FARMINGTON – The local college network that has received award after award in recent months returned the favor last night when it recognized the nine organizations and people that made it all possible.
The Franklin County Community College Network also accepted a legislative sentiment of appreciation, acknowledging the organization’s recent Noyce Award for Nonprofit Excellence. That award is given to one nonprofit agency each year by the Maine Community Foundation, who chose FCCCN from a pool of 16 semi-finalists throughout the state. Along with the award, FCCCN received an unrestricted $10,000 grant.
“The way we’re going to break poverty is through education,” Rep. Thomas Saviello (U – Wilton) told the audience prior to presenting the sentiment to the FCCCN representative, student Karen Henderson.
Dr. Doug Dunlap, a pastor with the First Congregational Church of Wilton, noted that the network had come a long way since Dec. 2004, when organizers began trying to develop ways to bring college-level courses to the communities of Franklin County. He noted that classes are now taught at nine sites, with three more on the way, instructing a total of 246 college-level students.
That number, Dunlap noted, represents roughly 1 percent of the county’s population.
“Imagine the impact,” he said, “on our nation, if 1 percent more of our population could pursue a higher education.”
Along the way, the network has also helped set up training for more than 100 residents of the county for industry jobs, such as the Cianbro welding classes. They have also have never turned a student away due to financial reasons, an incredible achievement given the region’s economic conditions.
“Money will never be an obstacle,” Dunlap pledged.
Dunlap said he could remember being asked where the college network was located.
“So where is your headquarters?” he recalled. “Who is your CEO? Where is your campus? And I said, well that’s easy, we have none of those. That is the secret of our success.”
More than 34 businesses, individuals and organizations make up the FCCCN, and nine of those were recognized Monday evening for “a willingness to step beyond their traditional roles.”
The recipients are: the Cianbro Corporation, for providing welding training and guaranteed employment for those who completed the training.
Franklin County Adult Education, with the award accepted by Director Ray Therrien. Adult education has been a driving force behind the college network from the beginning.
The Sandy River Charitable Foundation, with the award accepted by Bill Berry. The foundation was lauded for “vital financial contributions,” allowing the network to function.
Superintendents Quenten Clark of MSAD 58 and Dr. Michael Cormier of MSAD 9. Both school districts provide funding for their adult education departments, and facility space for community college classes.
Warren Cook, for his work in network advocacy.
Greater Franklin Development Corp., with the award accepted by Executive Director Alison Hagerstrom. GFDC, Dunlap noted, had realized from the beginning that an educated workforce was a critical part of any plan to attract new businesses to the region.
The Franklin Community Health Network, accepted by President Richard Batt. FCHN, and the hospital, provide facility space for a variety of college classes and events.
Central Maine Community College President Scott Knapp. Knapp briefly addressed the crowd, noting that one of the toughest challenges in education was getting people who did not come from a college-level background to try and succeed in college-level courses.
“We know it’s tough,” he said. “You folks do it incredibly, incredibly well.”
At the end of the ceremony, Dunlap noted that it was time for everyone to get back to work.
“It’s time to do what we do,” he said.
The community college’s next semester begins on Jan. 12. Sign-up for those classes will be held on Dec. 17 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Mt. Blue High School. Registration is also available online, at www.cmcc.edu