More than 50 middle schoolers from Lincoln Middle School’s English Language Learners program in Portland visited Bowdoin last Friday to learn about college and what it takes to get there.
Their visit was organized by Mike Hendrickson ’13 and Robbie Harrison ’14 as part of the Bowdoin Alternative Winter Break program that focused on immigrant and resettlement issues. During the last week of winter break, a small group of students led by Hendrickson and Harrison spent time with the middle schoolers, talking to them about setting goals and the importance of education.
“Today was one of our ways of focusing them on college and future opportunities,” Hendrickson said.
Harrison added,”It was a way for us to give them an idea of what they could set as a goal.”
On campus, the seventh- and eighth-graders listened to a panel of deans and professors from the college, and then broke into teams of four or five to go on a scavenger hunt to locate such things as a stuffed polar bear, a glass cube, a rock-climbing wall, etc. The students seemed game to explore despite the rain, and even more game for the Thorne Dining Hall lunch offerings and soft-serve ice cream that followed.
The panelists answered questions from students on why they chose their career paths and what obstacles they had overcome. The deans and faculty members also spoke about their middle school experiences — and for many, these were hard years of grappling with their differences from other students.
The winter break program and the day spent on campus weren’t just instructive for the middle schoolers. Harrison said the time he spent with the seventh- and eighth-graders had given him a “new understanding of what it’s like to not have English as a native language. … It’s humbling. It makes you aware of your privilege.”
Echoing Harrison, Hendrickson said, “In my household, going to college was a given, it was just how it was going to be. That’s not the case for so many of these kids.”