BETHEL — Three students from the Region 9 forestry program recently worked in the McKoy-Chapman Forest in Bethel, clearing trees for a recreational trail.

The end goal was to make the trail wide enough for cross country skiers to make proper turns.

After a snowmobile brought the students one-and-a-half miles into the woods, they spread out and began cutting branches and small trees for the next hour. Each student used a chainsaw.

Even with just an hour of work, many improvements were made to the trail and students gained more experience in their desired field.

Forestry is one of the many programs Region 9 offers. Others include building trades, metal trades, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), early childhood development, truck driving, fire science, culinary arts, employability skills, computer technology and automotive technology.

The program serves students from Telstar, Dirigo and Mountain Valley high schools. The Region 9 school is in Mexico.

“The opportunities we can provide these kids is unparalleled in the school. This is the only place where they can get that kind of hands-on experience and walk out of there with jobs,” Region 9 board member Paul Handlen said.

Many programs stay consistently popular on a year-to-year basis, while others “wax and wane,” as Handlen put it.

He said that next year the forestry program will be connected with the heavy equipment program.

Region 9 serves primarily juniors and seniors, but sophomores also participate.

Handlen said Region 9 members will discuss the program with eighth graders and give them the opportunity to check out the school. He said he wants anyone unaware of the program to be informed of its benefits.

“The opportunities we provide these kids with a bright future, with a clear path to success, there’s a clear path,” Handlen said. “The students not only excel in the classroom atmosphere, but excel even greater in the course of the trade, and that’s the emphasis of what we do.”

Region 9 allows its students to explore a range of careers before graduating.

SAD 44 Superintendent Dave Murphy said that school board is working on scheduling a tour of the building sometime this year.

Said one Region 9 grad, “They help me get through high school and on to my career in industrial electrical as a journeyman electrician and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

“I learned a skill that will benefit me for life,” former student Jason Baldinelli said. Baldinelli worked in the building construction program while there.

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