A group of 26 seniors in the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program, spent a week immersed in a challenging college-intensive program, according to a news release from JMG. The new JMG Summer Academy was developed by JMG, hosted at Thomas College in Waterville, and designed to give students the chance to experience college life firsthand.

“It was tough, but I’m so glad I did it,” said Ava Tootil, a JMG Summer Academy student from Winslow High School, according to the release. “Almost every waking hour was devoted to making sure that when we go to college, we’ll be ready. We slept in the dorms and ate in the cafeteria. During the day we took an Introduction to Computer Application course taught by a Thomas College professor. In the evening, we had structured study time and access to tutors. It was a lot of work, but it was definitely worth it.”

By taking the college-level course, Tootil and the other students walked away from the JMG Summer Academy with three college credits.

“Thomas College is honored to be a part of providing Maine high school students a taste of college life,” said Thomas College President Laurie Lachance, according to the release. “It was so refreshing to see students on campus this week taking classes, staying in our residence halls and working with our faculty and staff. Early college access and affordability are so important, and we are happy these students were able to receive college credit and the experience of being on a college campus at no cost to the student.”

The JMG Summer Academy is an important component of JMG’s comprehensive College Success Program. The program works with college-bound JMG high school students, foster care youth and others, to ensure they are ready for college, and once they are on campus, ensures they stay in school and earn a degree. There are currently about 2,500 high school students and 250 college students across Maine being served by the College Success Program.

“We recognize we are creating a new approach,” said JMG’s President and CEO, Craig Larrabee, according to the release. “There is no other organization or program in Maine, or in the country, that provides this kind of continuum of support, from freshman year in high school to college graduation and into the workforce. And, it is the willingness of our partners to collaborate on this program, including many of Maine’s high schools and colleges, as well as the generosity of the program’s funders, that will allow more Maine students to succeed.”

JMG’s College Success Program, including the JMG Summer Academy, is a public-private partnership funded by the Governor and legislature, as well as private foundations including the Harold Alfond Foundation, the John T. Gorman Foundation, the Unity Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the MELMAC Education Foundation, and the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, Bank of America N.A., Trustee. Each of these partners is committed to seeing more Maine students succeed.

Storm Hebert, a JMG Summer Academy student from Dexter Regional High School, said, “The best way to describe what I got out of the Summer Academy is that I just feel more comfortable about taking this big step. No one else in my family has been to college — and now I have. I’ve taken a real course with a college professor; I’ve slept in a dorm room; and, I’ve found my way around campus. I’m ready.”

JMG is a statewide, private nonprofit working with students who face barriers to education. JMG provides 5,500 students a year with the skills and experience they will need to succeed in high school, post- secondary education, and careers. JMG graduates become engaging members of their communities, productive adults in the workforce, and contributors to Maine’s economy.

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