Upward Bound: Slip ‘n seriously sliding fun
It happened on a Special Interest Night like any other. Students all separated into their groups. From the basement came the eclectic scent of Russian cooking, in the lounge a cluster of kids were learning to sign "call me maybe" and somewhere on campus some were testing their endurance in the "Try-athlon." And these were only a few of the activities offered on a recent Tuesday evening.
But then something mysterious happened: kids began moving toward the amphitheater behind the student center. They slowly began to congregate. “I remember” from last summer, commented Rand Kelly, a University of Maine at Farmington Upward Bound student, “walking down the path and looking up and seeing Elyse with the hose, hosing down the tarp, thinking is this for real?”
Yes. It was real and it has been every year. This is what UMF Upward Bound likes to call "The World’s Biggest Slip n’ Slide." Officially that record has not yet been confirmed, but we Upward Bounders know that this slide could run in a race for that title. Stretching an estimated 150 feet, well, it got messy. Or should I say clean? Each student - almost all participated - was first soaked down and then they soaped up. This process would aid the slipping, allowing the slider to keep their momentum. This momentum was partially due to the conjoined efforts of the staff and their newest strategy for slip n’ sliding.
Danielle LeBlanc, an Upward Bound English teacher, explained, “Instead of putting the second tarp over the first, like we used to, we put it first on top of the second. That way you can’t get caught up on any of the tarps.”
Some went face first, feeling the wind in their hair, others on their backs looking to the sky. Either way each slider flew down the sloping hill and onto the grass at the bottom. Some slipping further than others and ending up near the woods.
“My favorite part was to see everyone so happy,” said Glenn Lumbert, “it was very nice to see. One part I remember was seeing Andrew Marden, who didn’t go as fast last year, did this year; I saw a huge improvement.”
Not one student was told ahead of time, all planning remained cloaked in mystery until the time came, so each student slid in their clothes. No one had any opportunity or change into a bathing suit. Except, of course, students whose special interest that night was swimming, many simply flung themselves onto the tarp in jean shorts and tank tops. Soap covered everything. But, instead of being nervous or withdrawn about the unplanned and irregularity of the event, instead of being shy about sliding soaked and covered in soap in front of nearly 70 kids, everyone had fun.
“It was a one-of-a-kind experience, in which even the most introverted person found themselves letting their walls down and enjoying the moment,” Kelly noted.
That was how it was, the walls crumbled. As some students burst from their shells, a process was started where all the students backed up to the wall and began to chant for the current slider. Screaming, “Sam!” or, “Andrew!” Kathleen Swihart explained, “Everyone started chanted everyone’s names, and they (the sliders) began farther back, by the wall. We started getting a running start.”
“It was,” said a laughing Lumbert, who won the I Love Everything Award last summer at UB, “the greatest experience of my life."
Syrena Clark, 17, a former Mt. Blue High School student, will begin her senior year at Gorham High School this fall. As an Upward Bound student at the University of Maine at Farmington, she will also be working as a writing intern at the Daily Bulldog for the summer.