Story posted February 21, 2006
Martin Luther King Jr. was a tremendous model of how education can advance one's personal and social impact. To honor Dr. King's example, Bowdoin inaugurated a college-immersion program last year to help motivate Maine students to continue their education beyond high school.
This year's "Aspirations in Maine: The Bowdoin College Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service" was held February 3. Sixty-five ninth graders from Brunswick, Lisbon, Morse, Mt. Ararat, Lewiston, Gardiner, Vinalhaven, and North Haven high schools came to the Bowdoin campus to experience the social and academic atmosphere of college. During their daylong visit, they met with Bowdoin students, faculty and staff, attended classes, and learned about residential life and college admissions.
Who better than Bowdoin mentors to show the ninth graders the opportunities that lie within their reach?
The ninth graders were matched with Bowdoin students, whom they "shadowed" for the day. The Bowdoin hosts showed their guests around campus, took them to classes and meals, and helped them get a sense of college life.
"I thought it'd be a great chance to volunteer so I offered to show some students around," said Mike Taylor '07, who acted as a guide. "I tried to think about how I thought about college when I was in the ninth grade."
The high schoolers arrived on campus at around 8:30 in the morning and had a chance to meet each other and get settled before their guides met them at 9. After a full day of shadowing, the ninth graders attended afternoon panels with admissions officers and with current Bowdoin students who are from Maine - a particularly valuable opportunity to hear from students who themselves went through the Maine high school experience and chose to go on to higher education.
The Day of Service was brought to life in 2005 through the efforts of Stacey Jones '00, Bowdoin's Director of First Year and Multicultural Student Affairs. Sarah Mountcastle '05 of the Community Service Resource Center was instrumental in organizing this year's event.
One particular inspiration for the program's creation is the fact that, while 85% of Maine ninth graders are expected to graduate from high school, only 47% will enroll in college and only 30% will earn a college degree. (Maine Education Policy Research Institue, Maine Department of Education, 2001).
Mountcastle was pleased with the outcome of the Day of Service and the impact that it had on the student visitors.
"The ninth grade students had many positive things to say about their hosts, classes, the food and college in general," Mountcastle said. "One student approached me at the end of the day and said, 'Wow - this was so cool! I found out that my host and I have so much in common and I didn't know that someone like me would be here at Bowdoin!'"
Taylor shared this optimism and sense of service.
"It was a challenge to question what we're doing for others," he said. "It was a really good reminder of the things and issues we have to keep important. I think that this in particular is a great thing we can do to get high school students thinking about the big picture, and to show them that there are great opportunities out there."
The annual day of service is succeeding in its mission, according to Mike Felton '00, head of the Vinalhaven school.
"I am amazed the quality of this event," Felton praised. "Kids who say they will never go to college come back talking about how they will go to college - talking to friends, teachers, and parents. It truly makes a difference in students lives and attitudes."
An outgrowth of the February 3 Day of Service was a visit to Bowdoin by 88 Brunswick Junior High School students on February 17. The middle schoolers were matched with students from Latin American Studies Program Director Enrique Yepes' classes for a tour of the campus and a little Spanish conversation.
Following a visit to Massachusetts Hall, Pickard Theater, and a residence hall, the students were treated to a guided tour of Summoning the Spirits: The Saints of Santeria in Cuban Art, an exhibition of paintings by Elio Vilva of Trinidad, Cuba. In addition to viewing the colorful paintings and learning about rich imagery and symbolism of "Santeria," the students learned about cultural conditions in the artist's native land.
To learn more about the middle schoolers' visit to the Cuban art exhibition, read the February 17 Bowdoin Orient story.
To read about other college-aspiration activities, read the Campus News story "Bowdoin Basketball Team Scores Big Mentoring Island Kids."
Article by Travis Dagenais '08 and staff reports.