RUMFORD – Zach Martel, 16, has always taken advantage of free tutoring at Mountain Valley High School whenever one of his subjects was particularly difficult.

“It’s remarkable that all those students come here and do all that stuff. It’s always helped,” he said of the University of Maine at Farmington students who offer tutoring help to high school students who are part of the GEAR-UP program.

Zach is one of 134 sophomores who have been with the program since they were in middle school.

Barbara Radmore, site coordinator for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Program, said the aim of the federally funded program is to prepare students for post-secondary education – a two- or four-year college, apprenticeship, military or certificate program.

Zach’s class had a chance to become academically successful and to visit college campuses for several years.

In April, nearly half the GEAR-UP students will be traveling with Radmore, Dorie Fellman, who is director of Partnership for Success at UMF, high school Assistant Principal Chris Decker, and several parent chaperones to Boston to visit at least three colleges.

“I want the students to see small, medium and large schools,” Radmore said. Lined up so far are Northeastern University, the Wentworth School of Technology and Harvard.

Jessica Lyons, a sophomore at UMF, is one of six tutors who help Mountain Valley High School GEAR-UP students. She’s from Peru, and is studying early childhood education.

“It’s nice to know you can make an impact on students,” she said of the eight hours each week she provides academic assistance.

Although Martel hopes to attend Central Maine Community College to study computers, he is looking forward to the trip April 10 and 11 to Boston.

“I’m anxious to go on the trip and become familiar with Boston colleges,” he said.

Participants will be able to take a side trip to the Museum of Science.

The cost of the trip, without meals, is about $8,000 for the 64 GEAR-UP students signed up. The GEAR-UP grant provided about $6,000, and students have raised about $1,800 more since the beginning of the school year through fundraisers.

Radmore believes one more fundraiser will put them over the top, and perhaps bring in enough to help offset some of the meal costs.

A spaghetti supper is planned for Feb. 13 at the Mexico Town Hall. GEAR-UP students and their parents will prepare the supper. Tickets in advance are $6 for adults, $4 for age 12 and under. Tickets at the door cost $2 more. Anyone wishing to purchase tickets may talk to any MVHS sophomore or call Radmore at 491-5490.

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