WMHS gets ‘Upward Bound’

Posted:  Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 7:15am

Wiscasset Middle High School science teacher Prema Long still keeps in contact with two Skowhegan High School students she tutored  through the University of Maine at Farmington’s Upward Bound program more than a decade ago. Both have graduated college and are doing well in jobs they enjoy, Long said.

“I believe that they were successful because of the guidance and supports that Upward Bound offered to them,” Long replied to email questions after she and fellow WMHS teachers and staff met in the school library recently with Bridget Mullen, director of Bowdoin College’s Upward Bound program.

Thanks to a new grant, the Brunswick college is expanding to WMHS and six other schools the program’s year-round services aimed at increasing college entry and completion for low-income and first generation college students, Mullen said. Students whose families are on low incomes or have no four-year degree held by either parent are eligible, she said.

Long briefly recalled for participants her experience working with Upward Bound at UMF from 2003 to 2006. “It really is an amazing program. It’s life-changing for some students,” she told them.

She added in the email later, the program’s tutoring, college counseling and life experience can be pivotal for some students. Her work in it was intense and immensely gratifying, she wrote. “I’m really excited that Upward Bound is going to be working here at WMHS.”

Teachers asked about referring students to be considered. French teacher Irene Marchenay wondered how students could take part outside school, including a summer residential program on the college campus, if they have jobs. “This is a big issue for a lot of students,” Marchenay said about jobs.

Upward Bound talks with students’ families about the benefits of the experience, and can work to help a student keep their job by still working some shifts, Mullen said. 

The program isn’t rocket science, Mullen said at another point in the discussion. It helps keep students on a path toward college, making sure they are aware of fee waivers and scholarships, she said. Being in Upward Bound can also give a student a sense of belonging, she said.

Principal Peg Armstrong said via email later, she was pleased with the presentation and the questions. “Teachers clearly understood what a great opportunity Upward Bound provides for our families.”

School counselor Shaye Paradis, also via email, said she was excited to offer it to students and was glad Upward Bound chose to work with WMHS.

Bowdoin is expanding its program after getting a five-year, $257,000 a year U.S. Department of Education grant to serve 60 students across seven schools, Mullen explained in an email. The partnership could be renewed after five years, if the federal government keeps funding it, Mullen said. She added, funding for the set of outreach programs the new grant stems from has a history of bi-partisan support.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R - Maine, has been one of the leading proponents for those programs and consistently pushes for increases, Mullen wrote. Collins’ and others’ efforts in Congress made the expansion of the services in Maine possible, she added.

Schools’ guidance offices help schedule appointments and meeting space; and guidance, faculty and staff recruit students, but the grant requires no money match from districts or students, Mullen wrote.