybody’s always going to need to get their hair cut,” he said.

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