Governor LePage’s trade mission to Colombia promotes Maine schools

The following is a news release from the Governor’s Office.

Education leaders meet with Colombian parents, students

AUGUSTA — Representatives from two Maine high schools and one university met with Colombian parents and students on Thursday night as the State of Maine trade mission, led by Governor Paul R. LePage, continued in Bogota, Colombia.

Traveling as part of the mission are representatives of Lee Academy of Lee, Thornton Academy of Saco and Bangor-based Husson University. Governor LePage, who met earlier in the day with officials at the Colombian Ministry of Education regarding their National English Initiative, provided introductory remarks and met with attendees.

“Maine is not only a fantastic place to visit, but it’s also a terrific destination to study and invest,” said Governor LePage. “We are here to make Maine more competitive in the global marketplace. To do that, we need to strengthen and further develop relationships here in Colombia, one of Latin America’s most successful economies.”

Approximately 45 people attended the event, which was hosted by EducationUSA and coordinated through the Maine International Trade Center’s StudyMaine program, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

EducationUSA is a program that promotes educational opportunities in the United States through over 400 advising centers worldwide. Approximately 6,300 Colombian students attend college or university in the United States. With nearly half of 45 million residents under the age of 40, education is a priority for the Colombian government, with English language training being a key component.

According to the U.S. Commercial Service in Bogota, Colombia ranks 51st of 54 nations measured for English language competency, opening major opportunities for Maine-based institutions engaged in ESL programs.

Though all three institutions are no strangers to international recruitment, Colombia represents a departure from traditional markets, which tend to be in Asia. “A growing interest for professional and language studies among Colombian students means an increasingly solid market for U.S. institutions,” said Colleen Grover, Director of International Initiatives for Husson University and one of the mission delegates. “There are enormous opportunities for developing educational programming and initiatives, and we’re very appreciative of this opportunity to connect with them.”

Thornton Academy and Lee Academy also participated in the evening session to promote their boarding high school and college preparatory programs.

Also participating on the Colombia portion of the mission is South Portland-based Allagash International, which has established a branch operation in Colombia, as well as Westbrook-based IDEXX.

The mission concludes today with a State of Maine luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bogota. The Maine delegation returns home on Saturday.