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More in Schools
Aspirations Lab: The Man Behind It
Oct 24, 2013 12:00 am
PARIS — “This is a great opportunity not only for the students, but for me as well. It’s good to be back home and helping students the way I was helped," says Sean Merz, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s new Aspirations Lab coordinator.
Merz is the first person to work at the Aspirations Lab who is a graduate of OHCHS. The lab is a place where Merz will help seniors with applications for two- or four-year colleges, the military, or just plans to be successful after high school.
This is Merz’s first year in this job, and he isn’t afraid to admit that he’s a little overwhelmed. Merz says, “I am definitely out of my comfort zone, but I am excited to help all of the students.”
Not too long ago, Merz, who was born in Norway and lived in South Paris, was a high school student himself. He graduated from OHCHS in 2009 and attended Colby College in Waterville, where he majored in Mathematics and minored in Economics.
There wasn’t an Aspirations Lab when Merz attended Oxford Hills, so the idea of it is new for him. Being fresh out of college, Merz isn’t necessarily sure where he’s going to be in the next five or 10 years.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in high school, and I still don’t, so I am using this opportunity to help figure out what my next steps are.”
Maureen Howard, who is the the Director of the Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange, started the Aspirations Lab. After the first year, Howard wrote grants to support it. The FAME (Financial Authority of Maine) Grant she received provides funding for a person to be in the lab five days a week. This is FAME’s last year of funding the program, so Howard is going to have to find someone else to fund it next year.
There have been four different people in the Aspirations Lab, all of whom have been recent graduates from college. The purpose behind hiring younger people is they are more familiar with the current financial aid situations and with the college application process. Howard said, “We are so lucky. We’ve had such bright young men and women. They are all really bright and caring.”
The Aspirations Lab is open to any student at OHCHS. It is most popular with seniors. Merz feels that it is a great place for students to evaluate what their post-secondary plans are. Students are able to prepare for the SATs and get help with FAFSA, the financial aid form.
To promote the Aspirations Lab, Merz will be attending English classes throughout the school and explaining what he does and what the Aspirations Lab is. Guidance counselors have been sending students to the Aspirations Lab. Students are welcome to just walk in.
When asked how he got this job, Merz explained that he had received a phone call from Howard asking him if he would be interested in applying for the job. She thought he would be a good candidate. Merz didn’t really know all that much about the Aspirations Lab, but after looking into it and seeing what he would be doing, he decided to apply, and of course got the job.
Howard commented, “Sean is doing such a good job and is so conscientious."
Lacey Ryder, a member of the OHCHS graduating class of 2013 said, “I went to the Aspirations Lab a ton of times my junior and senior years. My junior year I participated in a very helpful SAT prep course that was offered through the Aspirations Lab. My senior year I went to the Aspiration Lab for help with choosing which schools to apply to, college applications, FAFSA and scholarship applications.... Not only did I get a lot of help in the Aspirations Lab with writing essays for my college and scholarship applications, I was also able to get assistance with creating a resume and doing practice interviews before I applied for my summer job.”
Howard and Merz look forward to the success of the Aspirations Lab, for both students and staff. They encourage and welcome all students to take advantage of this great opportunity.
Sean Merz, South Paris native and the new Aspirations Lab Coordinator