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Two years in, partnership between UMPI and Carleton Project is yielding significant benefits and opportunities

When Kate Sirois was a high school student at Carleton Project, she was able to complete a biology internship with University of Maine at Presque Isle professor Dr. Jason Johnston, doing college level research while fulfilling her senior project requirements for graduation. And when UMPI Social Work majors needed to learn more about some the challenges that high school students face, they were able to have a candid conversation with Carleton Project students.

These are just two of the ways the University and Carleton Project have been able to work together since entering into a partnership in February 2009, and officials agree that the collaboration has provided both institutions with significant benefits and diverse learning opportunities.

“This has been so fulfilling and rewarding to our students, simply being on campus and being part of a bigger picture,” Jennifer Walker, Executive Director of Carleton Project, said. “As an alternative school, we’re here to give at risk students the support they need so they can attain their high school diplomas and achieve their goals of going to college. We value our public/private partnerships with the local public schools that support our program and mission with the students we serve, and we also value our partnership with UMPI, as it really helps our students to understand the importance of continuing education.”

Since 2009, Carleton Project’s Presque Isle site has been located in UMPI’s Park Hall. Students have been able to utilize the campus library, attend cultural events, and take part in academic presentations, lectures, and other campus-wide activities. In addition, UMPI faculty and staff are participating in efforts that directly impact Carleton Project students’ success. For example, Social Work Professor Kim-Anne Perkins sits on Carleton Project’s Board of Directors. Dr. Johnston and UMPI Adjunct Professor Eric Pelkey serve on its Curriculum Coordinators panel, where they work to align the alternative school’s curriculum with identified skills freshman year college students need to have in order to succeed.

“As always, it is gratifying to see UMPI faculty, staff, and students contributing to the success of enterprises in the County,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Sonntag said. “Carleton Project provides a unique opportunity for our faculty to offer consultation services, in addition to unique internship and learning opportunities. And to see our own graduates like Heather Nunez giving back to the community as a teacher for Carleton Project—well, that’s what regional comprehensive universities are all about.”

Other ways that UMPI and Carleton Project have been able to collaborate include:

– An UMPI Criminal Justice student who was able to fulfill field experience work at Carleton Project;

– Work between Carleton Project officials and UMPI’s Education faculty regarding alternative education methodology and philosophies;

– A rock climbing expedition that Carleton Project students took with UMPI’s outdoor adventure program to Clifton, Maine. The trip was both a way for Carleton Project students to get outside and enjoy some physical activity and also learn some important lessons about teamwork and decision making.

Among the most important activities UMPI and Carleton teachers and administration do together, though, are their efforts to help students prepare for, go to and stay at the colleges and universities they plan to attend. Walker said Carleton teachers talk to their students about continuing education right from the start, and that they’re seeing a seamless transition now.

“They meet with Maine Educational Opportunity Center staffers to discuss funding and then they meet with UMPI professors about their major of choice,” Walker said. “It’s very helpful for us; these things that would normally take days to do with numerous students checking out colleges and asking questions, is now 45 minutes during an afternoon to speak to a professor and have their questions answered about going to college.”

While Carleton Project students have gone on to colleges throughout Maine and beyond, 11 students have chosen to complete their baccalaureate work at UMPI since the partnership was established.

“We are so pleased to see where this collaboration has gone in the past two years and that, working together, we’ve been successful in creating important educational linkages for local students,” UMPI President Don Zillman said. “It is quite satisfying to know that the work we are doing together is helping students to better prepare for the future.”

Officials are looking forward to many years ahead of working together to help students succeed in high school and into college.

Carleton Project is a private alternative school that offers students in grades 9 through 12 the opportunity to obtain their high school diploma in a non-traditional setting. Project officials work individually with students to meet their academic potential and map out a college plan. Most Carleton Project graduates go on to a two- or four-year college. Carleton Project has 5 schools as of this fall – in Presque Isle, Houlton, Winthrop, Bangor, and Lincoln. For more information about Carleton Project, visit www.carletonproject.com.

Established in 1903 as a state teacher’s school, the University of Maine at Presque Isle now offers a wide range of liberal arts and professional programs and a balanced curriculum that promotes a strong foundation in the arts and sciences. The University is committed to close student, faculty and staff interaction in support of intellectual growth and personal development; diversities of culture, age and nationality among both students and staff; and public service that promotes the well-being of the people of Maine. For more information, visit www.umpi.edu.