Story posted April 17, 2009
In the past three weeks, students from far-flung high schools had the chance to visit Bowdoin’s campus as a part of Aspirations in Maine. The program, organized by Bowdoin student Cati Mitchell ‘09, is designed to provide opportunities for Bowdoin students to connect with local high school students to improve aspirations to higher education, as well as provide the information necessary to make that possible.
On Friday, March 27, the freshman class from Vinalhaven School arrived at Bowdoin to learn about life at a residential college. After exploring the campus, the high school students and their Bowdoin hosts examined ancient artifacts in the Museum of Art with Professor Ryan Ricciardi (Classics and Classical Archeology) and learned about Professor Nat Wheelwright’s (Biology) research on the ecology of Maine Islands. After lunch in the dining hall, the ninth graders gathered again to hear from Associate Dean of Admissions Elmer Moore (Admissions) and Director of Student Aid Steve Joyce (Student Aid), who prepared students for the college application and financial aid process.
Eleven juniors from Fort Fairfield Middle High School in Aroostook County had the opportunity to spend even more time at Bowdoin, staying overnight with a Bowdoin student on Thursday, April 9. Upon arrival, students were welcomed with a luncheon talk led by Allen Delong (Student Activities), a native of Monticello, Maine. After a campus tour on a beautiful spring day, students gathered in Moulton Union for a lecture given by Professor Diraj Murthy (Sociology) on Facebook and YouTube. Elmer and Steve made a repeat appearance, addressing student questions about applying to and paying for college. After a short break, several Bowdoin students—and Maine natives—arrived for a Q&A session with the high school juniors on academic and student life in college. Finally, following dinner in the dining hall, the student and their Bowdoin hosts sat down for a performance by the Meddiebempsters, Bowdoin’s oldest a cappella group. The students and hosts then had a chance to get to know one another and experience college life, from swing dancing in Howell to playing ping-pong in the Union. In the morning, the high school students headed off for a morning of class, including a lab tour with Professor Hadley Horch (Biology and Neuroscience) and a museum tour with Professor De-nin Lee (Art History). Gathering again for lunch in Moulton, the students reflected on the day and what they learned before loading back onto the bus for a six-hour drive home.
Cati Mitchell has been an integral part of the success of this program, working throughout the year to organize all aspects of the trips from drafting letters to schools across the state to gauge interest in the program to recruiting Bowdoin students as hosts for the high school students. Cati’s involvement in the program began a few years ago as she contributed to the Mitchell Institute’s research on college aspirations among Maine high school students and the gap between high school graduation and college enrollment. She has subsequently worked over the past two years to develop and enhance programming at Bowdoin to address this issue. After graduation this year Cati hopes to expand Bowdoin’s model to the rest of the state, through a collaboration with Maine Campus Compact which would provide Americorps VISTAs to high school/college partnerships across the state.