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Connecting to a bigger world - Central Oregonian
December 18, 2011Crook County High School
Finding and accessing information about college options can be a daunting task for seniors and college-bound students — especially during the chaotic pace of their senior year in high school.
Crook County High School has participated in a college resource program called ASPIRE (Access to Student Assistance programs in Reach of Everyone) for several years. Although the program had a lull for a couple of years due to funding, it was restarted again last year, and has proved to be a tremendous value to the students who have accessed the services.
Students receive information about college options, admissions, and financial aid from trained and supportive ASPIRE volunteer mentors who work one-on-one with them throughout the year.
Senior class president Tyler Rockwood has found the ASPIRE program a great resource in his search for college information, applications, and scholarships.
“I feel like the ASPIRE program has helped the entire school and all the upper classmen. There has been a lot more interest in people going to college ever since they started about mid-way through last year,” said Rockwood. “Last year, there were more people than ever who went to college and applied for the local scholarships and state scholarships.”
Coordinators for the current program at CCHS are Kate Worthing and Becky Munn, and they have put in a great deal of time and energy to re-start the program. Their efforts are paying dividends in making the program a success.
“Our two ASPIRE coordinators are doing a fantastic job,” said Rocky Miner, Crook County High School Principal. “They are part of the big success or one of the main reasons of the big success of keeping the ASPIRE going and having it really support our kids in filling out college and scholarship applications and making sure they are meeting the right timelines for their post-high school education plans.”
Miner added that the ASPIRE coordinators also work very closely with the CCHS counselors. Ann Kasberger and Darin Kessi meet with Worthing and Munn on a weekly basis.
“Every day, we get kids coming through here that Kate and I see, either working through a mentor, being signed up for an SAT, or making a phone call to an admissions office,” expressed Munn. “Their lives are changing, and we can just see it as they come through. It’s very exciting to see that. We have kids who are the first in their family to go to college.”
The program also utilizes a college resource called Career Information Systems (CIS). The software program allows students to search for colleges and careers, and also has tools which make it possible to get help filling out their FAFSA and college applications.
According to Worthing, all students at CCHS can benefit from the CIS program since it can be used for writing resumes and sending them to schools that students are applying for. The program can also be utilized at home, and is beneficial for looking at careers and other resources.
According to Munn, the program received a grant from Facebook in 2011, and they also received a grant from Our Saviors Lutheran Church and the Columbia Gorge Education Service District. These grants provided technology for ASPIRE, which included computers and laptops, monitors, chairs, whiteboards, and office necessities and tools needed to provide resources for the students.
“I think it’s giving them a lot of hope and a lot of knowledge,” commented Worthing about the program. “Without vision, people perish and they don’t see, and I think ASPIRE has helped many of these kids to see opportunity and to feel that they might have the tools to reach out and achieve those opportunities and those goals. I think they are getting encouraged by other students who are actually being mentored, and even students who aren’t being mentored are hearing from the other students.
“They are getting practical help in following through to meet those goals.”
Worthing said that having a mentor work with the students has created opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“It helps them open doors that they would not have had. I really believe that some of these kids are going to school that could not have if it weren’t for their relationship with their mentor,” said Munn.
Bill Rayon is a mentor for ASPIRE, and also helps train other mentors for the local program. He is a retired high school counselor and moved after his retirement to Prineville seven years ago. His depth of experience brings a lot to the table for CCSD.
“What I notice with the students that I have – most of them seniors – is that taking time to build a trust relationship and follow through are two of the things I think I can offer them that they might not have had, and I think that has made a huge difference,” said Rayon.
He said that many of them bring in other students during their free period and talk about what is happening in their lives.
He has a philosophy of trying to give as many opportunities and choices as possible to seniors so that they have lots of avenues open and choices in the spring of their senior year.
“The mentors that we have are from the community and they are bringing in the community,” said Worthing. “The kids are seeing that they are connected to a bigger world than this building – they are connected to these people who care about them. It means a lot to those students and a lot to the people who are being mentors.”
Worthing added that all the adults who are serving in the ASPIRE program have a heart for the children and for their future.
Kirsti Kelso is a senior in the ASPIRE program and Rayon is her mentor.
“He has been a huge help,” said Kelso. “He looked into a couple of schools for me . . . I have done well academically, so he wanted to help me apply for the harder schools. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without him.
Rockwood added that students have become much more aware of the college process since the ASPIRE program and its resources have been available.
“Its huge knowing that college can be for you and you can do it.”