BETHEL — Hali Barter thoroughly enjoys her switch from being a senior at Telstar Regional High School to being a college student at Central Maine Community College.
“I love it! It’s a big change in a positive way,” she said. “I like the responsibility of being a senior and taking on the workload.”
Hali is one of four seniors who are taking part in a pilot project between the high school and the community college. The others are Mariha Morin, Hope Doyle and Jessica Dirago.
Telstar seniors who qualify to earn as many credits as needed for the first year of college are attending at no cost to them. The program is financed by Project Opportunity, a local charitable organization that assists students going on to higher education.
Charlie Raymond, dean of students at the high school, said Project Opportunity began several years ago when Les Otten was president of the Sunday River Ski Resort, as a means to boost aspirations and inspire students.
This school year is the first time Telstar students have participated.
“It is a great chance to get a head start on college and finish up your senior year of high school at the same time,” Mariha said.
She plans to attend the University of Maine at Farmington in the fall.
Both girls are taking a full load of courses.
“It’s one of those opportunities you don’t usually get,” Hali said. “I’m lucky to have it.”
The students must ensure that the courses they are taking at the college meet the graduation requirements at Telstar.
“These are kids who, given a normal senior year, would graduate,” Raymond said. “We went to CMCC to see if they had the course requirements.”
An example would be taking a course in public speaking at the college for the high school’s required senior presentation, he said.
High school participants can return to the campus to take part in after-school activities, if they choose.
Hali and Mariha did that during the fall semester when they returned to play field hockey. The girls have also taken part in homecoming and some plan to attend the prom in May. All will graduate with their class in June.
But for Hali and Mariha, their lives have changed by becoming college students. Both have assumed a greater sense of responsibility, and although they miss their friends, they believe the college experience is worth it.
Raymond said the only downside to attending CMCC is that students will miss many of the activities and events that are unique to the high school senior year.
“It’s not for everyone,” he said. “It’s hard to go back to high school. It’s a real transition and it’s two different worlds. It’s a great opportunity but isn’t as easy as it might seem.”
The four young women made presentations to the SAD 44 school board recently about their experiences, and the district has begun holding meetings with students and their parents for more participants next year.
“I’d like to see an increase in the numbers,” Raymond said. “Students feel empowered, independent and self-confident.”
Hali and Mariha recommend the opportunity.
“It’s a good experience if you are going to college, or even if you’re not. You might change your mind,” Hali said.