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Houlton Higher Education Center marks 10th anniversary

Community members and education officials gathered on Thursday, Sept. 1 for the Houlton Higher Education Center’s 10th anniversary celebration, which included an open house and an official program that marked the Center’s first decade of providing close-to-home educational opportunities for the region.

“It has been the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s great pleasure to join with our outstanding educational partners in delivering classes, degree programs, and educational support services to the region during the past decade,” UMPI President Don Zillman said. “Ten years may not seem like such a long time, but the Center has accomplished an amazing amount of work in its first decade, and this celebration is a fitting tribute to all of those efforts.”

The official program, which began at 1 p.m., included a Native blessing, the unveiling of a new granite installation at the building’s entrance, and a keynote address by U.S. Congressman Michael H. Michaud.

“What we need most in times like these are initiatives like the Houlton Higher Education Center – endeavors that bring us together and remind us that despite differing opinions and backgrounds, we are all one nation,” said Congressman Michaud. “Years ago, one of the first things I was able to do as a Maine State Senator was to secure funding for the Center. Today, this remains one of my proudest accomplishments and, now as a Congressman, supporting higher education continues to be one of my most important concerns.”

Support like this has allowed the Houlton Center, a University of Maine at Presque Isle facility, to spend the last 10 years providing students with the very best in educational experiences and services. The Center brings a wide variety of educational programs under one roof, giving local residents a chance to prepare for college, earn their associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, take refresher courses, or participate in lifelong learning activities. UMPI’s partners at the center include University College, Northern Maine Community College, Houlton/Hodgdon Adult Education, Carleton Project, TRiO Upward Bound, and Maine Educational Opportunity Center.

“Together, we’ve been able to help so many people in the region achieve their educational goals,” Center Director Charles Ames said. “The Center partners work together to make sure students understand and are able to take advantage of all of the educational opportunities we can offer them.”

During the Sept. 1 event, Ames cited many people who have helped the Houlton Center to be successful: local citizens and educators with a vision to establish the Center; Hannaford Brothers, which donated the building to the University; and some of the Center’s strongest proponents – Aroostook County legislators, Congressman Michael Michaud and the other members of the Maine Congressional Delegation. Representatives were on hand during the official program to deliver greetings from both of Maine’s U.S. senators.

“Over the past decade, the Houlton Higher Education Center has made incredible strides through the University of Maine at Presque Isle to provide students with access to higher education, while equipping them with the resources and skills to succeed,” said U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe. “The outstanding collaboration between UMPI and University College, Northern Maine Community College, Houlton/ Hodgdon Adult Education, Carleton Project, TRiO Upward Bound, and the Maine Educational Opportunity Center is to be commended many times over. Together, these institutions have helped ensure Mainers can achieve their educational goals through a variety of vital programming all under one roof.”

“Since first opening its doors in August of 2001, the Houlton Higher Education Center has excelled in its mission to provide a diverse array of educational and professional programs and courses tailored to meet its students’ needs,” stated U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins. “I applaud the center and its staff for their first decade of success. They have truly become a positive addition to the Houlton community.”

Houlton Center partners also remarked on the Center’s success in addresses they delivered during the official program. As they explained, each partner has its own educational niche which makes the Center such a valuable, all-in-one resource. University College, for example, coordinates distance learning courses and degrees through the University of Maine System, including specific associate degrees, bachelor degrees, completion degree programs, and master degrees.

“University College functions as a resource of all seven public universities to serve the needs of Maine,” Curt Madison, University of Maine System Director of Distance Education, said. “We would especially like to thank Director Ames and President Zillman for their leadership in this part of the state. The Houlton Higher Education Center works closely with the eight other Centers of University College to bring education resources at all levels to students where they live. For information of more opportunities, we encourage people to visit two key websites – and”

Other higher education options are provided by Northern Maine Community College, which offers classes in the areas of business, nursing and allied health, and liberal studies, and UMPI, which offers classes for the bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Liberal Studies, and the associate’s degree in Liberal Arts, as well as online courses for bachelor’s degrees in English, History and Psychology. The University also hosts the Native Education Center, established to better serve Native American students and provide them with strong support as they complete their college educations; High School Aspirations, aimed at increasing the number of students who access and succeed in college; and SAGE [Seniors Achieving Greater Education], a program that brings short courses in arts, sciences, and specialty areas to the region’s senior community.

In terms of options for high school age students, the Houlton Center hosts TRiO Upward Bound, a federally funded program that prepares underserved high school students for college and is open to high school students who qualify financially, or are the first in their families to attend college. The Center also is home to Carleton Project, a private alternative high school that offers students in grades 9 to 12 the opportunity to obtain their high school diploma in a non-traditional setting. By collaborating with UMPI and NMCC, students have the opportunity to enroll in college courses during their senior year of high school.

For students seeking other educational opportunities there is the MSAD 29/70 Houlton, Hodgdon Adult Education program, which provides high school completion, GED, vocational, and community education and offers the College Access Program. There is also the Maine Educational Opportunity Center, which is focused on increasing the awareness of post secondary educational opportunities available to Maine’s low income, first generation adults who desire to pursue a college degree.

Following all the remarks by special guests, the official program for the Houlton Center’s 10th anniversary celebration ended with the unveiling of a new granite installation near the entryway, which serves as a sign for the building and also notes its 2001 establishment. University officials also recognized the Houlton Center staff for their hard work and dedication during the Center’s first 10 years.