At the beginning of February, the Portland Public Schools celebrated the inauguration of the Make It Happen! (MIH) middle school program with a field trip to the University of Southern Maine. Close to 100 middle school students, their families, volunteer academic coaches, and MIH high school students gathered in the Wishcamper Lecture Hall to listen to each other share inspiring MIH experiences. After listening to the panel of speakers, the middle schoolers went on a tour of the university campus.
MIH is a college readiness program that helps PPS multilingual students aspire to and prepare for higher education. It was established in 2008 for multilingual students in grades 7-12, supported by grant funds. Due to budget limitations, the MIH middle school program was dropped six years ago, but has been relaunched in the 2022-2023 school year with new grant funding resources. The program is already having an impact at the district’s three middle schools.
At Lincoln Middle School, MIH is establishing a cornerstone of community building and belonging. Committed young academic coaches from Bowdoin College and from the Black Student Union at Deering High School are truly showing up for the middle schoolers, emphasizing the importance of those positive connections between Lincoln students and the young adults and youth in our communities.
At King Middle School, students are making a difference in their school by preparing to be classroom helpers in sixth-grade academic language classes during their midday break to support their peers.
At Lyman Moore Middle School, students are writing a ‘Painting For A Purpose” grant for supplies so they can learn to cook dishes from around the world. Their plan is to cook a community meal in the spring and to publish a cookbook to sell and raise funds for MIH. Mike Dregallo, one of the volunteer academic coaches, is a local chef and is guiding and helping the students through this process.
Make It Happen! would not be possible without the time and dedication of such volunteer academic coaches and incredible site coordinators – Atia Werah at Lincoln, Jen Shyka at King and Ellise Johnson at Lyman and MIH Middle School Program Director, Naila Wissa. PPS is very grateful to all of them!
With their support, MIH is fostering positive identity development, building strong leadership skills, promoting extended learning opportunities and positioning students for academic success now and in high school by growing strong study habits.
PPS also extends a big “thank you” to the high school Make It Happen! group that helped make the inaugural event at USM a success: Program Director Tim Cronin; CBHS site coordinator Mulki Hajii; Deering High School students Narciso Masala, Fatumo Abdirahman and Shukri Ukash; Casco Bay High School students Iona Kampemana and Blaise Vilakazi; and Portland High School students Bilisa Abdullahi and Anisa Ali.