As winter winds roared, middle and high school students from both North Haven and Vinalhaven communities were anything but cold as they worked up a sweat showing their skills on the basketball court. The Bowdoin men’s and women’s basketball teams have visited the Fox Islands on two occasions during the past couple of months. The men’s team visited Vinalhaven on November 13th, and the women’s team visited both North Haven and Vinalhaven on Jan. 10-11. The women’s team enjoyed a community potluck supper held at Waterman’s Community center on North Haven, then spent the night at students’ homes.

The Bowdoin teams held basketball clinics, exhibition games, and talked one-on-one with island students about what college life is really like. Students asked questions such as “how much work do you do in college?” “what is the financial aid process like?” “how do you meet people once you get to school?” and “how do you balance playing sports and doing well in class?”

These events were organized by the Island Institute to kick off a new program that brings together North Haven, Vinalhaven and Bowdoin College to better address student aspirations and college awareness.

This strategy of addressing college awareness and student aspirations is part of a larger effort supported by the Foundation For Excellent Schools (FES). North Haven, Vinalhaven and Bowdoin have become part of a national initiative, The Century Program (TCP), instituted by the Foundation For Excellent Schools. TCP is pairing 100 schools in communities throughout the U.S. with 100 colleges. Twenty-six partnerships are currently underway in TCP’s first cohort, launched in November 2003. This Maine partnership will be among many more TCP partnerships nationwide ranging from Maine islands to Hawaii. Each partnership is supported by a program director who organizes events and keeps communication open. For the Maine island project, the Island Institute Education Outreach Officer takes on the role of program director.

The Century Program is designed to improve academic performance and attendance, help students develop personal and academic goals, and ultimately ensure that more students graduate from high school and go on to and graduate from post secondary education. TCP focuses on early college awareness, mentoring, goal setting and community service.

Future events planned for this year involve (1) bringing North Haven and Vinalhaven students to Bowdoin College to watch a basketball game, sit in on college classes and sleep in a dormitory; and (2) host workshops led by college professors on how to write a college entrance essay.