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July 12, 2006


Maine School Administrative District #27, the Maine Educational Opportunity Center, the Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community, and the University of Maine at Fort Kent have teamed to form the St. John Valley College Access Program, a service which will be available to residents from the region beginning in August, 2006.

According to Don Lebel, College Access Coordinator for MSAD #27, the program was developed in response to the forecast by the Maine Compact for Higher Education that our state, by 2015, will need an additional 50,000 college degree holders in order to meet its workforce and economic development needs. Lebel noted that the state's high schools don't have the number of students necessary to support reaching the 50,000 new degree holder goal by 2015.

"Programs like the one we've developed are being formed across Maine to help account for 10,000 of those new degree holders," noted Lebel, who added, "This will be the first comprehensive, holistic college transitions program in the St. John Valley."

The St. John Valley College Access Program is intended to serve area residents who always dreamed of college but never had the opportunity to attend, who always wanted to attend college but weren't sure if they could succeed, who have been out of high school for awhile and wonder if they have the skills to keep up with students just out of high school, and/or who have just completed high school and never really thought about college until now.

"It doesn?t really matter which of these cases apply to potential participants," said Lebel. "What's important is that we've developed a program that can help prepare people who are truly committed to attending college to be admitted to and successful in college."

Participants in the program will attend classes in college ready math, writing, reading, and computer applications and participate in success-building workshops on the campus of the University of Maine at Fort Kent on Mondays from 8 AM-3PM.

The college ready courses will be taught by MSAD #27 staff and the success-building workshops will be delivered by partners from the Maine Educational Opportunity Center, the Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community, and the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

Workshop topics will include: college planning, applying for admission and financial aid; time management; study skills; college technology skills; and more.

According to Lebel, current college access programs report that 81% of the participants who successfully complete transitions programs report attending college without the need to take developmental courses, and an additional 71% are still enrolled in college after one year.

"That's what we're about," said Lebel. "Our goals are to help people avoid the time and expense of taking developmental courses in college and to help ensure that once they're in college, they stay and complete a degree."

Lebel noted that the "combination of college-ready classes and success-building workshops provided by our program will help participants achieve both of the goals."

Lebel also commented that "the opportunity for participants in our program to attend classes and experience college life on a college campus before actually enrolling will help ensure that they stay in college once they start."

"As far as we know, our college access program is the only one in Maine that will be held on a college campus," said Lebel. "We're proud of that distinction," he commented.

The St. John Valley College Access Program will begin its first 15-week session on Monday, August 28. The program is available at no cost to participants. An orientation has been scheduled for Monday, August 21 from 8 AM-2 PM, and a registration and screening session is scheduled for Tuesday, August 15 from 8 AM-12 noon.

For more information on enrolling in the St. John Valley College Access Program, individuals should call Lebel at 834-3536. "We plan to run a session of 8-10 learners starting in August," said Lebel. "People with a genuine commitment to attend college and the motivation to succeed in college should call as soon as possible," he concluded.