FARMINGTON — Three UMF students will graduate a year early this spring and step into graduate school to get a head start on their professional careers.

From left are the first graduates in UMF’s Psychology 3+2 program: Charity LaFrance, Haley West, Oak Blaisdell and Lilyan Ray. Kyla Antonioli is not pictured.

Majoring in psychology, the students are among the first cohort graduating in UMF’s 3+2 Program in Counseling or Social Work. Upon completion, they will  receive their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. The program was developed under the leadership of Steven Quackenbush, UMF professor of psychology, in partnership with fellow experts at the University of Southern Maine to help meet Maine’s growing need for mental health professionals.

First available in the fall of 2016, the accelerated program streamlines a student’s career preparation by having them complete a full undergraduate course load of 128 hours in three years rather than four. This time saving translates to a valuable cost savings, reducing their college cost, while also helping students work in their professional field a year early.

A streamlined graduate application process paves the way for students to gain early acceptance to the USM Master’s Program, however, the UMF program is flexible in that it can also be applied to master’s programs at other institutions. The program is overseen by Natasha Lekes, UMF associate professor of psychology.

Graduating seniors Oak Blaisdell of Brunswick and Haley West of Monmouth will pursue their master’s in social work at USM. Blaisdell said it has been great learning together as a group for three years. He will be working with homeless adults at the Florence House in Portland.

West, who’s been developing a strong relationship with USM experts in her field, also has everything in place for her USM internship and will be working with homeless youth and their families at New Beginnings in Lewiston.

Charity La France of Rochester, New Hampshire, will pursue her master’s in clinical mental health counseling at Plymouth State University, a little closer to her home. She says her transition to graduate school has been pretty seamless and that she has developed a good relationship with her graduate school advisor and has her classes all lined up and plans to start this summer.

Lilyan Ray of Oquossoc and Kyla Antonioli of Williston, Vermont, also students in the first cohort, will take time to gain more work experience between their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

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