June 21, 2018
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Congress sells out young people

By Lori Wingo, Special to the BDN

There is an exceptional group of young men and women attending the Upward Bound programs at the University of Maine this summer. Although UB has hosted a summer academic program since 1966, every so often a special group of these students come together and forms a remarkable community of learners, critical thinkers and future leaders.

They are invested in their education and they are voluntarily sacrificing six weeks of their precious summer vacation to work toward their goal of a college education. As someone who has made education her chosen life’s work, I am excited about working with them every day our summer programs run. And yet, I am deeply troubled at times that the future of these young people may never come to fruition because of the desire of some of our professional politicians to protect the tax loopholes of the corpulent few in this country.

UB is part of a group of educational aspiration programs collectively known as TriO. Our mission is to work with low-income, first generation college aspirants who dream of a college education and a way out of poverty for themselves through dedication and hard work. While the program doesn’t pay for college, it does give its students the chance to experience living as a college student and taking challenging college preparatory classes. School year programs include bi-monthly visits to the student’s high school for educational counseling and tutoring.

Our programs work. Period.

Every summer we invite anyone from Congress or the White House to come to our campus and see the program in action, but for the past decade, no one has taken us up on our offer. Perhaps it’s because — as they tell us — they’re too busy, but perhaps it’s because it’s easier to cut programs that are successful when they don’t have to look the young people in the eye when they vote in favor of the rich in this country.

I would doubt Mr. Boehner or Mr. Cantor and any other congressional corporate lackey has ever visited an Upward Bound program, otherwise they might not be as willing to advocate for its demise.

The goal of our program is to get students into, through and out the doors of post-secondary education with a college degree. While it is not an easy journey, our students possess a level of determination and perseverance that helps them to advocate for themselves, both as learners and as consumers of higher education.

I feel proud in saying that our UB staff has given them the tools they need to be successful and not to give up.

Federal evaluation of our programs proves that we have a consistent rate of success when compared to low-income, first generation students who did not receive our services. Several of our students have gone on to earn masters and doctoral degrees. I would say that I don’t like to brag, however, when it comes to our students, I cannot help but brag about their successes.

Why are we, the people, allowing Congress to consider cutting domestic discretionary and entitlement programs for its citizens while allowing Boehner, Cantor et al. be the mouthpiece of those few profit mongers who want the perpetuation of corporate welfare and tax cuts?

It would be shocking that Boehner walked away from the budget negotiations if it weren’t so darned predictable. The premise of “no new taxes” would be palatable if everyone in this country were benefiting from them, but that is hardly the case.

This is not the America in which I was raised, and it is not the “land of opportunity” I teach my students about. May God forgive me if I am unintentionally lying to them.

Lori Wingo is co-director of Classic and Math-Science Upward Bound programs at the University of Maine and holds a masters in education. She lives in Bangor.

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