(from left) Danielle Wong, PHS Make it Happen! site coordinator and Luzia Vumpa

Luzia Vumpa is the 2022 recipient of the Portland High School Step Up Award, now in its 5th year. The Step Up Award provides funding for students in the Make It Happen! program who would otherwise have to forego school-year extracurricular opportunities in order to work after school and/or on weekends. Luzia, a rising junior at Portland High School, will receive $1,250 per semester until graduation for her last two years of high school.

A small awards ceremony took place at Portland High School on Thursday, May 19. Award creators Bill and Ann Weber; Portland High School Principal Sheila Jepson; and Make It Happen! staff members Danielle Wong and Tim Cronin spoke at the event.

The Step Up Award is the creation of Ann and Bill Weber, parents of two PHS graduates, who state: “We know kids are more motivated to come to school because of extracurricular activities. The opportunity to work as a team or lead a group effort is invaluable to growth and developing leadership skills which can often lead to better grades. Many kids aren’t able to take full advantage of extracurricular activities because of family responsibilities or the need to supplement the family income. The Step Up Award allows deserving kids a chance to grow and mature and become more productive citizens through involvement with athletic or co-curricular activities.”

Make It Happen! is a nationally recognized college readiness program designed for multilingual high school students. Students who attend Portland’s three high schools work closely with site coordinators, volunteers, and community partners to build competitive academic, civic, professional, and personal profiles for college admission and learn how to navigate and access financial aid. In addition, Make it Happen! students are encouraged to take challenging classes, improve their standardized test scores, engage in leadership activities, community service, and career readiness opportunities.

After receiving her award, Luzia is surrounded by her parents, Ester and Paulo Vumpa and Step Up Award creators Bill and Ann Weber. Shown (from left) are Ester Vumpa, Bill Weber, Luzia Vumpa, Ann Weber and Paulo Vumpa.

“The Portland community is very fortunate to have such a wonderful program as Make It Happen! In keeping with the last four years, we had three other fantastic applicants, and they all are deserving of praise. Their life stories are remarkable and their optimism in the future is inspirational,” added Bill Weber.

Luzia Vumpa was selected for the award for her strong academic performance, passion for working with children, and wide range of interests and activities. Luzia was born in Angola and spent her childhood there, as well as in South Africa and Namibia. In 2017, she moved with her family to the United States. During her time at Portland High School, she has played tennis, started a book club, participated in art club, and had an internship at the Boys & Girls club. This summer, she’ll be a camp counselor at Center Day Camp in Windham. Her ambitions include admission to the National Honor Society while at Portland High School, going to college, and finding a career path that will benefit children around the world.