PARIS — Hundreds of students from high schools across Western Maine flooded the gym and hallways of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School for the annual college fair Wednesday morning. 

About 80 institutions, technical schools and other programs, from private four-year liberal arts colleges, to culinary institutes, to “gap year” programs and everything in between, attended the event, now in its seventh year. 

Dozens of card tables were set up in the gymnasium and representatives from colleges such as Colby, Bates, Green Mountain and Tufts University rubbed shoulders with those from Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, Empire Beauty School and all branches of the U.S. military.

Maureen Howard, director of the Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange, which puts on the event, said she wanted institutions and programs that represented the high school’s diversity. 

Students from other area high schools, including Lake Region in Naples, Poland Regional and Edward Little in Auburn and Oxford Hills Christian Academy were there to get information and start making future plans.

For the first time, the event was paired with the school’s annual nonprofit fair, offering a diverse collection of local groups with volunteer positions and hearing pitches from seniors contemplating final year projects.

Groups such as Responsible Pet Care, the Alan Day Community Garden, Norway Fire Department, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, the Rotary Club and Norway Downtown manned booths in the central hallway.

Oxford Hills seniors are required to complete an independent project that involves significant new learning, and many partner with local nonprofits to launch their ideas. 

Since 2009, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School students have also been required to undertake some community service to graduate, giving local organizations plenty of helping hands. 

High school Principal Ted Moccia said holding the events on the same morning helps consolidate the disruption big events typically cause in a school day. 

Priscilla Burnette of The Progress Center in Norway said it was the group’s third year at the fair. The event helped the center connect with potential volunteers, she said, and three seniors had completed their senior project at the center in the past two years.

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