Dirigo students hear about life at college


DIXFIELD – What’s the food like? How’s the roommate? What do professors expect of students?

These were some of the questions recent Dirigo High School graduates tried to answer for juniors and seniors during an alumni round table held at the high school Wednesday afternoon.

“Taco salad day and macaroni and cheese day are pretty awesome,” said Cici Chow, a Dixfield resident and a freshman at the University of Maine.

High school students heard Chow and fellow DHS graduate Holly Knight, who also attends UMO, talk about the roommate from hell who partied and drank constantly. They suggested maybe it was better to have someone they knew.

Devin Brann, a freshman at Maine Maritime Academy, wasn’t sure about that. As the only DHS graduate at the academy, he knew no one and was forced to take the roommate he got.

“To break the ice, you should get a random roommate. Now, he’s my best friend and he offers a different perspective since he’s from Pittsburgh,” Brann said.

Class workloads were discussed, as were rules for living off-campus, partying roommates, and how it feels to share a bathroom with both sexes.

Brittany Palmer, a junior at Dirigo who plans to attend the New England School of Communication, was surprised that the workload was as light as several graduates described. Adam Knight, a senior who hopes to attend Central Maine Community College felt the same.

“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” he said.

The round tables, expected to continue on Thursday, are part of a Partnership for Success program funded by the Nellie Mae Educational Foundation.

Dori Fellman, college access coordinator at D.H.S., said the round table gives high school students a chance to have open and honest communication about college, entering the work force or joining the military.

“They learn what to expect about money, social and academic matters,” she said.

She is an employee of the University of Maine at Farmington assigned to Dirigo because of a five-year grant given to the high school. Dirigo is one of two high schools in the state to receive $150,000 a year for five years to help students plan for the future. The other is Caribou High School, which partners with University of Maine at Presque Isle.

“We want everyone to be college ready and to have a post-secondary plan,” she said.

That goal appears to be getting closer.

Many of the Dirigo students now in college began with SAD 21’s GEAR-UP program during middle school. When that program started in 1999, only 37 percent of D.H.S. graduates went on to post-secondary education. By 2005, that figure had jumped to 82 percent.

In the Class of 2007, only nine of the 107 students hadn’t made out an application to a two- or four-year college.

High school students are also offered tutoring services by UMF students and have opportunities for mentoring.

“There’s been a lot of community support,” Fellman said.