PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Aroostook County students looking to enter the criminal justice field can earn college credits while still in high school as a result of a newly signed agreement between the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Caribou Regional Technology Center.
During a ceremony Tuesday morning, officials from UMPI and the technology center signed an articulation agreement that will allow students taking criminal justice classes at the center to secure college credits that will allow them to get a head start on a degree from UMPI.
As part of the understanding, students who take part in the Caribou Regional Technology Center program and receive at least 85 percent as a final grade will have three elective criminal justice credits transferred to UMPI to be applied toward a bachelor’s or associate degree in criminal justice.
Ralph Conroy, CRTC director, said Tuesday that the agreement will keep technology center students from doing redundant work.
“The things they are learning about introductory criminal justice here are very similar to what they would learn in an introductory criminal justice course at UMPI,” he said. “This collaborative agreement provides a great opportunity for our students to make a seamless transition into the criminal justice program at UMPI.”
Don Zillman, the president of UMPI, agreed. He said he looked at the program that the technology center is running and compared it to the one being overseen by Dr. Lisa Leduc, UMPI associate professor of criminal justice, and realized that the two meshed well.
“It made imminent sense to partner with CRTC,” said Zillman. “It is so important for students to have opportunities like this at the high school level to better prepare them for college and their future careers and the university is delighted to be a part of making this happen.”
Students from high schools in Caribou, Presque Isle, Limestone, Fort Fairfield, Easton, Washburn and Ashland are able to take advantage of this program, which is one of seven certified programs of its kind in the state.
Reed Nonken, the CRTC instructor who oversees the program and is a police officer himself, said his students receive an expansive education.
The curriculum includes rigorous coursework and hands-on experience coupled with sessions from industry professionals. Students take classes three periods a day, five days a week.
Guest speakers from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies help with instruction. Nonken said area police chiefs are involved in the curriculum and students have gained experience by assisting with security at events.
There are currently 10 students in the program, according to Nonken. He said that the partnership between the college and CRTC is a “great way to dovetail our programs to benefit the kids.”
Leduc said one of the main educational goals in the state right now is to ease the transition between high school and college.
“We want to get more high school students into college programs,” she said. “I am really impressed with the depth of the lectures and instruction in this program, and I have no doubt that students here will succeed in our program at UMPI.”
Conroy added that CRTC is “always looking for ways to let parents and students know about the valuable training we provide.”
“Having the university recognize this training and reward it with college credit will help validate what we are teaching here at the technology center,” he said.
Officials said the technology center and its steering committee worked hard to improve and refine its criminal justice program in order to make it a “college prep level” course, which served as a major catalyst for the establishment of the articulation agreement with UMPI.
The university’s program allows students to study all aspects of crime and societal reactions to crime, including political, economic and cultural patterns that shape definitions and theories of crime and influence policy choices about how to respond to certain categories of crime. Students also have an opportunity to complete an internship with a criminal justice agency during their senior year and are required to participate in service learning experiences in several courses.
With the articulation agreement in place, students will be able to take advantage of the college credit option starting this spring.
For information about the agreement and UMPI and CRTC’s criminal justice offerings, contact Nonken at 493-4270 or Leduc at 768-9436.