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UMFK working with area school districts to form "St. John Valley Early College Partnership"

January 14, 2005


Officials from the University of Maine at Fort Kent and each of the St. John Valley's secondary schools are coming together to form a new partnership that will allow area high school students to take college-level classes to meet some of their high school graduation requirements.

The St. John Valley Early College Partnership is designed to provide Valley high school students with both an early introduction to the college experience and to better prepare them for post-secondary school education opportunities.

Still in its infancy, the new regional effort is being launched to localize what is happening on a state-wide basis in the area of early college programs.

The team of education leaders working to make the partnership a reality represent UMFK, the Madawaska School Department, MSAD #24 in the Van Buren area, MSAD #27 in the Fort Kent area, MSAD #33 in Frenchville/St. Agatha and the St. John Valley Technology Center in Frenchville, which serves all but the Van Buren area schools.

Specifically, the administrators are looking to identify and develop college courses that would be offered to high school students both physically on the UMFK campus and through distance education technology.

Successfully completed classes would provide students with the required coursework for their high school graduation requirements, as well as college-level credit.

"This initiative will ultimately benefit both the local high schools and the University in that more local students will be prepared to attend college and at the same time, will have the opportunity to experience what college is all about at UMFK," said Scott Voisine, the University's director of student services and the individual leading UMFK's involvement in the initiative.

Voisine and local area secondary school officials have held an initial meeting to outline some of the parameters for such an agreement. Regular meetings are planned for the group of administrators in the coming months.

The St. John Valley Early College Partnership is not the only college aspiration program that the University is currently engaged in with local schools.

UMFK is also actively involved in the Great Maine Schools Project at Fort Kent Community High School.

That project, funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and in part by the MELMAC Foundation, is a comprehensive five-year project with the ultimate goal of preparing students for success in college, in the work force, and in their communities.

UMFK is represented on the leadership team of Fort Kent's Great Maine Schools Project by Voisine. The team also includes Community High School teachers and administrators, students, and a community member.

To date, the team has begun implementing new initiatives, which include an advising program at the high school level, new technologies, and an in-depth review of the high school's program of studies.

Specific outcomes have included the development of an eighth grade to high school orientation program, and a high school level junior transition course which assists in preparing high school students for post-secondary education or employment. These projects were funded through grants from the MELMAC Foundation.

In the development stage is an eighth grade transition course to help middle level students prepare for high school.

All of these partnership initiatives are expected to be recognized by Maine's Education Commissioner, when Susan Gendron visits Fort Kent and the UMFK campus on January 27 to speak at the Greater Fort Kent Area Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, which will be held in the UMFK SportsCenter.