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Tri-County Technical Center forming early childhood program

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DEXTER — Starting in the 2020-21 school year, students from around the region will have the opportunity to take part in an early childhood education satellite program through the Tri-County Technical Center to be housed at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport. The SAD 46 school board authorized the program during an Aug. 21 meeting in the Ridge View Community School cafeteria.

“We have anticipated 30 students for that program,” TCTC Director Dr. Patrick O’Neill said. He said participants would receive childcare career training and/or prepare to study early childhood education in college, with Husson University and UMaine-Farmington both expressing interest in working with the TCTC program.

Dr. O’Neill said guidelines from the Maine Department of Education are in place to start tech center satellite programs, including approval from the SAD 46 directors in this instance. “The state upfronts all the money,” he said, with the costs to be determined. “The state approves, the money goes out and the program starts.”

“There are several universities interested in working with us and as I said before the students would go on to college or the workforce,” Dr. O’Neill added.

“There is a significant need for childcare in our region,” board member Leilani Cyr said. She said a number of students have already expressed interest in the early childhood education program, with aspirations such as owning daycare facilities and/or becoming teachers.

Dr. O’Neill said the EMT program will be housed at the Millworks complex, the home of TCTC graphic design classes. He said the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation gave the EMT program a $25,000 grant for equipment and supplies.

TCTC is partnering with Mayo Regional Hospital Emergency Medical Services “so our kids can go on the ambulance with their personnel and work with their personnel in lab settings,” Dr. O’Neill said.

He said hospital officials approached TCTC about the program, with a goal of EMT students going on to help fill needed positions within the department. “We are hoping kids who go through those programs will be employees as soon as they leave school,” Dr. O’Neill said, comparing it to a TCTC log truck driving program with Weyerhaeuser.

The TCTC director said last month the Legislature restored funding to career and technical education programming and for the Dexter center this meant an additional $142,000 for the 2019-20 budget. Dr. O’Neill said the directors held an emergency meeting and “it was unanimously voted the CNA program, the second session, be restored.”

In other business, Superintendent Kevin Jordan read a thank you card from the Fort Collins, Colorado-based Group Workcamps Foundation’s Group Mission Trips — a non-profit, interdenominational Christian volunteer home-repair group.

Last month 400 volunteers from around the country spent nearly a week in town working to fix 60 homes at no cost for residents who otherwise could not afford to have the needed repairs taken care of. The First Baptist Church of Dexter and the town sponsored the event, with assistance from a number of business and organization sponsors, after multiple years of planning. Volunteers, most of whom were high school and college students, from a dozen states stayed at the Ridge View Community School.

Jordan said 93 percent of the 60 projects across town were finished with 11,430 man hours being put in. Jordan said those coming to Dexter brought more than 1,200 items, such as non-perishables and baby wipes, to be donated to the community.

He said a highlight was speaking with a participant from New York City who said the best part for her was being able to see the stars at night. Jordan said another highlight was evident at the closing ceremony when the volunteers sat together with the homeowners, “so they had bonded tremendously in a short amount of time.”

The Dexter Sunrise Kiwanis hosted a mid-week afternoon cookout on Lake Wassookeag, with kayaks available. Jordan said the event “was a major hit, the kids have not done that in any other community.”

The superintendent spoke with the program director who said in 10 years the Group Workcamps Foundation has only returned to a site once. “Because of how they were treated here and the response from the community, they are looking to come back in two years,” Jordan said, saying there are still many details to work out in order for 2021 home improvements to happen in Dexter.

Dexter Regional High School Principal Stephen Bell said on paper there will be 318 students when classes resume next week. He said the study body includes 14 pupils from Suzhou, China and another from Korea, who all have been placed with host families.

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