Nearly 50 Maine high school students visited Southern Maine Community College Jan. 11 for an orientation to the Spring Ahead program, a Maine Community College System early-college initiative.

The Spring Ahead program is for high school students who want to get a jump start on preparing for the educational opportunities available to them after high school. Spring Ahead students complete their high school education while at SMCC, where they are enrolled in college-level courses and earn college credit. A dedicated college coach and peer mentor guide students throughout the year. The program is tuition-free with a book allowance.

Southern Maine Community College’s Spring Ahead program is part of numerous early college efforts that allow students to earn college credit while in high school. For more information, visit Courtesy photo

Southern Maine Community College’s Spring Ahead program started in 2019 with 13 Deering High School students and has grown to nearly 50 students from 14 area high schools for the 2023 spring semester.

According to a Jan. 12 news release, the program has experienced notable success with 100 percent of the 2022 Spring Ahead class continuing onto college opportunities after graduating high school and an overall success rate of 85 percent since the program’s inception.

“Our Spring Ahead program has shown enormous success and we are excited to welcome its largest class to our South Portland and Brunswick classes this spring semester,” Joe Cassidy, SMCC president, said. “This is an invaluable opportunity for students get a jump start on their college credentials and prepare for their futures after high school.”

Nearly 40 percent of Spring Ahead students have continued their studies at Southern Maine Community College. The University of Southern Maine, University of New England, University of Maine in Orono, University of Massachusetts Boston and Endicott College are just a few of the other schools these students have gone on to attend.


“The exciting part about this program is that we are with each and every student throughout the entire process,” said Patrick Haviland, SMCC Spring Ahead coach, in an email. “Spring Ahead coaches are engaged with the students and there to support their needs. We have frequent meetings with students to ensure they are comfortable with their experience.”

Haviland said a critical part of the program is to ensure each student is part of the SMCC community. “We give each student a meal allowance so they can dine on campus,” Haviland said. “Each student has access to the HUB Gym, athletic facilities, library, Learning Commons, and all other facilities and resources. Spring Ahead students also take regular classes with other SMCC students, so they integrate with the community at large.”

Current Southern Maine Community College student Brandon Stocker was one of the students that started their college journey in the Spring Ahead program. “I was so excited to come to SMCC,” said Stocker in an email. “The Spring Ahead coaches reached out immediately after I signed up and showed that they were here to support me in every way. The support really made it easy for me to decide to stay at SMCC. The coaches are incredible.”

High school students must meet all high school and college requirements and have the recommendation of their high school to participate in the program. Currently, students from Baxter Academy, Bonny Eagle, Bonny Eagle Learning Center, Cape Elizabeth, Deering, Greely, Scarborough, South Portland, Yarmouth, York, Kennebunk, Freeport, Mt. Ararat and Westbrook high schools are participating.

Greely High School Counselor and College Planning Coordinator Melissa Fowler said getting college experience while in high school is too good an opportunity to pass up.

“The high school kids still participate in their athletics or band or chorus or whatever they want to do during their high school semester while they are at SMCC,” Fowler wrote. “They don’t have to lose that part of the high school experience. But they can attend SMCC with free tuition and books, a ton of support, food and Willard Beach. It’s pretty great. I hope that more high school counselors become familiar with the Spring Ahead program to help students find their path.”


“I’m excited to get used to the college atmosphere and being around a community that isn’t my own,” said Deering High School student Anja Frank in an email. “Throughout my high school experience, I’ve been surrounded by the same kids and the same faces. Not only does Spring Ahead get me started on college courses, but the experience will also help ease my first-year college nerves and anxiety.”

Spring Ahead students, along with any high school graduates from the years 2020-2023 can continue their education tuition-free at Southern Maine Community College through Maine’s Free College initiative.

Southern Maine Community College’s Spring Ahead program is part of numerous early college efforts that allow students to earn college credit while in high school. For more information, visit

High schools or students interested in learning more about the Spring Ahead program or other early college offerings at SMCC should contact Matthew Goodman, dean of Academic Excellence and Strategic Initiatives, at [email protected]

Oldies Dance Group raises funds for Ronald McDonald House

The Rock n’ Roll Oldies Benefit dance held last fall to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Portland raised $8,346. It was the 20th benefit dance and to date, the Oldies Dance Group has raised $93,846 for Ronald McDonald House, which provides comfort for the families of pediatric patients and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and enables family centered care to ensure that family members are fully supported and actively involved in their child’s care.


The next Rock n’ Roll Oldies Benefit Dance is scheduled for 7 p.m. to midnight, April 15 at the Biddeford Eagles Hall, 57 Birch St. For more information, purchase tickets or volunteer, call Bruce Martin at 207-284-4692. Courtesy photo

“We are deeply humbled and grateful to be the biggest community fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Portland,” said Bruce Martin, Oldies Dance Group organizer, in a Jan. 13 news release. “We kindly thank everyone who has attended the dances through the years and to all of those individuals and businesses who have shown their commitment to assisting sick children and their families.”

Businesses and individuals making donations for the November dance included Saco & Biddeford Savings, International Sound Corporation, McDonald’s Garage, Savvy Rentals, Amvets Biddeford, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Copy It, Arctic Glacier Ice, Hannaford,  The Long & Short Of It, Reny’s, Sanel NAPA, Reilly’s Bakery, Beach Bagel, JD Stewart, David’s Subs, Lucky Loggers, Ray’s Market, Sweet Sunrise and The New Moon Restaurant.

Also making donations to the November dance were Good Day Barber, Pizza by Michael, Subway, Rapid Ray’s, JJ Eatery, Bob & Mikes, Trillium, Marden’s, Everlasting/Moore, Mel’s Raspberry Patch, Cole Road Café, Applebees, Mi Pueblo, Lord’s Seafood, LongHorn Steakhouse, Golden Rooster, Michelle Parent, Bruce Pitt, Saco Bay Variety, Allouette, St. James School, Selby’s Shoe Store, Brady’s Screen Printing, Bayley’s Lobster, Ken’s Place, Dairy Queen, Jimmy the Greek’s, Landry’s Shop & Save, The Home Depot, Clambake, Red Door, Shaw’s, Val’s Scratch Kitchen and Sea Salt Lobster.

Other donations were made by Alisson’s Restaurant, Run of the Mill; Sebago Brewers, Federal Jack’s, AutoZone, Advanced Auto,  Tractor Supply, Craft Gallery, Sanford Sewing Machinery, Deering Lumber, Northeast Transmission, Joe Fallo, Jim Godbout Plumbing & Heating, Bayley’s Campground, Rumorz Bistro, Webb Law, Crest Motel, Lisa Lavigne, Beachway Market and George’s Italians.

The next Rock n’ Roll Oldies Benefit Dance is scheduled for 7 p.m. to midnight, April 15 at the Biddeford Eagles Hall at 57 Birch St. Tickets are $10 and seating is limited. “It’s just a great night out to have fun, listen to great tunes and do something to support a great cause,” Martin said in an email. “We are also looking for committee members who want to help.”

For more information, purchase tickets or volunteer, call Bruce Martin at 207-284-4692.

Jon Kachmar, executive director of the Eastern Trail Alliance, stands on a culvert at West Brook that runs under the next phase of the off-road trail expansion. The ultimate goal is to have a trail from Portland to Kittery, eventually connecting to the proposed 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway envisioned to link Key West, Florida, to Calais via off-road trails. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

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