Aroostook County — Students and family stirred excitedly in the Edmunds Conference Center on the NMCC campus Friday, August 24th as the clock approached 8:30am. For some, this would be their first time navigating the campus; some probably never thought they would make it this far in their educational career.
Once the room filled, NMCC’s Director of Counseling, Tammy Nelson, took the podium and outlined the goal for the day: get the students ready to start classes, which will begin Monday, August 27th. Before leaving the podium, Nelson introduced NMCC’s president, Timothy Crowley.
“The fact that you’re here gives you an 85% chance of being successful,” Crowley said, before sharing a personal anecdote about the importance of listening. President Crowley handed the stage off to Dr. William Egeler, NMCC’s Dean of Students.
“Stand up if you plan on graduating, or if you intend for the person you’re here to support to graduate,” Egeler said. Within a moment every chair in the room emptied as the crowd stood. Once he had the room’s full attention, Dr. Egeler shared the statistic that only one half of newly enrolled students achieve their goal of graduation. “I don’t like that statistic,” Egeler continued. A hush fell over the room, and Dr. Egeler asked the room to take their seats.
“Close your eyes,” Egeler began again. He proceeded to talk the group through a visualization of their college graduation—the sound of applause, friends in the audience, the sense of accomplishment, “the smell of grandma’s perfume,” he added playfully. “When it gets tough, bring that image back to your head. It’s lots of work, but it can change your life; it can change an entire family.” He paused for a moment to let the idea set in. “And we’re all here to help you reach that goal.”
Toward the back of the room, Travis Hanners, 20, sat next to his father, Shawn Hanners, 52, as they both completed their visualization. Travis, recently graduated from Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft three hours south of Presque Isle in Piscataquis County. About one year ago their family relocated to the area after Shawn’s wife, and Travis’ mother, fell in love with the area after a long drive north to explore.
Shawn just quit his job at Lowe’s to pursue a full-time education towards a degree as a Medical Assistant, while his son pursues a degree in Computer Networking.
“Orientation day really re-invigorated the motivational part of coming to college,” Shawn Hanners said after the event. His son agreed, adding that it will be difficult to balance work and school at first, but that he’s confident he’ll be able to find his rhythm.
As students exited the Conference Center, they were greeted by local representatives from Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC), and the Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP) to help guide them through this transition. Each program offers extensive resources for students, from scholarships from Phi Theta Kappa, to workforce development and substance abuse prevention through ACAP. AMHC provides students with a free 24/7 sexual assault crisis and support line 1-800-871-7741.
“We try to help them from the cradle to the grave,” said Stanley Targonski, a job counselor with ACAP stationed at the event. Chris Haskell, a Community Education Specialist with ACAP focusing on substance use and abuse prevention, encourages new students to focus on their education first to help bring their goals into fruition.