By Tim Leeds
Area high school students are giving up part of their summer to find out what college is really like.
They are going to classes at Montana State University-Northern, living in the dorms on the university campus, and learning what it takes to go to college.
The activities are part of the NorthCentral Montana Upward Bound Program, administered out of the Fort Belknap Indian Community. This is the 12th year that students from the schools targeted by Upward Bound have attended classes at Northern.
The program gives students special tutoring, counseling and academic enrichment programs during the regular school year. Upward Bound was the first program created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, followed by the Talent Search program in 1964 and Student Support Services in 1968. Those programs came to be described as the "TRIO" group, although additional programs have been added since then.
The Upward Bound program provides opportunities for students from low-income families or families where neither parent has a bachelor's degree to prepare for higher education. Students must have completed the eighth grade and be between the ages of 13 and 19 to qualify. They are selected based on recommendations from local educators, social workers, clergy and others.
The program is looking for students who've demonstrated they'd benefit from the additional help.
The north-central Montana program culminates in the four-week summer session at Northern.
Cody Soosay, son of Dawn Soosay, stays with his grandparents Videl and Ruby Stump while he goes to high school at Rocky Boy. He will be a senior at the high school next year, and said he likes everything about the Upward Bound summer component. He likes staying on campus throughout the week while he is in the program.
"You meet new people, people you never met, hang out with 'em, get to know 'em," he said.
Soosay is learning about what it's like to live on campus and take college classes through the program. Steven Shambo, son of Mikki Green and Anthony Shambo, will be a sophomore at Hays-Lodgepole High School next year. He also is learning what it takes to attend college classes. He said the material in the classes isn't that much different than in his high school classes, but the way it's taught is. For instance, extensive note-taking is required.
"The teachers are giving us basic courses. they're not hard but at the same time teaching you basic learning, things you need for life," Kasondra Lester said. "And they teach you how to have a good time" while learning.
Lester, the daughter of Tammi Lester and Larry Boe, will be a sophomore at Havre High School next fall. The program "kind of gives you that extra push," she said. "I already wanted to go to college; I guess I just got a little taste of what college life is going to be like."
Students who pass the courses at Northern qualify to go on a two-week educational trip.
For a lot of the students, the trip is the first time the students have left the state of Montana, said Paula Hawley, administrative assistant with the Upward Bound program. "It's kind of a good incentive to do well on the summer component. They're a lot of fun."
The trip this year will be to California, visiting some college campuses there.
"They also get to do fun things on the way," she said.
There are 44 students from six of the north-central Montana program's target schools at Northern this summer. They have come from high schools in Havre, Box Elder, Dodson, Harlem and Rocky Boy, and the Hays-Lodgepole High School. Hawley said the only target school that doesn't have any students here this year, Malta High School, sends at least one student most years.
The 44 include "bridge students" in the program, who have already graduated from high school and are taking seven credits of college-level courses before starting college next fall.
The program is coordinated out of Fort Belknap under the direction of Hope Speakthunder. Lyle Faulkinberry is the summer component coordinator, overseeing the program at Northern, and his wife, Kim Faulkinberry, is the assistant coordinator. Lyle has been working in the program eight years and Kim has been there 10 years. She worked as a resident assistant and instructor before becoming assistant coordinator for the summer program.
The program brings in teachers from the target schools for the classes. Cindy CarryWater, who teaches at Hays-Lodgepole, instructs the social studies class, Tom Champagne teaches the math class, Heidi Harris teaches science and Kim Metzger teaches English. Champagne, Harris and Metzger all teach at Harlem during the school year. Ron Belcourt, a retired Rocky Boy teacher, runs a media class, in which the students put out newspapers and an annual for the summer session.
Belcourt said they set up the classes a little differently than they arrange normal high school classes. He said most of the students have been in school for 10 months or so by the time they start the summer classes, so the teachers don't try to teach them the basics, grammar and so on.
"We try to do the creative things," he said.
The classes are specially designed for the program, usually a little more relaxed and hands-on than standard high school classes.
