PORTLAND — Dorcas Thete has been thinking about high school for upwards of three years, and this fall, she finally gets to make that big academic step up.

However, for this 14-year-old, originally from the Congo, high school will be more than just moving to a new building in Portland. Thete is headed to Walnut Hill School, a boarding school in Natick, Mass.

“She began to talk about three years ago about wanting to go to boarding school,” A Company of Girls Executive Director Odelle Bowman said. “She was concerned if she went to a public school, she would not get as high a quality of education. She was really clear that it makes a difference. High school years are really important in what college you get into.”

For a girl dreaming of becoming a professional actress, Thete understands the school, with a mission to educate young artists, will be beneficial to her. But with a tuition of $44,125 for the 2010-2011 school year, she needed significant aid.

“They do not, as a rule, give full scholarships,” Bowman said. “There began a process for many people advocating them to consider that (for Dorcas).”

Thete’s attendance at the school’s open house fundraising event in New York City likely made a big impression, Bowman said. When Thete realized Bowman would not be able to escort her on the trip, Thete convinced her mother to let her and her sister travel together.

“I wanted to see their performances and I wanted to see how nice it would be to perform,” Thete said. Attending Walnut Hill will give her an opportunity to perform in New York City.

“At that fundraiser, she met some more people she’d been talking to. That helped in them realizing how committed she was,” Bowman said.

Thete’s mother, Adele Ngyo, is happy to see her daughter have this opportunity.

“I’m so very happy for her and her future. This is something she’s wanted to do since (she was) a little kid,” Ngyo said.

The scholarship will fund Thete’s education as long as she maintains a B average in her classes, Bowman said. The school offers a rigorous schedule for their students with mainstream curriculum offered from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on school days followed by arts curriculum from 2 until 6 p.m.

“It’s a very long day and a very committed regimen,” Bowman said, which will not allow Thete to work and supplement any incidental costs while at school.

“I’m really nervous,” about the schedule, Thete said. “But I’m also prepared.”

Thete, who has been attending Cathedral School in Portland, was also working with A Company for Girls for the past five years. Her involvement in the organization required her attendance after school and occasionally on weekends. The group produces one play each school year.

“I’ve always found her to be an unusual child in the sense of moral center and willingness to speak up about what is right and wrong,” Bowman said.

While Thete admitted to be nervous, she said she thinks everything will be fine.

“If I want something, I work really hard for it,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]