MEXICO – Kalinda Cox and Jacob Fortin are following their career quests at the Region 9 School of Applied Technology.

Cox, a junior at Telstar Regional High School, is in the certified nursing assistant program and will receive her certification at the end of the school year, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother who were CNAs. Once she graduates, she plans to further her education by earning a registered nurse degree, and while doing that, she’ll help pay the way by using her CNA skills.

“This is an opportunity to get a jump-start on careers,” Cox said.

Fortin, a junior at Dirigo High School, is pursuing his love of all things computer. When he completes the first year of the program, he will have delved into computer technology and some repair. During the second year, he’ll get into networking and advanced technology.

He loves what he does.

He wants to go to college, and while there, earn money by using his computer skills, perhaps through a computer repair business.

“This is where I want to be,” Fortin said.

The two students are examples of practical education young people can get at a local vocational school.

Next year, even more students will have that chance when two new vocational programs will be added.

Voters approved a $4.9 million renovation and expansion earlier this year that will include a complete renovation of the existing building to make it handicapped accessible as well as some major repairs, and a 17,000-square-foot addition that will make room for programs in automotive technology and early childhood development.

The new programs were chosen by the sending district superintendents and the Region 9 board after an extensive survey of student wants and community needs, along with a budget that residents could live with.

“We are creating appropriate space to offer all these programs, to be conducive to learning,” said Region 9 Director Brenda Gammon. “All programs will be under one roof and the building needs to be brought up to the present.”

Along with the expanded space for secondary classes, more room will also be available for adult education academic, enrichment and vocational programs.

Cox believes the offering of early childhood development fits in nicely with the CNA course.

“Those taking CNA may also be interested in early childhood,” she said. Day care providers often need first-aid certification.

And Fortin believes computer technology fits well with automotive technology, too. Most vehicles, he said, now are computer-operated. One of his friends, who is in the computer technology program this year, plans to take automotive technology next year, he said.

“Everything is crossing with computers now,” he said.

Judy Powell, Region 9’s co-operative education instructor, believes the early childhood program will be of great benefit to many people in the area. She said the local hospital no longer offers a child-care course, and more and more parents must work, often leaving their children with insufficient quality care.

“The program can benefit day-care and preschool centers, and those students who go on in early childhood education,” she said.

She also believes that male students should take domestic skills programs so they’d know how to take care of themselves, and female students should take such things as automotive or building technology.

“Every woman should know how to change a tire or change the oil,” she said.

Gammon said the building project will also include a large room for community presentations or training. It will also provide Region 9 with its own identity.

“This building has always been known as Aulenback Trucking,” she said.

Although site work began on the project a couple of months ago, the official ground-breaking ceremony takes place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

The project is expected to be completed by the beginning of the next school year.

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