PENDLETON- Juniors and seniors have a lot to think about and do during their second half of high school, but the ASPIRE program is hoping to relieve some of that stress by helping those students along their rode to college, the military or a vocational school.

ASPIRE - Access to Student Assistance Programs In Reach of Everyone - is a program that matches community mentors to junior and senior high school students in an effort to help students meet their needs for continuing education beyond high school. In Umatilla County, there are ASPIRE programs in Pendleton, Milton-Freewater, Hermiston and Athena.

Each month, the ASPIRE program plans to post important dates to remember for college entrance tests, application deadlines and tips for students and parents going through the post-high school process.

One upcoming event open to all area students is the "Making College Count" workshop, sponsored by the Pendleton High School counseling department and the Pendleton ASPIRE program. On Thursday, Sept. 30, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the PHS auditorium, students and parents can learn about ideas to prepare for the cost of post secondary education, the college application process, searching for scholarships and meeting deadlines.

There will be a panel of parents to talk about their experiences in preparing their students for college, the military and vocational schools. There is no cost to the event at 1800 N.W. Carden Ave.

Another date for junior students to put on their calendars is Monday, Oct. 11, which is when the PSAT will be administered at Pendleton High School. The PSAT is for junior students considering a four-year college. It is the pre-SAT. The cost is $11, and students should see their counselors or the ASPIRE program for more information.

On Tuesday, Oct. 12, all area students are invited to a Northwest college fair at the PHS Commons from 6-8:30 p.m. More than 40 colleges from all over the Northwest will be on hand with information about their schools. ASPIRE suggests parents and students form questions prior to arriving at the fair concerning costs, scholarships, special academic programs and deadlines.

ASPIRE also has some tips for parents of junior and senior students:

• Make sure your child has the correct high school courses necessary to meet college entrance requirements. Check with your child's school counseling office on parent/teacher conference days to make sure your child is taking the right classes.

• Beware of college help scams. Any service you are asked to pay for can probably be found for free through your child's counseling center, online or through the ASPIRE program.

• Encourage your child to volunteer and be involved in community activities. Many donors that give scholarships tend to award money to students they feel will give back to their communities.

• Four-year colleges are not for everyone. There are many career opportunities after high school, and there are specialty vocational schools for just about every imaginable career choice.

• There are numerous informational Web sites to assist families in exploring colleges, careers, interests and scholarships. The ASPIRE Web site, www.aspireoregon.org, can connect you with many of those sites.

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