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Franklin County’s adult education network awarded

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FARMINGTON – They have worked together behind the scenes since July of 2005 to bring the classrooms of higher education to the residents of Franklin County.

With 60 students enrolled in nearly 90 classes offered through Central Maine Community College at locations in Farmington, Avon and Salem this semester, the Franklin County Community College Network’s efforts over the last three years has resulted in more than 500 adults taking college courses close to home.

In recognition of the network’s successes, the Maine Community Foundation on its 25th anniversary, has awarded a special $2,500 Community Building Award to the organization and to Literacy Volunteers of Franklin and Somerset Counties. The recommendations came through the foundation’s Western Mountains County Committee.


Gary Perlson, of the Franklin County Community College Network and a career counselor at Mt. Abram High School, at left, is congratulated by Bill Berry, the Western Mountains Committee chairman, for the network’s award of Maine Community Foundation’s Community Building Program.

“Literacy Volunteers and the Franklin County Community College Network exemplify the Community Building Program at MaineCF, in particular, its focus on supporting and promoting sustainable community networks,” said Bill Berry, the foundation’s county committee chairman.

“It was difficult for the adults to get to class, so they brought the classes to the region,” said Peter Taylor, MaineCF’s director of community investment. “Their success rate has been phenomenal.” In addition, he praised the network’s effort to bring together several organizations together to work in a partnership with Central Maine Community College.

“Our focus has always been human resources,” said Gary Perlson, an organizer of the network and a career counselor at Mt. Abram High School. In addition to getting college courses here, the group has worked with Cianbro Corp., a construction company, to set up metal fabrication classes and provide jobs in Brewer for those who received their certification. Another project of the network is a computer laptop program modeled after the state’s middle school computer project. The first of its kind in the state, the program, funded through grant awards, supplies laptops to adult students taking computer classes.

“We’ve stepped out of the traditional roles,” Perlson said of the network. “In that, we’re going to do something we’ve never done before.” Scholarships and financial aid are also available to help adults to also continue their education at the University of Maine at Farmington. Currently, said network liason Betty Gensel, 57 percent of the adult students in the community college network program are enrolled in degree programs.

“Our role has been to encourage, nurture and capture students,” said Ray Therrien, director of the MSAD 9 Adult and Community Education program and a network organizer. “We provide a testing ground for them to realize their potential,” he said.

“We believe in people before they believe in themselves,” Perlson said quoting Therrien.

A nonprofit organization in each of Maine’s 16 counties has received the award, which is funded through the Sandy River Charitable Foundation. All 16 organizations chosen will be considered for this year’s Noyce Award for NonProfit Excellence which will be presented on Nov. 10. For more on the foundation, go to www.mainecf.org

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