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Joyce Endee

Surfing the 'net brings surprising rewards for four BHS students

Lee Waldvogel of the N.H. Higher Education Assistance Foundation surprised four students at Belmont High School with prizes for accumulating points through their Web site, “I Am College Bound.Org.” Senior Chelsea Smith was pleased to learn she had earned $1,500 in college incentive funds through the new program aimed at encouraging more students to continue with higher education. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
May 18, 2011
BELMONT — Four classrooms at Belmont High School were recently paid a surprise visit by the Guidance Department and school administrators, along with a very special guest who brought good news to three seniors and one junior.

All four learned that they had won prizes by simply showing an interest in attending college.

Through "I Am College Bound.Org," a new program of the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation, high school students from freshmen to seniors are able to create an account and research college opportunities all from one convenient website. In doing so they earn points and become eligible for monthly prizes and college incentive funds.

Lee Waldvogel represented the foundation last week, traveling to several schools to hand out awards to those who had accumulated the most points over the past couple of months.

On his first stop, at BHS, Waldvogel awarded senior Chelsea Smith with a certificate for $1,500 in college incentive funds from the Educational Talent Search program, along with a tee shirt for her and her teacher and pens for all in the class before heading on to see the next winner on his list.

Belmont High School junior Aiden O’Brien was the surprised recipient of a new iPad, presented by Lee Waldvogel of the N.H. Higher Education Assistance Foundation. NHHEAF’s new Web site, “I Am College Bound.Org” provides an easy method for college planning, rewarding students with points and even prizes for those who spend the most time reading college information through the site. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
Michelle Cantello was unsure why she was being singled out by Waldvogel when he burst into her class, and was quite surprised to learn that she, too, had earned top points in her college search. Cantello will be attending the University of New Hampshire next fall and the $1,500 ETS incentive award she received will be a big help for her education, she said.

Kierstin Houle also received a college incentive award totaling $1,000 through I Am College Bound to assist with her study at the New England Culinary Institute. Houle said she learned about the incentive program through her ETS advisor.

"It only took a few hours of my time, and I guess I know now it was really worth it," Houle said.

Perhaps most inspiring to students was the presentation Waldvogel made to junior Aiden O'Brien during his math class. The time O'Brien has spent researching college opportunities through the NHHEAF College Bound website paid off in nice fashion when Waldvogel handed him a brand new iPad for those efforts.

"We were able to take time in some classes with Mr. (Ralph) Dixon where we could read a lot of things on the site. I've been going through the students' comments from some of the colleges and it's been pretty helpful," O'Brien said.

Guidance counselors said they learned of the new Web site at a training session they attended, and Brenda Seiferth, Jody Mercier and Dixon then passed that information on to the students.

"I told them all to jump online and do it. It has all the information they're looking for about colleges, and look at the other rewards they can reap, as we saw today," said Dixon.

The I Am College Bound.Org program stemmed from a sub-grant awarded to the NHHEAF network through the Federal College Access Challenge Grant Program as a means to encourage students of even low-income families to attend college. Fun links on the Web site answer questions about scholarships, provide tips on financial aid and even helps students with decisions on which school and career goal might be right for them. Each link they visit accumulates points. Through Twitter, this month, students can also send a "tweet" as to why they would like to attend college and earn an easy 75 points for the month.

"It's straightforward and super easy. Every month, we award prizes to the students who accumulate the most points, so there's still a lot more to be given away this year," said Waldvogel.

Assistant Principal Dan Clary was on hand for last week's surprise presentations, and said he was very happy to see four BHS students not only take advantage of the program's opportunities, but to be recognized by NHHEAF, too.

"It's great to see a way kids can be thanked for doing their work besides through grades or the typical pat on the back they might get. It's wonderful motivation for them," he said.

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