MACHIAS, Maine – Although she always knew she wanted to attend college, Shaylyn Holland, 19, of Machias was worried about making the transition from a traditional high school to more demanding, more independent college courses. To ease that gap, Holland took an English composition course at the University of Maine at Machias while she was still a junior in high school.
“It really helped me make up my mind,” Holland said in a UMM press release. “I knew I was going to college, but I needed to ready myself.” She is now a freshman at UMM.
Jesse Blackburn of Cherryfield, now 21, took an early college course while a senior at Narraguagus High School. “I loved UMM and being on campus, sitting in the classrooms. There was so much diverse conversation.”
Blackburn said there were just 250 students at his high school and he feared getting lost at a larger school. “UMM turned out to be the perfect decision for me.”
Blackburn will graduate this May after just three years, thanks to the college classes he took while still in high school.
Through its Early College Program for high school juniors and seniors in Washington and Hancock counties, UMM has served more than 600 students through both campus-based or online classes, as well as offering scholarships to cover 50 percent of tuition costs, according to its press release. Other scholarship support is also available, including the state-funded Aspirations Program.
The benefits of the Early College Program extend to raising college aspirations, helping students prepare for college life and coursework, and providing a significant head start on college work.
Carol Wolf, coordinator of the Early College Program, formally founded the program in 2004. “There were a few students taking classes before that, but we increased those numbers dramatically, following a national and state trend for more early college classes,” Wolf said in a UMM press release.
The experience is a win-win for both students and UMM, Wolf said. “For high school students who are academically ready but do not know what to expect in college, the program offers an opportunity to make that transition to college classes in a very supportive environment,” Wolf said. She checks regularly on students’ attendance, homework assignments, and test grades. If any problems arise, she and the guidance counselor from the student’s high school work together with the student to resolve them.
“Others get a taste of the responsibilities and what to expect at college and perhaps find they like it,” she said. “It whets their appetite.”
Wolf said the college benefits from an influx of “wonderful students; many are the top of their class.”
Azaline Dunlap-Smith is a home-schooled student who began taking UMM’s ECP courses while 13 years old and still in eighth grade. “I’m now in my fifth year,” Dunlap-Smith, who is now 17, said. “I’m headed to full-time college this fall.” Dunlap-Smith said many high schools offer Advanced Placement classes but with ECP, a student actually gets a college experience.
“Being on campus is very different,” she said. “The professors are more communicative, more flexible; the classes are less confined.”
Dunlap-Smith said she feels very prepared for college and is conducting grant-funded research with Shallee Page. “Last semester I took 15 credits so I now know I can handle the workload. This has been a great opportunity for me to test myself,” she said.
For more information on UMM’s Early College Program, go to www.machias.edu/early-college.