“The person who can read books and does not has no advantage over the person who cannot read.”

~Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)
French essayist. Montaigne was one of the greatest masters of the essay as a literary form. He was the son of a rich Catholic landowner and a mother of Spanish- and Jewish descent. Montaigne’s father, ambitious for his son’s education, permitted him to hear and speak only Latin until he was six. After seven years at the Collège de Guyenne in Bordeaux, he studied for the law, held a magistracy until 1570, and was (1581-85) mayor of Bordeaux. From 1571 to 1580, in retirement and ostensibly aloof from the political and religious quarrels of France, he wrote the first two books of his Essais (1st ed. 1580).
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Parkrose students ASPIRE to secondary education
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Parkrose students ASPIRE to secondary education

Program head seeks volunteers to guide aspirants to post secondary educational opportunities


ASPIRE Program Developer Teena Ainslie (standing from left) and Parkrose College and Career Center Director Meg Kilmer answer questions from ASPIRE mentor Sallie LaValley (seated from left) ASPIRE student participants Zhanna Koshilko and Diana Minko.

(from left) ASPIRE volunteer Mike Busch talks with students Patrick LaValley and Giang Nguyen about opportunities in the military while attending university.

(from left) Parkrose High ASPIRE participants Zhanna Koshilko and Diana Minko with their ASPIRE mentor Sallie LaValley.

It is common knowledge that Oregon has been leading the way in the ranks of the unemployed. The state has also recently lost some major employers. Governor Kulongoski and civic leaders statewide have pledged to grow the state economy and attract jobs. A key ingredient according to the December issue of Oregon Labor Trends, a newsletter published by the Oregon Employment Depart-ment, will be an “experienced and productive workforce; a workforce that is job-ready.”

To that end, the Career Center in the Parkrose High School library is one busy place. It is the job of College and Career Center Director, Meg Kilmer to help all students who seek it find their way to the post secondary education most suitable for their goals and abilities.

ASPIRE, an acronym for Access to Student assistance Programs In Reach of Everyone, is one tool. The ASPIRE brochure defines the program goals as providing mentoring and resources to help students access education and training beyond high school. To help high schools build a sustainable community of volunteer mentors. And to educate students and families about the scholarship application process and other options for paying for post secondary education. This three pronged approach is designed to draw students who might not believe they have the financial resources necessary for continuing education, or who are the first member of their family to consider post secondary education.

Kilmer sees this program as one way to expand services to students while dealing with budget cuts, reduced staffing levels and resulting reduced hours. A typical caseload for a high school counselor may be as many as 450-500 students. Students are often confused by the wide range of options available to them after high school and stymied by the paperwork, especially if they happen to be the first in their family to consider college. ASPIRE volunteers provide one-on-one support and add to the services provided by the school and its counselors.

Teena Ainslie, the ASPIRE Program Developer at Parkrose, has been recruiting adults to act as mentors to the students and is quick to point out that the program’s ability to reach students is directly proportional to the number of volunteers. Students can apply for an ASPIRE mentor at the College and Career Center.

One student who is taking advantage of this program is Quinn Nguyen, a senior with high aspirations. A member of the National Honor Society, the Student Body Treasurer and Business Editor for the yearbook, Nguyen views the ASPIRE program as another class in her schedule and works with mentor Johnny Tarrant, a Navy recruiter by profession, regularly to define her goals and narrow her choices. At this point in the process, she knows she wants to pursue her interests in business and/or finance and would like to leave the state to broaden her college experience. Tarrant, who hails from North Carolina has encouraged her by suggesting she look into such schools as Georgetown, Wake Forest and George Washington University in the east, and Pepperdine University in California, as well as Willamette University, closer to home.

Because this is her senior year, Nguyen says the process sometimes feels overwhelming, but that Tarrant, with whom she has been working but a few weeks, has been supportive and encouraging and has taught her persistence is the key. The pair is currently putting finishing touches on federal financial aid forms that they hope will lead to scholarship and grant offers. When that is completed, they will begin the process of applying to the colleges and universities Nguyen selects as being best suited to offer the educational, cultural and life experiences she seeks.

At the other end of the spectrum is sophomore, Camrun Arkills. Arkills is using the Career Center and his ASPIRE mentor, Bruce Dransfeldt to help guide him through an appropriate high school curriculum in preparation for a future as an athletic equipment designer. That means that right now, Arkills and Dransfeldt are researching possible college major field of study options.

Arkills hopes to combine his love of athletics, specifically wrestling, soccer and golf, with his future. At this time he thinks he will likely choose a large school where he can compete athletically against the best talent. Financial aid is not an issue as the Central East Portland Rotary, of which Dransfeldt is a member, made a commitment to Arkills to sponsor four years at the college of his choice when he was but a sixth grader.


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