Students, parents and members of Congress protest denial of Maine Upward Bound grants

Students, parents and members of Congress protest denial of Maine Upward Bound grants

Aroostook County residents and Mainers across the state are rallying behind the University of Maine at Presque Isle and calling on the Trump Administration’s Department of Education to reverse a decision that could close the university’s Upward Bound program because of minor line-spacing error in a small section of the school’s grant application.

Alumni and parents of students who have been part of the program designed to assist low-income, first-generation students in attending college have been knocking on their neighbors doors and reaching out to friends, family, and even strangers across the country and asking them to speak out to protect the program, currently serving 129 local high school students.

“Before Upward Bound, I didn’t see college as part of the plan. For lots of young people in Aroostook County, it simply isn’t what’s next, and if none of your family goes to college, it feels like that opportunity was, perhaps, just reserved for someone else,” said Brandon Hosford, an Upward Bound student currently attending the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

Program alumni have now delivered more than 1,200 personal letters to Education Secretary DeVos asking her reconsider the rejection of the grant applications and are asking supporters to join them in contacting DeVos. The Department of Education has sole decision-making power over the grants.

“I am eternally grateful to Upward Bound for the role it played in my daughter’s life. It taught her the importance of education and how to pursue it. Today, she has a degree in Criminal Justice and is pursuing her Master’s Degree,” said Donita Campbell of Limestone. “The idea that the next generation of Aroostook County kids will not have this opportunity or guidance of this program is horrifying.”

Maine’s congressional delegation has also asked for a review and reversal of the decision, including Senator Angus King, who spoke in favor of the program on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.

“This is preposterous. This isn’t a game. This isn’t gotcha. This is about real people at the University of Maine in Presque Isle. It is about their access to an education, their access to a better life, their ability to achieve success,” Senator King said. “This is the kind of thing that makes people hate government.”

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