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Program to raise student aspirations
Upward Bound students at MVHS are, in the front row, Shawn Bennett, Travis Ford, Nick Billings, J. J. Freeman and Nate Billings; In the middle row are Shelby McDiffett, Angela O’Leary, Nadia Tag, Kaitlyn Virgin and Karissa Murphy. In the back row are Sara Parlin, Morgan Gordon, and Rachel Averill. Absent from photo are Tristen Webber, Anthony Boucher and Shannon Santillo.
RUMFORD -- Students from rural areas tend to have lower academic and vocational aspirations. As the state’s economy changes from factories and manufacturing, students need to prepare for business and professional careers.
The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) and five western Maine high schools have teamed up to provide a program, known as Upward Bound, to help raise aspirations.
Sixteen students at Mountain Valley High School (MVHS) participate in a year-long program. They meet once per month as a whole group to work on team success and organizational skills, for example. Peggy LaPointe, target school advocate, facilitates those meetings.
Also a UMF Upward Bound staffer meets with each student one-on-one. During those meetings, the staffer and student discuss grades, keys to success and the need for tutoring services.
According to Anthony Boucher, “I love what it (Upward Bound) has to offer. It’s such a great program to help me prepare for college. The support that they give us to succeed is truly amazing. I’m just so grateful that my community offers this program.”
Rachel Averill added, “My favorite thing about Upward Bound is that it helps prepare us (those in the program) for college, in multiple ways. It gives us resources such as tutors, and agendas, and mentors.”
Though the program has just recently got off the ground, the students have already learned important lessons.
Nadia Tag has learned “That you can do anything if you really set your mind to it. I would have never thought I would be accepted into the program, so when I found out I was excited. It also shows you the importance of school and your grades.”
To be accepted into the program, students interview with a UMF staffer. They must present a transcript with good grades. Once in the program, the student must maintain those good grades so expectations remain high.
Averill commented, “I’ve learned that they hold you up to high standards and you are expected to give your 110% in everything you do.”
In addition to the academic side, Upward Bound provides social opportunities to connect students from the various high schools. In March, they gathered at Black Mountain for a tubing party. In April, the students will travel to UMF for a “reunion” with Upward Bound alumni. They will meet new summer staff, eat Chinese food, learn SAT tips and get ready for the summer program.
The summer program is designed to give students a taste of college life. They take courses in math, science, English and a foreign language. In addition, they have a career component and social/cultural component.
Averill said, “I am most looking forward to the summer Upward Bound program at UMF because it’s like a semester in college. After I do this I’ll have a better idea of what college life will be like. I will attend classes and there will be optional activities open for people in the program to do. I do come home every weekend though, so I’ll still see my family. The program lasts for 6 weeks.”
“I am looking forward to the summer secession!” explained Boucher. "I can’t wait to get the college experience, get help in my classes, make all kinds of new friends, and have fun doing it!”
The Upward Bound students are indeed motivated to explore opportunities for their future, raise their aspirations and challenge themselves academically.