When Caleb Bailey heads to the University of Maine this fall, he will enter as a sophomore, skipping a whole year of early morning introductory classes and exams, and saving about $24,000 in the process.

Bailey, 18, will be the first student to graduate from Thornton Academy and decide to attend the university’s College of Engineering through a first-in-the-state partnership between the two schools. The program’s goal is to fulfill a need for engineers in Maine and create a pipeline for students who are motivated to enter careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Bailey carried a rigorous course load throughout high school, including Advanced Placement classes in chemistry, physics, computer science, calculus, English composition and human geography, as well as English literature at Southern Maine Community College.

In the end, his extra effort translated into 30 college credits – enough to cover his freshman year at Maine’s flagship university in Orono and make it possible to get a bachelor’s degree in three years.

“I didn’t even know it was an option until halfway through my freshman year at Thornton,” Bailey says. “The ability to skip an entire year is so great.”

The financial savings will come in handy for Bailey, who’s been helping his mom, Danielle Cote, make improvements to the fixer-upper she recently bought in Saco. He also worked the last few summers at a local farm, where he planted, picked and packed vegetables seven days a week. And he tutored math team members at Burns Elementary and Saco Middle schools for the last four years.

Bailey spent much of his free time with classmates in the state-of-the-art engineering center at Thornton, a private grade 6-12 school that accepts high school students from the local public school district. He credits physics teacher Matthew Amoroso with inspiring him to pursue his interest in engineering and the opportunity offered by the UMaine partnership.

Given his strong interests in astronomy and relativity – gravitation’s relation to other natural forces – Bailey plans to major in engineering physics.

“I think it would be really interesting to work on spacecraft and try to get people on Mars,” he says.

Read all 2017 graduates to watch profiles.

— By Kelley Bouchard