Portland high school seniors march to promote college aspirations

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PORTLAND — Mail ’em in, boys and girls.

That was the message as seniors at Casco Bay High School, at 196 Allen Ave., held the second annual March to the Post Office on Dec. 12 to send in their college applications.

The entire senior class, or about 70 students, marched from the Portland Museum of Art, down Congress Street to Post Office Square, escorted by the Portland Police Department.

The event was meant to promote and celebrate college aspirations. Along the way, students were cheered on by peers, teachers, Portland Postmaster Jim Thornton, Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk and Mayor Michael Brennan. The event concluded with remarks from a student and from Brennan.

“I’m tremendously proud of all the students,” the mayor said. “… I hope this is an annual event to continue to stress the importance of students going on to higher education.”

Sahra Hassan, the student who spoke at City Hall, said her message was about the path the students take and the obstacles they overcome, to achieve the goal of going to college.

“To go through the journey is another step to say we are here,” Hassan said.

Hassan said she applied to several colleges, but her first choice is the University of New England in Biddeford, where she hopes to study to be an emergency room doctor. She said it was especially important to her to remain in Maine.

The March to the Post Office event began in 2011 in New York City at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning Schools, which is part of the NYC Outward Bound Schools network. This month, nearly 20 high schools in nine cities nationwide are participating in the march.

All seniors at CBHS are required to apply for college. CBHS Principal Derek Pierce said last year they decided to “join in the fun,” and hope to keep it going, a sentiment echoed by Brennan.

“Probably 15 or 20 students got it done before the deadline,” Pierce said, meaning those students mailed in their applications before the march. “It’s great to have this ritual.”

Members of Portland ConnectEd, a community coalition formed by Brennan with the goal of  supporting students all the way through post-secondary training, were present for the event, too.

“(Casco Bay High School) called us up because we try to pull together community support,” Portland ConnectEd Executive Director Michael Dixon said. “The College march fits in with the notion we want more people thinking about college.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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The entire senior class at Casco Bay High School, about 70 students, gathered outside the Portland Museum of Art on Dec. 12 to begin the second annual March to the Post Office to mail in college applications.

After mailing in their college applications, Casco Bay High School students gathered outside Portland City Hall, where a crowd cheered them and Mayor Michael Brennan offered congratulatory remarks.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.