Empowering young Maine students to build a brighter future . . . for themselves and for their communities.

The Maine Pre-Degree Program
Helping young Maine students build a brighter future for themselves and for their communities.

Over 20 years of talking with rural Maine students about the opportunity of higher education, I have been inspired by the excitement and motivation of elementary school students. And, I am always disappointed to see most of that excitement and motivation gone in high school juniors and seniors. If we are serious about helping our students get a better education and build a brighter future, and helping our communities have a brighter economic future, we must find a way to capture and nourish that enthusiasm and that great potential that shines in elementary school. No economic policy has as much potential to build a brighter future for our state and its rural communities. — Bob Stuart, Director, Maine College Circle.

1. Maine elementary and middle school students (grades 3 - 8) attend a Future of Maine Aspirations Workshop offered by Maine College Circle to learn about opportunities in higher education, specific colleges, college majors, and career opportunities. (70 schools are currently served.)

2. Students research educational opportunities and careers and write an essay, in hopes of receiving a Future of Maine College Aspirations Scholarship. 400+ awarded each year.

3. Students study their stated career of interest through an aspirations-based curriculum designed by local teachers, community members, and a Maine college. Students earn a “Pre-Degree: Level 1 - 8 Recognition in . . . .”

4. Students establish a mentor relationship with three adult mentors, one in school, one local professional, and at the hosting college.

5. Students continue on to incremental “Level” each year and continue their education through high school with a greater sense of purpose and connection. They may change paths to pursue their changing aspirations.

6. Relationships with colleges (broadly-defined) are developed. Colleges recognize Pre-Degree achievement as the student enters college.

7. Students are better prepared for college and have a better sense of their goals beyond post-secondary education.

8. These students build a brighter future for themselves and for their community.

After receiving a Future of Maine scholarship, or after being recommended by a teacher, students will have the opportunity to pursue an incremental, age-appropriate curriculum, elementary school through high school. Each Pre-Degree Level will include 1) independent study, 2) research with a written or oral report, and 3) a local component where students will extend their learning locally. As an example, a fourth grader who has articulated her interest in a career as a doctor will study and learn the parts of the body, then interview a local doctor, then research 10 different kinds of doctors, then research and write a paper on the five most common medical issues in her community. All this will be submitted to the host college, by the student and his or her mentors, for review and approval by the college. Then the student will receive a Maine Pre-Degree Level 1 Recognition from that post-secondary program.


We expect our initial focus to be on careers in nursing, medicine, culinary arts, teaching, wildlife and conversation law enforcement, marine science, automotive technology, art, and criminal justice – the careers most often identified by students in grades 3 – 6.


We hope you will partner with us in this initiative to build early aspirations, improve the educational experience of our students, and help build a brighter future in the communities of Maine. Contact Bob Stuart at bstuart@mainecollegecircle.org


Sample Pre-Degree Programs in development.


Pre-Degree Culinary Arts Vision


Pre-Degree Medicine Vision