AUBURN — Megan Perkett graduated from high school about two weeks ago, yet she will be a college sophomore this fall.

Perkett, 18, plans to attend Saint Joseph’s College in Standish to study nursing.

She is able to skip a year of college because she, while at Edward Little High School, took early college courses. Those courses will save her time and college tuition.

“My parents are very excited,” Perkett said, smiling.

Johana Jimenez, Samantha Weekley and Madison Thistlewaite, all 18, also graduated June 2 from Edward Little with a full year of college credits on their transcripts. They will also be college sophomores this fall.

The four students are among 14 Edward Little seniors who participated this year in the early college Bridge Program through the University of Maine at Augusta.

During their junior and senior years, students in the program take eight UMA courses at Edward Little, taught by high school teachers certified to be adjunct instructors.

Other Edward Little students took from one to six college courses a year.

Incoming seniors Sophie Bilodeau, 17, and Madeline Duff, 16, are taking college courses this summer.

“I’m three weeks into my online class at Husson University: Introduction to Ethics,” Bilodeau said. “It’s going really well.”

With a goal of becoming a marine biologist, she said she will spend her senior year at Central Maine Community College, enrolled in dual-credit college courses.

“I plan to start college with one year done,” she said.

Duff, who plans to become a physical therapist, is taking sociology.

“I want to get a head start on college,” she said, adding that she hopes to keep her debt as low as possible.

Evelyn Bilodeau, 18, is another new graduate of Edward Little who took college courses her junior and senior years, some in person at Central Maine Community College, others online.

Five years from now, she hopes to work internationally in business, she said, “to be that person who connects people all over the world.”

Early college courses earned her valuable credits and got her ready for school at the next level.

“I feel prepared,” she said.

Taking college courses is demanding. They require extra work and motivation.

The Bridge Program expects students to be strong in math.

“It was really hard at first,” Jimenez said. “You go in from high school, the college classes are fast-paced. Math was the hardest for us.”

“In the end, it’s really worth it,” Perkett said. “I have so much done and I’m prepared for college.”

The students credited Edward Little Aspirations Coordinator Jim Horn for  helping them get college credits, informing them, encouraging them, even arranging a bus to get students from Edward Little to Central Maine Community College.

“He’s the one who made it possible,” Bilodeau said.

A tireless student advocate, Horn said he is enthusiastic about high school students getting college credits because he wants better-educated youths who will make valuable employees and have bright futures.

With an enrollment of about 1,000, Edward Little this year had 60 students who took early college courses, Horn said.

Of those 60 students, 30 participated in the Bridge Program through UMA and 30 took as many as six courses a year at other colleges or universities: Bates, Thomas, Husson, CMCC and the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

“These colleges are so open to having students do early college (that) there’s no cut-off in terms of numbers,” Horn said. “The possibilities are endless.”

He said he would like to see more students enroll.

“We have a poverty rate in Lewiston-Auburn that is high,” he said. “Early college is a way for kids from poverty go to college for free.

“Every single student in this building, by the time they’re juniors, should be taking college courses along with their high school courses. There’s no reason why they can’t get an early start on a college education. That’s my passion.”

And, he said, the state will help pay for it.

The Maine Department of Education will pay for up to six college courses a year: two in the summer, two in the fall and two in the winter. High school students have to pay for their books and fees, a cost of about $150.

In the Bridge Program, the annual cost is $520 for four UMA courses. Students who earn a C or better get their money refunded.

“A lot of us got our money back,” Thistlewaite said.

Maddie Thistlewaite, left, Evelyn Bilodeau, Johana Jimenez, Rebecca Raymond, Samantha Weekley and Megan Perkett graduated from Edward Little High School on June 2 with college credits already in hand. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Jim Horn, the aspirations coordinator at Edward Little High School, said colleges are open to having more students take college courses in high school. “The possibilities are endless,” Horn said. Early college is a way for students “to go to college for free.”


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