LIMINGTON – If I were not a part of the Upward Bound, I do not know what I would do with my summer. I could stay home all day and watch TV, but instead, I am staying on the Gorham campus of USM for a federally funded summer program that is free to students who qualify by being a first- generation student or through income eligibility.

During these six jam-packed weeks, I get a sneak peek of what college life will be like. All 60 students in Upward Bound at USM this summer are going to be juniors and seniors from either Sacopee Valley, Deering, Casco Bay, Biddeford, Bonny Eagle, Sanford, Massabesic, or Portland high schools.

Everyone gets a roommate for the summer, and it is usually someone they have never met before. Being put in a room with someone you don’t know is a learning experience, and when you have to live with them for six weeks, you learn a lot about those people.

The summer kicks off with a two-day college tour trip for all students. The seniors go to Boston while the juniors tour around Maine.

On Sundays, students bring their belongings from home and move into the dorms. Sunday nights a foreign language class takes place.

This year, students have the opportunity to learn either Mandarin or Indonesian.

There are electives throughout the week, but there is one we call “Focus UB” where students are making movies, cooking or creating a weekly newspaper.

Mondays and Wednesdays are class days. There are four classes spread throughout the day, with lunch and community meeting in between.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are internships. The year-round staff provides students with a paid internship based on what career path students are interested in. At night there are foreign language or group activities, such as bowling.

Fridays are group activity days. They might include a college fair, a trip to the beach or a cultural lunch. After the activities, students pack up to go home for the weekend.

To conclude the summer, seniors go on a three-day white water rafting trip. Juniors tour colleges around New England.

This fall, I will be a senior at Bonny Eagle. I have attended Upward Bound for two years, and both were great and full of many experiences.

I know what it is like to work in a library.

I have experienced the dining hall food (which is generally the same choices every few days). I know what it’s like to have two roommates and share space, and I know what it is like to have one roommate and not having to worry about hitting my head on the top bunk.

The summer of my junior year was all about preparing for the SATs, starting to look at colleges I might want to apply to and exploring majors. This summer is all about perfecting my college essay, planning for financial aid and starting to apply to colleges.

Before I joined Upward Bound, I didn’t know what it took to apply to a college. I hardly even thought about what I was going to do after high school.

Upward Bound has given all of the students the same support in helping us apply and easing any worries we might have about college and the application process.

To help with the transition, seniors take part in a transitional “therapy” group with graduate students from USM.

Being in Upward Bound is not strictly educational. There are other things we get to do throughout the six weeks. Some of these field trips include seeing a play at the theater, going to a Sea Dogs game, gaining community service hours at a car wash or participating in a ropes course.

Upward Bound encourages students to go out of their comfort zone. To some, that may be just being in the program in the first place. To others, it might be to gain the confidence to talk to a college representative. And to others, it could be jumping off a platform and being suspended by a harness 30 feet in the air.

Whatever the challenge is, students are encouraged to face it. I know that when I’m off to college there will be plenty of challenges, whether it be the dining hall, my roommates or being far from home.

Upward Bound has prepared me well, and I know that when I do go to college, I will be able to face those challenges when they come.

– Special to the Press Herald