LEWISTON — Tim Stretton, 18, a college freshman at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, has shaved thousands of dollars off the cost of his college education.
He's putting himself through college with loans and by working full time at Burger King. While a Lewiston High School student, Stretton took part in Early College, which allows juniors and seniors to take college classes for free while in high school.
Stretton took eight college courses in high school, racking up 24 college credits, enough to make him a sophomore and allow him to graduate in three years instead of four.
The Early College program pays for one college class for high school juniors and seniors per semester, or four during the two years.
Stretton did twice that, paying for four of the eight college classes himself. Even with that, he's saving about $5,000 on his tuition.
"I always wanted to go to college," Stretton said. "I figured doing it this way it would save me a lot of money."
Stretton heard about Early College when he was a high school freshman. "I had to wait until I was a junior," he said.
In the fall of his junior year, he took his first college class at Central Maine Community College. The class was psychology. He was 16.
He remembers the first day. The professor asked each student to stand, say their name and their major.
"I said, 'Hi. I'm Tim. I'm a junior at Lewiston High School.' All the heads turned."
It was an awkward, intimidating moment.
"But the other students were really cool and really interested" why he was in that class. "Some of my professors were, too."
In the spring semester of his junior year he took another CMCC class. That summer he took another.
In the fall of his senior year, he took one Early College class at the University of Southern Maine's Lewiston-Auburn College, plus three classes at CMCC, which he paid for himself.
He succeeded with that load because "the only high school classes I needed to graduate were English and government." He took those classes, plus math and physics. Attending classes at Lewiston High, the L-A College and CMCC was a bit much, he acknowledges.
"It was rough," he said. "Plus I did an internship with the mayor." He also served on the Lewiston Youth Council and worked 20 hours a week at Burger King.
"There were some sleepless nights with homework, especially at the end of semesters with papers." While doing homework, sometimes he wanted to stop. He motivated himself to keep working by telling himself he couldn't stop until he finished that page. "As I finished the page I thought, 'I can do one more.' I really pushed myself."
Sometimes his college classes enhanced his high school learning. "My junior year I took 'America in the Cold War' college class. That went right along with my history class. In my senior year I took political science classes. That went with my high school government class."
Stretton is thinking about a career in political science and international studies, or maybe public administration, or maybe teaching.
Joan Macri, the former aspirations lab coordinator at Lewiston High School, praised Stretton for recognizing he could begin his college career as a high school student and taking advantage of the opportunity.
"He took cool courses like 'The Media and Politics,' which are not offered in high school," Macri said. "And he saved a ton of money."
For more information on Early College, contact a high school guidance counselor, or if your high school is in Androscoggin County, contact Joan Macri at 753-6625, or go to http://collegeformeandroscoggin.org/pdfs/EarlyCollegeClassesBrochure2009...
Macri coordinates the Early College for ME-Androscoggin, working with nine high schools: Lewiston, Edward Little, Oak Hill, Lisbon, Poland, Buckfield, Leavitt, Vineyard Christian and Livermore Falls.