FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 high school teacher Lisa Dalrymple created an International Student Program at Mt. Blue Campus that was recognized by a state organization.

The Maine International Trade Center recognized Mt. Blue Campus with the Innovator of the Year Award for the program in May.

Dalrymple, a world language teacher and department head, got approval from the RSU 9 school board in the spring of 2014 to create the program to attract international students who would pay tuition to attend Mt. Blue High School. Students also have the opportunity to take classes at Foster Career and Technical Education Center on the campus.

Within six months, the federal government authorized the district to accept visas for tuition-paying international students. The program will enter its third year at the start of the 2016-17 school year. 

The campus “exposes local and international students to a variety of subjects and provides faculty opportunities for expanded interdisciplinary instruction,” according to the trade center’s website. “The technical program provides courses in composite manufacturing, biotechnology and robotics.” 

The award triggered the making of a professional video that gives insight into the campus and what goes on there, for marketing purposes.

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Dalrymple’s idea behind the program is to use tuition money, minus expenses, to fund the world language program for kindergarten through grade 12. Currently, no world language classes are taught at the district’s elementary schools. Budget constraints curtailed the program at that level in 2010. A vacant world language teaching position at the middle school was eliminated in the current proposed budget. World languages are taught at the high school.

Besides hoping to restore the program in the lower grades, Dalrymple would like to support high school students who want to study abroad to expand their knowledge.

The district is a member of the Maine International Trade Center and StudyMaine, an initiative of the center. Both have been supportive of the district in its endeavor.

Bringing in international students increases diversity so students can learn about other cultures and it increases their global awareness, Dalrymple said.

International students gave a presentation about their country and cultures to Mt. Blue students this past school year.

“The Forum was packed and you didn’t hear a peep from the students,” Dalrymple said. “They were like mesmerized. I think regardless of where students end up in their future, they will interact with people from different countries. And I think they are fortunate to have that experience here. On the flip side from the international students’ perspective, I think we are a ‘diamond in the rough.’ We are not only receiving, we are giving. I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

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Dalrymple has traveled to China, Japan and other countries to create partnerships and attract students to Mt. Blue Campus.

She is excited about the support received from the community, administrators, teachers, students, the trade center and commercial services.

“If it wasn’t for the support we couldn’t be doing what we are doing,” Dalrymple said.

The next goal is to establish more school partnerships and attract more students from different countries. 

Seven international students took classes this past school year at Mt. Blue Campus. Some were tuition-based; others were traditional foreign exchange students.

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