FRENCHVILLE, Maine — A Northern Maine Community College administrator on Thursday experienced firsthand the importance of local access to higher education.
Alan Punches, NMCC vice president, was late for a scheduled press conference at St. John Valley Technical Center thanks to road construction along U.S. Route 1.
“That [construction delay] more than anything else demonstrates the need for collaborative programs,” Punches said. “It’s a long drive from Presque Isle, especially when you have to do the orange cone slalom.”
Punches was joined by directors in the St. John Valley Adult and Community Education Collaborative in announcing a new cooperative agreement offering the NMCC early childhood program at the technology center.
Under the arrangement, residents of the St. John Valley can work toward an NMCC associate degree in early childhood development starting this fall.
The announcement came at the technology center during a regular session of its secondary level early childhood training program.
Recent federal and state trends helped create the collaborative opportunity, according to Peter Caron, director of the SAD 27 Adult and Community Education Program.
“Now is really time for this program,” he said. “The [President Barack] Obama administration is stressing the importance of early childhood development and directing stimulus money in that direction.”
At the same time, Caron noted, the state of Maine is looking at legislation for the upcoming biennium, focusing increased attention on early childhood education.
“Clearly, early childhood education is going to be an emerging field in the next two years,” Caron said. “We know so much more now about the importance of the first three years of life in developing early literacy and reading skills.”
It’s something St. John Valley Technical Center instructor Pam Caron has seen firsthand.
“Teachers tell me it’s obvious which kids have taken pre-K,” the 16-year teaching veteran said after the press conference. “They’ve gotten the socialization piece and are over any separation anxiety [and] it’s a nice gentle process for them to move into the elementary schools.”
Caron’s high school early childhood education program at the center draws 3- and 4-year-olds from around the St. John Valley.
“I have a waiting list up to 2012 for parents who want to get their pre-K children enrolled,” Caron said. “Some mothers register their children before they are even born.”
Thanks to the collaborative agreement, enrollees in the associate program can earn their entire degree through classes at the Frenchville center without ever having to travel to the NMCC campus in Presque Isle.
“In the current economic downturn, people who are currently working or who have lost employment are looking for locally accessible and economic ways for training or retraining,” said Christine Cowie, director of the Madawaska Adult and Community Education Program. “This agreement makes those quality education pro-grams available while saving people the cost of the commute or room and board on the [NMCC] campus.”
Last year, NMCC and the St. John Valley adult and community education programs partnered to offer local courses in a nursing program.
The St. John Valley Adult and Community Education Collaborative includes adult and community education programs in SAD 27, SAD 33 and the Madawaska School Department.
Information on the NMCC early childhood education program is available by calling 834-3536 or 728-6314.