Lyle Faulkinberry said the classes often cross lines of curriculum. He said one class is combining math and science to have the students design and build a carbon dioxide-powered car. The students then used a wind tunnel, built by Faulkinberry's sixth-grade son Tyler, to test the cars. Faulkinberry said the wind tunnel, which won the Hi-Line Science Fair for Tyler, has been valued at about $1,700. He said it's showing the students that designing a car isn't as easy as they might have thought.
"A lot of the kids are finding out (the cars) are not as aeronautic as they thought they were," Faulkinberry said.
The high school Upward Bound students start their classes at 8:30 a.m., break for lunch at 11:30 a.m., then go back to classes from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. The media class is held Tuesday at 7 p.m. Students who pass the four core classes receive a quarter of a general credit at their high school, as well as qualifying for the summer trip.
The students get to have some fun outside of the specially designed classes, including one trip each week to eat out instead of eating at the food service. Kim Faulkinberry said they take the kids to area attractions like Havre Beneath the Streets, the Wahpa Chu'gn bison kill site; go to the movies, miniature golfing, bowling and more. They are also active on the university campus, doing activities and playing games like football and volleyball.
"We try to keep their time as much used up as possible," she said.
Hawley said they track the students who go through the program, and it has been quite successful in the past 12 years.
"This year we've had four graduate college that were past participants of Upward Bound," she said.
Most of the participants have gone on to college, many locally to tribal colleges or Northern. All of the resident assistants in the dorms for this summer's session are past participants in the program. They are Tom Champagne, who is acting as an RA as well as teaching, and Blanche Anderson, Tony Little Owl and Sue Brown. Champagne will be going back to college this fall to start working on his second master's degree.
Belcourt said he has noticed excellence in the students he has taught in his eight years with the program. They try to show the kids what they need to do, what standards they need to meet, to succeed in college, and the students usually try to reach those goals. The kids are told they don't have to be geniuses to go to college, they just have to stick to it, he said.
"These kids are here, there want to measure up," he said.
Hawley said the program continues to grow, with more graduates coming from it. More could be enrolled, though.
"A lot more are eligible in the schools than we get because they don't know how to apply," she said.
Students need to fill out an application from the program, which requires some information rom the parents, such as income. The students need to submit their transcripts and grades, and fill out a questionnaire and an eligibility checklist.
People can call 353-8402 for more information or to get an application.
Some examples of their work
Students in Ron Belcourt's media class have submitted a variety of writing for the class. One of the requirements is to write movie reviews.
Elizabeth Ball, a 12th-grader at Harlem High School next fall, wrote a review of "Desperado":
On the subject of my favorite movie, I'd have to say my most preferred to watch is "Desperado," a Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino film. Actors and actresses include: Antonio Bandares (El Mariachi), Salma Hayek (Carolina), and Cheech Marin (Bartender) as the main characters in the movie. My main interests in this movie is the actors themselves, I love the song "El Cancion Del Mariachi" (including the guitar solo) at the beginning of the movie, and, basically, the whole plot of the movie itself. Since I'm partially Spanish myself, I guess you could say I've taken a liking to Spanish inspired movies and actors.
Stella Moore, who will be a senior at Harlem High, wrote about "Fried Green Tomatoes":
My absolute favorite movie of all time and the movie I have chosen to review is the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes." It was adapted from the book "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Caf," but the movie wasn't as detailed as its predecessor.
The thing that made the movie special to me was the close relationships between the characters. Also, the setting of the movie shifted back and forth between the past (early 1900s), to the present (the 1980s). The main characters were mostly all women, Idgie the wild tomboy; Ruth the gentle yet strong Christian woman; Ninny, the ditsy talkative elderly woman; and Evelyn, the self conscious depressed middle aged wreck.
Our story starts with Evelyn finding Ninny at the local retirement home, a reluctant meeting at first. Once Ninny starts spinning the tales of her life experiences and the people in it, Evelyn is captivated. Ninny tells of the many adventures of Idgie and Ruth and Evelyn instantly falls in love with the concept of Idgie. Before long, Evelyn comes to visit more often and the stories spin more and more out of control, sweeping Evelyn into a world of private fantasy.
Overall an excellent movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes" takes us deep into the concepts of loyalty, love, honor and self worth. This is a movie I would highly suggest to anyone, young or old.