Forty-three students from five high schools across Maine will experience college life today at Bowdoin. The "Aspirations" program that brought them here is designed to encourage high school students to pursue a college education.

Youth and Education Coordinator of the McKeen Center for the Common Good Jessica Horstkotte '08 and McKeen Fellow Mark Bellis '10 are the two coordinators of "Aspirations," which began in 2005.

"Though admissions helps us organize the day, there's a distinction between what we do and the recruiting admissions does," Horstkotte said. "['Aspirations'] is more of a general sort of thing. We aren't necessarily trying to sell Bowdoin."

"It's more about getting them to consider college. We see it as a community outreach program and just getting students onto a college campus," she said.

Bellis echoed the importance of raising awareness about higher education.

"One of the biggest indicators of whether a student goes to college is if he or she sees what a college looks like," he said.

In previous years, Bowdoin hosted one day of "Aspirations." However, with increasing interest in the program, there will be an additional day in the spring for 50 high school students in Maine to see and experience what college is like.

"I was contacted by guidance counselors who wanted to find out how to get involved. Clearly, the guidance counselors think it's a valuable service," said Horstkotte.

High school guidance counselors determine who participates in "Aspirations." All of the selected students are freshmen, so that they have an ample amount of time following their visit to consider college as a future option.

Bellis said that the high school students may, for example, be chosen on the basis of a perceived lack of interest in college.

"More often than not, your high-achieving students are already planning to go to college," he said.

According to Bellis, the participants will have a busy day at Bowdoin.

Upon arrival, the students will be paired with a host, one of 28 Bowdoin student volunteers. Last year, there were 41 hosts for the 73 students who attended "Aspirations."

"The types of people who have agreed to help us out aren't necessarily those who have done community service or mentoring projects before," Bellis said. "One of the things I hope to improve is to get different types of people involved."

Bowdoin students will work closely with the high school students when they arrive today, as student involvement is an integral part of the program's success.

"We won't assign more than two high school students to one Bowdoin student," said Horstkotte. "We try to make it as one-on-one as possible."

"Aspirations" will try to follow the natural flow of a typical day at Bowdoin, "as opposed to a rigid structure," said Bellis.

Depending on the schedule of their hosts, students may experience a class at Bowdoin as well as up to three faculty lectures, which Horstkotte called mini-workshops.

"We've received great support from the faculty members here at Bowdoin. They're volunteering their time, and are more than happy to show their labs and photography studios or lead mini-discussions that we think the kids would be interested in participating in," Horstkotte said.

The high school students will also watch a demonstration by the RoboCup team.

"We always try to incorporate one or two extracurricular kinds of things into the day," Horstkotte said.

The day will conclude with financial aid and admissions talks, as well as a panel discussion. Director of Student Life Allen DeLong will moderate the panel of five Bowdoin students from Maine who will share their experiences as Maine residents who continued on to college in their home state.