Federal Government Denies Funding to UMaine Upward Bound Program 

For 46 years, the Upward Bound program at the University of Maine in Orono has been giving local kids the tools to go to college. But after being denied funding, this might be the program’s last year.Ryan Pickering of Lincoln and Matt Leavitt of Millinocket are two people who credit a portion of their success to this program they attended back in high school. “They give you so many tools to get into college, to do well in college, to feel comfortable there, and feel comfortable around the people that you’re around that you may not have been comfortable with if you hadn’t gone through the program,” said Pickering.The Orono program has been around since 1966, guiding underprivileged students from Penobscot, Piscataquis, Hancock and Waldo Counties toward college educations.”We are serving low income, first generation students a lot of times the parents don’t have the knowledge and applying for college and the financial aid piece can be very intimidating, so we’re there as that extra pair of hands,” said Lori Wingo, Co-Director of University of Maine Upward Bound.The UMaine program is one of many throughout the country funded solely through federal grants. During fiscal year 2012, the government plans to put more than 324-million dollars toward 982 Upward Bound programs. But UMaine’s didn’t make the cut. It was surprising news to those who run the program given its success rate.”We know that in Maine low income youth go on to college at a rate of 30%. Our kids go on at 80%,” said Becky Colannino, Co-Director of University of Maine Upward Bound.There’s no formal way to appeal the government’s decision, but that doesn’t mean UMaine isn’t fighting to keep its program alive. They’ve had talks with members of congress to see what can be done. They’ve also started an online petition.”I think about if this were 10 years ago and I were missing out on this opportunity and how my life would be different today and it’d be completely different. I want to see the program continue for those students 10 years from now who need those opportunities,” Leavitt said.Because for Ryan who’s one year away from his Ph D, Matt who’s working toward his second master’s degree, and many other Upward Bound alumni, that opportunity was life changing.