Early College High School Student First to Earn Required Credits for University of Maine at Augusta Degree while Attending High School

girl in blue dress and black cap and gown

Amber-Rae Pesek, a senior graduating from Ellsworth High School in June of 2022, is the first student ever to complete the necessary credits to earn an Associate’s degree from the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) while simultaneously completing her high school career. Pesek, who marched in the May 14th UMA Commencement Ceremony, will be officially awarded her degree in Liberal Studies in Summer 2022 following the completion of her high school career.

Pesek earned 74 credits college credits as a high school student in the UMA Early College Program and as a Bridge Academy of Maine student through Hancock County Technical Center. Credits were accumulated across the University of Maine System campuses with the majority of her credits earned through UMA. She also transferred credits for her UMA degree requirements from Eastern Maine Community College.

Christine Knight, UMA’s Director of Early College said, “(Amber-) Rae is one of the most extraordinarily driven students I have ever had the pleasure of working with in this program.  She put in countless hours in the coursework itself, while also being actively involved in the Bridge Academy of Maine Program as well as student life at Ellsworth High School.”

Sarah White, Ellsworth High School Counselor, said Pesek took full advantage of Early College opportunities. “She did this on top of balancing a regular high school course load, as well as co-curricular activities and athletics. Her diligence and perseverance paid off in spades and we are so proud of her! We are so excited to see what her future holds!”

Hancock County Technical Center Student Services Coordinator, Hope High, and Director, Amy Boles, also recognized Pesek’s efforts. “As a student in our Biomedical Sciences program and a member of our Bridge Academy, Amber-Rae has shown immense leadership and taken advantage of every opportunity she has been given.  We are so proud of her efforts in earning the necessary credits for her Associates Degree from the University of Maine at Augusta while also taking a full academic course load and being an active high school citizen.”

Mason Brewer, Program Director for Bridge Academy of Maine, agreed. “Especially during these unique and challenging times, she displayed an impressive ability to maintain a substantial course load. She is a shining example of what is possible with strong personal drive, advocacy, and planning. We are excited to follow where Rae goes from here!”

At the University of Maine System (UMS), Early College (or dual enrollment) refers to all programs in which high school students enroll in college courses. Students earn both college and high school credit when they successfully complete the course. High school students who enroll in early college courses are more likely to enroll in college, have higher grades, and have a better chance of earning a college degree. Courses are free (or at significantly reduced costs) to high school students.

The most recent data from the UMS Institutional Research and Planning Office (Spring 2022) reveals the outlook for all Early College programs is strong, with 457 high school students enrolled this spring just within UMA (2,501 system wide). This represents an 81% increase from 2018 for UMA, and a 55% increase overall for all seven institutions. Fall enrollments are typically stronger across all demographics, and data for Early College support that. The Fall 2021 statistics show that more than 3,600 students across Maine’s public universities were enrolled in Early College, with 1,056 enrolling in UMA courses.

Like her colleagues, UMA’s Knight is also very optimistic of Pesek’s future as she took advantage of Early College, and also recognized how much family support contributes to student success. “Rae is a remarkable student, and she had unending support and guidance from her family. I know she will go on to do incredible things. Once again, Rae demonstrates that with Early College, high school students can be not only college ready, but college proven!” Pesek is already exploring options for the fall at UMA and several other Maine public universities.

UMA transforms the lives of students of every age and background across the State of Maine and beyond through access to high-quality distance and on-site education, excellence in student support, civic engagement, and professional and liberal arts programs.  For more information, please visit https://www.uma.edu/. For information about UMA’s Early College Program, visit https://uma.edu/earlycollege.