AUGUSTA — Jared Lussier studied the model he and his classmates had created: a pavilion rendered in construction paper, wire and thin wooden dowels.

Then he considered how they would translate their vision into a structure of brightly colored tarps, nylon rope and PVC pipes on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta.

“We have a really complex idea of what could happen, but it could easily change,” said Lussier, 17, a high school student from Lewiston.

He and his classmates — Meghan Jellison, 16, who will be a junior at Cony High School; and Elise Bragg, 15, who will be a sophomore at Maranacook Community High School — explored college life and the field of architecture last week at Youth Orientation UMA.

“I really like architecture,” Jellison said. “I thought it would be a good way to really kind of see if I want to be an architect without having to spend a lot of money for college courses.”

In addition to designing and building, Jellison learned more about college in general through the program known as YouMA, which is in its second year.


A presentation about the admissions process, for example, showed her that “filling out an application isn’t really all that hard.”

UMA officials hope YoUMA will encourage students to consider college, if they aren’t already. They also want to dispel fears about college and show students some of the subjects they could study.

“Our goal is to orient aspiring high school students to the college process,” said UMA admissions counselor Mike Cooley. “We try to include all the steps of the college process. A lot of this revolves around not just what college is, but how to get there.”

Students enrolled in a weeklong class and took part in group activities in the afternoons.

Classes included subjects that are taught at UMA, such as photography and psychology; as well as some that are not, such as culinary arts.

Students wrote journal entries about their experiences and were graded on a pass-fail basis to earn one college credit for each week of the two-week program.


Even early in the week, they wrote about making fast friends with people from different schools and backgrounds, or learning the importance of teamwork, said English professor Jill Rubinson, who serves as YoUMA’s faculty coordinator.

“One of the things we wanted for them was to experience the freedom that comes with college, the academic freedom, the creative freedom,” she said. “I wasn’t even thinking about that sense of cohesion and community.”

Teamwork was especially necessary in some courses, such as culinary arts, which was the most popular class and provided lunch for everyone each day.

Students also collaborated in the architecture class, from the process of designing their “tarpitechture” structures to actually constructing them — folding and positioning tarps together, making changes on the fly when the original plan didn’t work out for lack of space.

But college isn’t all group projects. Bragg, the Maranacook sophomore, learned that the academic freedom of college comes with plenty of personal responsibility, too.

“If you’re goingto do it, do it well,” she said. “If you pass, then you pass. If you fail, then you fail. It’s all up to you.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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