WATERVILLE — Summer days are usually filled with babysitting and preparation for high school sports for 16-year-old Emily Glidden.

Last week, however, the rising senior at Winslow High School spent almost every waking hour studying during a one-week intensive course at Thomas College.

“I just felt it would be a great opportunity to get my foot in the door for college, take a college class and get three credits out of it,” Glidden said. “I’m spending a week at college and getting that college feel.”

She’s one of 22 students who participated in a new college preparatory program offered through a partnership of the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates program, Thomas College and the Harold Alfond Foundation.

JMG Summer Academy, first run on a pilot basis two years ago, provides the opportunity to take a one-week intensive college course while also getting a feel for campus life, including living in a dorm and eating on campus, at no cost to the student.

“The biggest goal is to raise aspirations,” said Dwight Littlefield, vice president of college success advancement for Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, a nonprofit that partners with Maine’s public middle and high schools to transition students into post-secondary education and successful careers.

“It’s getting them to say, ‘I can do this. I can take a college course. I can navigate the cafeteria. I can move around a campus.’ And at the end they’re getting that reward — the three credits in college classwork.”

The students wake up around 7:30 a.m., eat breakfast and get to class — this year it was on personal finance — by 9 a.m.

They’re in class from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., have a break to exercise or move around, eat dinner and then have about two and a half hours of homework to complete.

Some of the students are first generation college students or, like Glidden, have just one parent who went to college. Others may face financial barriers to overcome on their way to college.

Their challenges may be as simple as not having done well academically in their first few years of high school or feeling shy or nervous about moving away from home, but whatever it is, Littlefield said the program seeks to help them overcome barriers to success.

“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and see what college is really like,” said Alisa Bonenfant, a rising senior at Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale. “I thought it would be good to get a first class under my belt so I’m not as nervous when I go to college in the future.”

Bonenfant, who will be a first generation college student, said she’s worried about the cost of college and what she’ll want to major in, but she plans to sit down with her high school guidance counselor and principal this fall and “apply for as many scholarships as I can.”

Another student, Bradie Reynolds, of Farmington, said she was nervous about being away from home for a week and having to meet new people, since she’s usually shy.

But by Thursday she said she felt more at ease and had found friends to study with, a key to getting all the work done for a full college course crammed into just one week.

“Their perseverance and time management is really being tested,” Littlefield said. By Thursday, he was noticing groups of students arriving in the classroom around 6 a.m. to get a head start on their work or staying after class to collaborate.

“It’s intense, but they get a lot out of this week,” he said. “That’s the goal. At the end, they can say, ‘I can do this. I can really make this work.'”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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