HOULTON, Maine — Ten years after opening and offering residents of southern Aroostook County more educational opportunities closer to home, the Houlton Higher Education Center will mark the milestone with a special 10th anniversary celebration.
The fete and open house will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 1 and will feature Rep. Mike Michaud as the keynote speaker.
The Houlton Center, a University of Maine at Presque Isle facility, gives individuals a chance to partake in college preparation and degree courses. Along with offering classes to UMPI students, the center also caters to students from Northern Maine Community College, Houlton-Hodgdon Adult Education, Carleton Project, TRiO Upward Bound, and houses the Maine Educational Opportunity Center.
Kim Morneault, a Houlton resident, said Monday afternoon that she has taken a number of personal enrichment classes at the Houlton center.
“A few years ago, I got very into computers,” she said. “A friend told me that she had taken a computer education class through the center, and I immediately signed up for one. The next semester, I convinced my mom to do the same thing. She is 70 years old and now spends time on the Internet every day; reading newspapers, visiting other sites and emailing friends.”
Don Zillman, the president of UMPI, said it is wonderful to see the effect the Houlton center has had on the community.
“We are so pleased to be celebrating this important milestone and showcasing the work our center staff and partners do every day to help the people of southern Aroostook, western New Brunswick, and northern Washington and Penobscot counties — and beyond — achieve their academic goals,” said Zillman.
The Houlton center opened in 2001 as the result of a grass-roots community effort to reestablish a formal home for higher education in the southern Aroostook area. At the time, UMPI maintained a modest education center in Houlton, and then-Northern Maine Technical College also had a presence there, but the Houlton community was looking to fill a larger void left after Ricker College closed in 1979.
A 15,500-square-foot building on Military Street, which was once the home of a Shop ‘n Save grocery store, was transformed into the higher education center. Hannaford Bros. Co. donated the building, which kicked off the $2 million renovation.
The center offers distance learning courses and degrees through the University of Maine System. Northern Maine Community College offers classes in the areas of business, nursing and allied health, and liberal studies. The SAD 29-70 Houlton, Hodgdon Adult Education program provides high school completion, GED, vocational and community education and offers the College Access Program.
Carleton Project is a private alternative high school that offers students in grades nine to 12 the opportunity to obtain their high school diploma in a nontraditional setting. TRiO Upward Bound is a federally funded program that prepares under-served high school students for college and is open to high school students who qualify financially, or are the first in their families to attend college.
Maine Educational Opportunity Center is focused on increasing the awareness of post-secondary educational opportunities available to Maine’s low-income, first-generation adults who desire to pursue a college degree.
Tim Crowley, president of NMCC, said the college is proud to be a partner in the higher education center.
“The center serves as a model for others in our state with regards to bringing several entities together to respond to community needs,” he said. “This collaboration has resulted in increased access to higher education for Southern Aroostook residents. Not only has it allowed our students to take classes closer to home, saving both time and traveling costs, but the center has allowed us to broaden the program offerings available to those students. Today, this facility is bursting with students and the need to grow is evident.”
The public is invited to join in the celebration. The open house, which includes guided building tours, will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the official program will begin at 1 p.m. The program also will include a Native American blessing and the unveiling of a new granite installation at the building’s entrance.
Refreshments will be provided. For information, call 768-9452 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.