Upward Bound: A Bridge to our future
By Abyssnee Pelitar
Of all the things Upward Bound offers its students, the chance to be a "bridge student" is one of the most significant. If you return to Upward Bound after graduation for your final year before college, you join the bridge class. The bridge class is Upward Bound’s final resource that is designed to give you invaluable experience in a college environment. The two greatest elements of the bridge class, I think, are responsibility and opportunity. Responsibility chiefly comes in the form of being a role model for the younger students. Bridgers help the other kids settle in and feel welcome, and demonstrate the proper respect, attitude, and behavior for the other students. They are there to offer support to others whenever they need it.
Opportunity comes a few different forms. First, bridgers get the chance to learn how to manage time and freedom, as they have no bedtime, and have a lot of freedom in where they go on campus and in town during free time. These are very important skills to have in college, and the bridges have a head start on developing them.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity that the bridgers have, and the one that I’m going to talk the most about, is the college class that they get to take. The bridgers take a full two credit college class for free. The topic is Modern Japanese History. It is an invaluable resource for learning what kind of reading and writing will be expected in college, as well as seeing what lectures are really like. The bridgers read a book on modern Japan, as well as small readings that explain concepts of Japanese culture and history. They also write reading response essays, answer forum questions, and work up to a group research project that includes a full research paper with a presentation at the end of the program, all outside of class. In class, the bridgers attend lectures that tell the story of ancient Japan all the way up into the modern era, as well as take quizzes. It is an invaluable opportunity to learn what kind of work will be expected in college, and all the bridgers have a huge support base, made up of many staff who can look over papers and provide detailed insight, as they are all mostly in or just graduated from, college.
But, one of the best things about the class is just how fun it is. This is no average class of any kind. Rather, it is one that the bridge students, for the most part, genuinely enjoy. The teacher is Professor Larry Ronco, husband of Elyse Pratt Ronco, assistant director of the whole Upward Bound program. I guarantee it would be hard to find a more devoted, caring, supportive, and straight up awesome guy teaching a class like this. The work and lectures, while challenging at times, are sincerely fun and interesting.
I asked some fellow bridgers some questions about the class to flesh out the integrity of my own opinions. When I asked Rheanna Woodford to describe the class in three words, she chose “interesting,” “personable,” and “interactive.”
One thing thing that sticks out especially is how informal (in a good way) the class is. While rules and deadlines are enforced as they should be, the class environment is often relaxed, personal, and comfortable to participate in.
Indeed, when Artie Thomas described the class in general, she said it was “laid back but interactive at the same time.”
As one can imagine, a class like this must engage students a bit more than the average high school class can. Dylan Lemote, after comparing this class to others that he had taken in the past, said “I’m learning more about a culture that interests me.”
The bridge class itself, and the actual bridge college class, are truly in a class of their own.
Abyssnee Pelitar is 17 and lives in Temple. Pelitar spent two years in Upward Bound, having graduated from Mt. Blue High School in Farmington this spring. Pelitar will be attending UMF in the fall, in the honors program.