by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Mary Ann Bugni has coordinated the ASPIRE program at Estacada High School for five years.Each year, Mary Ann Bugni has a waiting list of high school students hoping to be matched with an ASPIRE adviser.

ASPIRE advisers help students figure out which careers they may like to pursue and what they’d have to do to get there.

Even if the student doesn’t yet know, the ASPIRE advisers help the student set goals and plan for life after high school.

“Our advisers are really great about helping students debate with themselves,” said Bugni, who has been coordinating the ASPIRE program for five years.

Planning for life after high school is a daunting task in the best of times, but the recession has made planning for the future even harder.

It’s been all over the news in recent years: there is a highly educated out-of-work group of young people with sky-rocketing student loan debt.

Estacada has its own set of unique challenges too.

“In our blue collar community, we don’t have as high a percentage of families instilling in their children ‘you’re going to college’ since grade school,” Bugni said.

Bugni explained that many Estacada students are concerned that they will incur high debt if they pursue higher education.

But, Bugni said, heading to a minimum wage job right out of high school perpetuates a culture of low-income.

“We really strongly encourage kids not to take a gap year or 5 or 6 or 10 years,” Bugni said.

Often, students plan to work for a year or so after high school to save money for higher education but life gets in the way. It’s hard to save money on a minimum wage job, especially when children and a family come along.

Today’s students could use all the encouragement they can get.

And that’s just what the ASPIRE program does.

ASPIRE advisers communicate that investing in higher education is an investment in the student’s future. The advisers make sure that students know about financial aid opportunities.

“There are a lot of scholarships out there,” Bugni said. “We really encourage our students to apply throughout the year.”

In a unique administrative move, for the last couple years Estacada High School Principal Scott Sullivan has required every graduating senior to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Oregon Student Access Commission scholarship application (which allows the student to apply for several scholarships with a single application).

“The principal is extremely supportive of the ASPIRE program,” Bugni said.

For the past six years, Bugni estimates about 80 percent of the graduating class have pursued higher education. Of that 80 percent, about one third go on to a 4-year college and two thirds enter community college or an apprentice program.

The class of 2013 has earned the highest amount of scholarships and grants in Estacada High School’s history. They earned just shy of $2 million.

It should be noted that that figure includes all of the financial aid packages students were offered. For instance, if a student was accepted and got into three schools and was offered three financial aid packages, all three would be included in the amount of scholarship money that the student had earned.

“I’m really proud of our graduating class for working so hard and applying to so many colleges,” Bugni said.

Bugni is hoping to get more community volunteers to apply to be ASPIRE advisers in order to help this year’s class to be just as successful.

Bugni emphasized that advisers can be anyone who would make a good “guiding adult.”

“No particular experience is necessary; it is not even necessary that volunteers have attended college. Anyone who believes in the value of higher education is encouraged to apply,” Bugni wrote in a letter to the editor to the Estacada News.

Bugni does trainings for new advisers throughout the year “at the convenience of the mentor-adviser’s schedule.”

Once the advisers have been trained, they meet with students weekly or biweekly.

Bugni strives to match students with advisers with similar interests.

Bugni said that she hopes advisers will stay for at least a year to see an entire group of seniors through to graduation.

“It’s not really intended to be a short term commitment,” she said. “Hopefully we hook them because it is so fulfilling.”

She likes to switch advisers who will be continuing on into the next school year to juniors in the spring.

“Ideally, I think I could easily take 20-25 advisers each year. I’ve never had more than 18,” Bugni said.

This year, Bugni is down to 14 advisers and hopes to be training some new ones shortly.

If you are interested in being an ASPIRE adviser contact Bugni at 503-630-8515 ext. 2896 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine