Baleria Yugu is the 2023 recipient of the Portland High School Step Up Award. The Step Up Award at Portland High School provides funding for students in the Make It Happen! program who would otherwise have to forego school-year extracurricular opportunities in order to work after school and/or on weekends. Baleria, a rising junior at Portland High School, will receive $1,250 per semester until graduation for her last two years of high school. The Step Up Award was created by Ann and Bill Weber, parents of two Portland High School graduates.
Step Up Awards are specifically intended for students in the Make It Happen! Program, a nationally recognized college readiness program designed for multilingual high school students. Students who attend Portland’s secondary schools work closely with staff, volunteers, and community partners to build competitive academic, civic, professional, and personal profiles for college admission and learn how to navigate and access financial aid. In addition, Make it Happen! students are encouraged to take challenging classes, improve their standardized test scores, engage in leadership activities, community service, and career readiness opportunities.
2021 Step Up Award winner Didi Maombi Heri, shared this about the impact of receiving the award: “It will always be an honor and privilege to be part of Step Up. It changed my high school years. I remember when my mom told me out of nowhere I had to start working to contribute to the family. In the back of my head I knew it was hard because it would stop me from doing activities I love doing and participating in. But I was able to do both. I was able to have fun and be involved and help my mother. Being able to have a much fuller and richer high school experience will be something I will always cherish.”
Step Up Award creators Ann and Bill Weber state: “We know kids are more motivated to come to school because of extracurricular activities. The opportunity to work as a team or lead a group effort is invaluable to growth and developing leadership skills and can often lead to better grades.Many kids aren’t able to take full advantage of extracurricular activities because of family responsibilities or the need to supplement the family income. The Step Up Award allows deserving kids a chance to grow and mature and become more productive citizens through involvement with athletic or co-curricular activities.”
Baleria Yugu was selected for the 2023 Step Up Award for her strong academic performance, passion for pursuing a career in the medical field, and wide range of interests and activities. Baleria is a three season varsity athlete, playing soccer, basketball, and track. She is also involved in the Black Student Union and wants to take on a leadership role. In addition to the three varsity sports, Baleria said, “I want to continue taking honors and AP classes which will prepare me for a rigorous college schedule.” This summer, she’ll be working with the Sea Dogs. Baleria has been accepted into the Biomedical and Health Sciences Program at Portland Arts & Technology High School (PATHS), for her junior and senior years. She hopes to get an internship at Maine Medical Center.
PHOTO: PHS student Baleria Yugu poses between her parents after receiving the 2023 Step Up Award.