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ASPIRE program offers Estacada High School students mentorship, information about post-grad options

PMG PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Through a presentation organized by the ASPIRE program, Estacada High School students connected with representatives from Willamette University last week.

A group of Estacada High School students met with a representative from Willamette University last Thursday to learn more about college during an event organized by the school's ASPIRE program.

The school in Salem is one of 10 higher learning institutions that will visit Estacada this year.

"Most of (the college information sessions) are not more than 15 or 20 kids, so it's a little bit more intimate gathering. I think they feel more like they can ask the questions that they wouldn't feel like they could ask in a larger presentation," said Estacada High School ASPIRE Coordinator Cindy Babikoff. "They give a presentation on their school and talk about costs, the financial aid packages that are typically awarded, campus life, what you can expect as far of class sizes and support. They do a really good job of painting a snapshot of their college."

Developed by the Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion, the ASPIRE program matches trained adult volunteer mentors with high school students to help them plan educational goals. More than 100 Oregon schools have the program; in Estacada, ASPIRE began in 2006.

This year, 30 Estacada High School students have signed up to work with an ASPIRE mentor. Mentors help students with their career interests, what sort of training they'll need for their future career, job shadows and applications for college and scholarships.

"It's very important work," Babikoff said. "You're helping somebody and standing with them as they go down that pathway (of determining) what am I going to do for my future?"

She added that it's a valuable time in a student's life to have assistance.

PMG PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - An Estacada High School student browses a pamphlet from Willamette University during a visit from the school on Thursday, Oct. 3.

"It's that extra layer of support and having an opportunity to build a relationship with another adult who is a good resource in your life that can offer you advice," Babikoff said. "The kids always have a positive experience with that, and the mentors have a positive experience."

Mentors and school admissions officers will also be present during Estacada's annual college application week, held the week of Nov. 14. During the event, students can complete applications for schools and scholarships and win prizes for doing so.

The program is beneficial to students as application deadlines are approaching.

"It's a really good way to gather up the senior class and give them a place and support to go through all of those processes," Babikoff said.

Through ASPIRE, students will also visit the Portland National College Fair later this month.

"The big thing is it really opens up their eyes to all the different colleges that are out there, because there's colleges from across the country that come to (the national college fair). And so I think that it sort of, you know, cracks open their brain about all the opportunities that are out there," Babikoff said. "Every time they talked with an admissions officer, they got probably a new take on what the college experience could be, or they got a new idea about what kind of career maybe they'd want to go into."

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