READFIELD — High school seniors have many reasons for going to college. Maranacook Community High School senior Amy Lapierre has one in particular.

Lapierre, 18, is one of two Maranacook students graduating with both a high school diploma and an associate degree as part of a new joint program of the school and Thomas College in Waterville. Lapierre is also due to give birth to a son at the end of June.

“(The pregnancy) gave me more motivation to finish school so I can get a degree and get a good job,” Lapierre said.

Lapierre and classmate Reid Lanpher already were taking dual enrollment classes before the Pathways Program began in January. The program allows juniors and seniors with a high school GPA of 3.0, a demonstrated capacity for college work and a guidance counselor recommendation to pursue their associate degree at Thomas while completing high school. The college hopes to expand the program eventually to other high schools around Maine.

“They were already taking classes before we started the program, so they were kind of the inspiration,” said Mackenzie Riley, assistant director of media relations at Thomas College.

Lanpher, 18, an accomplished race car driver and son of Scott Lanpher, who owns Scott’s Recreation in Manchester, said he won’t be pursuing his bachelor’s degree, at least not yet.

“It was a really tough decision, but I’m just really ready to go to work,” Lanpher said. “(The program) saved us a lot of time and money, and it’s pretty cool to be in this situation.”

Principal Dwayne Conway said Lapierre and Lanpher have “knocked it out of the park their whole careers,” but they’ve “really changed the formula by taking college classes to satisfy high school needs.”

Conway said nearly half of all students at Maranacook are taking a dual enrollment course, which already has saved families about $300,000 in college costs. Ten to 20 students will be enrolled in the Pathways program next year, and Conway wants it to keep getting bigger.

The financial savings associated with the program opens up higher education to so many more students, Riley said.

“It gives students a chance to think about going to college, because for some students, it’s not even on their radar,” Riley said. “It’s a really big deal for a student to get two years of college.”

The students receive a lot of support throughout the program, Conway said. They meet regularly with their dean, their academic advisor from Thomas College, their high school counselor and Conway himself.

“The program is open to anybody that wants to work,” Conway said. “Having the right temperament and work ethic is more important than being one of the top-tiered students.”

Work ethic and organization were among the biggest challenges for Lapierre and Lanpher.

“Balancing everything was a challenge, and this year was a bit of a struggle,” Lanpher said.

“The hardest part was planning our schedules and making everything fit,” Lapierre added.

The pair often worked together on assignments and supported each other throughout their time in the program. The two have known each other for years, and Lapierre works in the accounting office at Lanpher’s father’s recreational vehicle business, so they were able to keep each other organized during the last two years.

Both said they would encourage friends and relatives to enroll in the Pathway program because of the financial savings and the ability to be two years ahead of the average high school student upon graduation.

“I was talking to some middle school kids as part of volunteering with the National Honor Society, and it was an eye opener for me as I was explaining to them what I’ve done,” Lanpher said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Lanpher said even though he doesn’t plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree, he thinks the experience was well worth the effort.

“I realized how big of an accomplishment it was and wanted to encourage (the younger students) because they have this plan and Pathways program laid out in front of them,” he said. “I pushed them and encouraged them to absolutely take advantage of the opportunity.”

Lapierre and Lanpher will receive their associate degrees Saturday at the Thomas College graduation ceremony in the Harold Alfond Athletic Center in Waterville. The graduating class of 208 is the largest in the school’s history. Less than a month later, the pair will receive their high school diplomas during Maranacook’s commencement June 12.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

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