Franklin County’s educational network to receive major state award tonight

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PORTLAND – Awards from around the state continue to pour in, as people begin to realize what many local residents already know – that the Franklin County Community College Network is something special.

The network, founded in 2005, seeks to provide Franklin County residents with college classes they can afford, in a local and familiar setting. The FCCCN has grown, from offering three classes in the fall semester of 2005, to consisting of more than 60 students attending 90 classes in classrooms across the county.

The Maine Community Foundation, a major nonprofit agency, recently announced that the FCCCN will be the recipient of the 2008 Noyce Award for Nonprofit Excellence. The prestigious award is named for Elizabeth Noyce, a philanthropist who supported the creation and growth of a number of nonprofit agencies. Along with the award, which will be presented at a ceremony this evening at the University of Southern Maine, FCCCN will receive a $10,000 grant, which can be used for any aspect of the organization.

“FCCCN’s ability to bring businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, agencies and state legislators together in a collaborative exchange is a powerful demonstration of community-building skills,” said MaineCF President Henry Schmelzer, in a prepared statement.

“It’s quite an honor,” Gary Perlson, an organizer of the network and a career counselor at Mt. Abram High School, said. He also said that FCCCN had been notified that the Maine Community Foundation committee’s decision about who should receive the award had been unanimous.

For its 25th anniversary, MaineCF awarded a worthy agency in each of Maine’s 16 counties a $2,500 Community Building Award. Those 16 recipients became the semi-finalists for the Noyce award. That makes the FCCCN’s winning of the final award that much more impressive, when one considers the competition: Androscoggin County’s St. Mary’s Health System, Aroostook County’s Aroostook Area Agency on Aging, Cumberland County’s Rippleffect, Hancock County’s Penobscot East Resource Center, Kennebec County’s Maine Centers for Women, Work & Community, Knox County’s Trekkers, Lincoln County’s Midcoast Green Collaborative, Oxford County’s Susan Curtis Foundation, Penobscot County’s Bangor Public Library, Piscataquis County’s Pine Tree Hospice, Sagadahoc County’s Tri-County Literacy Volunteers, Somerset County’s Literacy Volunteers of Franklin and Somerset Counties, Waldo County’s YMCA, Washington County’s Greenland Point Center and York County’s Community Wellness Coalition.

Past winners of the Noyce Award include the Maine Migrant Health Program, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., and the Maine Mountain Sustainable Development Initiative.

The FCCCN includes local education leaders, economic development agencies, and a number of local businesses. Organizers have estimated that as many as 500 adults have taken classes with FCCCN over the past three years.

“It was difficult for the adults to get to class, so they brought the classes to the region,” Peter Taylor, MaineCF’s director of community investment, said at the Oct. 25 anniversary award ceremony. “Their success rate has been phenomenal.”

Focusing on their students, network organizers work to provide the education and training for Franklin County residents at convenient times and places. Some of their more publicized successes include helping the Cianbro Corp., a construction company, set up metal fabrication classes and provide jobs in Brewer for those who received their certification. A computer laptop program, modeled after the state’s middle school computer project, has provided laptops to adult students taking computer classes. The program is the first of its kind in the state.

The Noyce Award will be presented at the “Inspiring Philanthropy” event at the USM’s Abromson Center this evening. Among those attending for the network will be Perlson; fellow organizer and director of the MSAD 9 Adult and Community Education program Ray Therrien, who himself just won the state’s 2008 Gerald LeVasseur Award; Coastal Enterprise Inc.’s Business Counselor Betty Gensel; and Alison Hagerstrom from Greater Franklin Development Corporation.

Perlson said that he hoped the award would not only draw attention to the organization at the state level, but at the local one as well.

“We know that people are beginning to look at us at the statewide and national level,” Perlson said, “but sometimes people here at the local level don’t know what we’re doing, what we can offer.”
Appropriately, Perlson said that a student of the network would accept the award on its behalf.

Just four of the many people involved with the Franklin County Community College Network, (from left to right) Gary Perlson, of MSAD 58, Alison Hagerstrom, of the Greater Franklin Development Corp., Ray Therrien, of MSAD 9, and Betty Gensel, of Coastal Enterprises Inc., will all be attending the presentation of the Noyce Award at the “Inspiring Philanthropy” event this evening.


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