FARMINGTON — The words came easy as Upward Bound students wrote thank you letters to unknown soldiers serving overseas.

“When you have a lot of respect for what someone is doing, the thoughts spill out,” Sherainah Swett said as she listened to Mary Malcolm read her letter.

Along with the letters, students were packing four care packages to send also.

That was one project of several that 95 Upward Bound students from 14 area high schools participated in Friday afternoon as part of an Upward Bound Day of Service. 

The Day of Service commemorates the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Mary Sinclair, Upward Bound staff, said.

Some projects were a little more labor intensive than others but no one complained when assigned to a project, four on campus and four off, Kobe Cancel, bridge student, said.

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“A lot of people are eager to do the projects,” he said. “They want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

Some already do this type of volunteer work but for others they are not always sure how to get started.  It’s a good opportunity for now and perhaps will help them to do more in the future, he said.

Cancel of Madison has attended the six-week Upward Bound program held each summer at the University of Maine at Farmington for three years. This year he is considered a bridge student because he came back for another summer before leaving for college in Los Angeles this fall.

The program has been a “huge support system” for Cancel. It is not only the students but also the staff, he said. They provide positive support when they help us know how to do things.  

“It’s about getting more people ready to go on to college,” he said.

While the program runs six weeks in the summer, students meet a couple times a month during the school year.  They check on our grades and provide tutors if needed and help prepare us to plan ahead, he said.

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During the week, students can take classes in five different subjects during the morning and then elect to do similar work projects in the afternoon, Sinclair said of the summer program. They stay at UMF through the week and go home on weekends.

After Sinclair heard of another Upward Bound program holding a blood drive, she thought a Day of Service for the Farmington students would be a good thing, she said.

Some students were learning to make bracelets for the Buttons For Babes program which raises funds to help local children. Trish Wurpel, program coordinator for the Tri-Valley United Way, answered questions as students sewed colorful buttons on to wrist straps creating unique bracelets.

Other students were creating a carnival for children in the Sweatt-Winter Child Care on campus, some wrote thank-you letters to soldiers and others learned more about advocacy, Cancel said.

The letters and care packages will be sent on to Operation Gratitude in California where they will be screened and postage added, Ashley Avery said. Avery, also a bridge student,  came up with the idea of doing something for soldiers. Students bought items such as dried foods, peanut butter, stationery and personal hygiene items to send in the packages, she said.

Off campus, students picked vegetables and then weeded at Rustic Roots Farm. It was a first for Summer Libby but she thought it was fun and she liked giving back to the community, she said.

Others worked on LEAP’s Stone Soup Garden and trails. Some students provided service at Franklin County Animal Shelter and students, who participated in a recent Upward Bound Coffee House. were chosen to play for residents of Pierce House and Sandy River Rehabilitation Center, he said.

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