HOULTON, Maine — Area residents and education officials gathered Thursday at the Houlton Higher Education Center to celebrate the center’s 10th anniversary of providing educational opportunities to the region.
“It has been the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s great pleasure to join with our outstanding educational partners in delivering classes, degree programs, and educational support services to the region during the past decade,” UMPI President Don Zillman said. “Ten years may not seem like such a long time, but the center has accomplished an amazing amount of work in its first decade, and this celebration is a fitting tribute to all of those efforts.”
The celebration, which began at 1 p.m., included a Native American blessing, the unveiling of a new granite installation at the building’s entrance, and a keynote address by U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.
“What we need most in times like these are initiatives like the Houlton Higher Education Center — endeavors that bring us together and remind us that despite differing opinions and backgrounds, we are all one nation,” said Michaud.
The center offers a variety of educational programs under one roof, giving local residents a chance to prepare for college, earn their associate and bachelor’s degrees, take refresher courses, or participate in lifelong learning activities. UMPI’s partners at the center include University College, Northern Maine Community College, Houlton/Hodgdon Adult Education, Carleton Project, TRiO Upward Bound, and Maine Educational Opportunity Center.
“Together, we’ve been able to help so many people in the region achieve their educational goals,” center director Charles Ames said. “The center partners work together to make sure students understand and are able to take advantage of all of the educational opportunities we can offer them.”
Representatives also were on hand to deliver greetings from both of Maine’s U.S. senators.
They and representatives of the center’s partners remarked on how each partner had helped make the center a valuable, all-in-one resource to the region. University College, for example, coordinates distance learning courses and degrees through the University of Maine System, including specific associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, completion degree programs and master’s degrees.
“University College functions as a resource of all seven public universities to serve the needs of Maine,” said Curt Madison, University of Maine System director of distance education. “The Houlton Higher Education Center works closely with the eight other centers of University College to bring education resources at all levels to students where they live. For information or more opportunities, we encourage people to visit two key websites — learn.maine.edu and online.maine.edu.”
Other higher education options are provided by Northern Maine Community College, which offers classes in business, nursing and allied health, and liberal studies, and UMPI, which offers classes for the bachelor’s degree in elementary education and liberal studies, and the associate degree in liberal arts, as well as online courses for bachelor’s degrees in English, history and psychology. The university also hosts the Native Education Center, established to better serve Native American students and provide them with strong support as they complete their college educations; High School Aspirations, aimed at increasing the number of students who access and succeed in college; and SAGE, a program that brings short courses in arts, sciences and specialty areas to the region’s senior community.
In terms of options for high school age students, the Houlton Center hosts TRiO Upward Bound, a federally funded program that prepares underserved 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. The center also is home to Carleton Project, 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. By collaborating with UMPI and NMCC, students have the opportunity to enroll in college courses during their senior year of high school.
For students seeking other educational opportunities there is the MSAD 29/70 Houlton, Hodgdon Adult Education program, which provides high school completion, GED, vocational and community education and offers the College Access Program. There is also the Maine Educational Opportunity Center, which is focused on increasing the awareness of postsecondary educational opportunities available to Maine’s low-income, first generation adults who desire to pursue a college degree.
Thursday’s 10th anniversary celebration ended with the unveiling of a new granite installation near the center entryway, which serves as a sign for the building and also notes its 2001 establishment.