Pointing students towards college


CCHS ASPIRE program mentors, assists students in college readiness

A poster on the wall at Crook County High School asks students the question, "After high school, what's next?"

According to the school's college readiness coordinator, Kate Worthing, the answer depends on what students ASPIRE to.

An initiative of the Oregon Student Access Commission, ASPIRE, (Access to Student assistance Programs in Reach of Everyone), provides resources to high school students that includes academic preparation help, college and scholarship application guidance and career exploration assistance, all with the help of one-on-one volunteers.

Volunteers like Bill Ryan and Rashelle Maple Thorpe.

Ryan, a retired high school counselor, has volunteered his time at Mt. Bachelor Academy, Crook County Christian School and for the past four years, with ASPIRE.

"I feel like I haven't left work," he chuckled, referring to "retirement." "But, I just need to keep myself involved."

Mentoring over 40 students, Ryan is known to spend at least two full days, each week, at the school.

"It was Kate and Becky's excitement that drew me to this program," he said. "The way that they approach this effort is a good fit for me."

Maple Thorpe simply hopes to provide the kind of support she didn't get when she was in high school.

"I never had anyone push me," she said, referring to her high school years. "I didn't have any tools to figure out what I wanted, or liked, to do."

As a first-generation college student, Maple Thorpe would have appreciated help with the financial aid and college application processes.

As a result, she found herself enrolled at Portland Community College, without knowing why.

Brielle Worthing, a senior and Kate Worthing's daughter, is one student who has taken full advantage of ASPIRE throughout her high school years. Mentored by Ryan, she has decided to enlist in the army, as a health care specialist.

"I've gone through some difficult academic and personal stuff," Brielle Worthing admitted. "Bill has gotten me out of some dark places."

She and Ryan have been together for four years, and, according to her, they get along really well, expect for the fact that Ryan is known to steal her candy.

"Bill's wife, Nancy, keeps us in brownies as well," laughed Worthing, adding that it is nice to have an adult in her life that she can talk to without being judged.

Senior Kaylin Carlile is mentored by Maple Thorpe, and, with her help, has overcome the challenge of having moved five times in her four years of high school.

She heard about ASPIRE in her "Steps to College" course, and admitted to having her doubts about the program's effectiveness.

"I came in here thinking it wouldn't be much help," she said. "But, by being here, and with Rashelle's help, I've figured out what I want to do, and how to pay for it."

As a result, Carlile plans on attending PCC in the fall, majoring in small business administration.

As a PCC alumnus, Maple Thorpe's help was invaluable.

"We connected because she wanted to go there," said Maple Thorpe. "I remember being so anxious about college. But now, I can tell Kaylin all about the school and the area."

For Maple Thorpe, the most important aspect about ASPIRE is to simply support students in their decisions, saying "There is a lot of pressure that tells students that 'You need to go to college.'"

Kate Worthing suggested that the educational system has been training people to stay away from the schools and she hopes to, through programs like ASPIRE, encourage them to come back.

"Mentors bring an added dimension to a student's life," she said. "It is another voice to encourage them."

Carlile is a believer.

"This program is about our future, it isn't simply helping us bake cookies for fund raisers," she said. "Mentors help us choose our future."

And, for those thinking about becoming a volunteer, Kate Worthing poses a simple question.

"Ask yourself who in your life helped you move forward," she said. "Who took an interest in you?"