Jobs for Maine’s Graduates and USM team up to raise student aspirations

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

April 4th, 2011 

Just one week after Vice President Joseph Biden announced a nationwide effort to make the United States the world leader in college attainment, more than 200 high school students from all over southern part of the state converged on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus Thursday, March 31.

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Jobs for Maine’s Graduates students on USM tour

The students, all sophomores and juniors in the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG) program, took part in the organization’s first annual Education to Career (E2C) event. JMG partnered with USM for the event to increase the students’ aspirations and to offer them a more comprehensive look at college life than just the typical college tour.

“There are still a lot of young people in Maine who might like to go to college, but don’t think it’s a realistic option. Maybe no one in their family has been to college, or they’ve never been encouraged to think about education beyond high school,” said JMG’s Chief Operating Officer, Neal Williamson. “With this event, we want all of our students to know that post secondary education isn’t some far away ideal. It’s a real place, with real students just like them.”

The JMG students attended college classes, talked with administrators about the challenges of getting into, staying in, and affording college. They also got a chance to spend time with USM students who shared the ins and outs of the college experience, and took a full tour of the campus.

“Just being here on campus, talking with some of the students, getting a look at a dorm room, sitting in on a class, just brings the idea of college closer to home,” said Julia Leighton, a junior from South Portland High School. “I still have another year left of high school after this one, but graduation will be here before you know it and I need a plan. I want college to be a part of that plan.”

JMG students from the northern half of the state took part in their own Education to Career (E2C) event Wednesday, March 30, at Husson University in Bangor. Two years ago JMG partnered with the Compass Project to teach hands-on skills.

JMG is a statewide, private nonprofit working with students who face barriers to education. JMG provides 4,000 students a year with the skills and experience they will need to succeed in high school, post secondary education, and careers. JMG graduates become engaging members of their communities, productive adults in the workforce, and contributors to Maine’s economy