Ashland High School senior Micah Calhoun with a 3D-printed model of a turbo engine he made during his spare time and is looking forward to getting his associate liberal arts degree in math and science from the University of Maine at Presque Isle before graduating high school in June 2023. Credit: Paul Bagnall / The Star-Herald

ASHLAND, Maine — An Ashland High School senior will have a college degree under his belt when he gets his diploma next month.

Micah Calhoun received an associate in liberal arts during Saturday’s University of Maine at Presque Isle commencement ceremony.

He is the first student in Ashland High School’s history to graduate having already earned a college degree.

Calhoun studied under the University of Maine’s Early College Program, which allows high school students to take college courses at reduced tuition. He wants to pursue marine engineering at Maine Maritime Academy, and starting without a college degree would put him years behind, he said.  

“The associate’s degree helps me by cutting off a massive amount of the cost and a massive amount of the work in getting to where I need to go,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun started taking college-level classes the summer before his freshman year of high school. His interest in obtaining a degree started during an early college cybersecurity class taught by Fred Strickland at the Presque Isle campus.

On top of his high school classes, he took three university courses per semester. He also participated in golf and the cross country ski team and became an Eagle Scout in December.

It wasn’t easy.

Scheduling was a challenge. He had to coordinate two to four days of high school work while commuting to Presque Isle to take the college-level classes.

“In order to keep everybody happy, you need to be in constant communication and make sure that you aren’t neglecting one thing more than the other, and it’s just this giant juggling act,” Calhoun said.

He completed about 20 classes during his time in the Early College Program and now can worry less about tuition at Maine Maritime. He has even gotten scholarship offers.

“Just last week he got a letter from the University of Southern Maine. He has not applied to USM,” said Sherri Calhoun, Micah’s mother and a math and science teacher at Ashland High School. “They said, ‘Based on your early college success, we would like to offer you an academic scholarship to come here.’”  

Ashland has always encouraged students to take advantage of the Early College Program, said Joel Hall, superintendent and principal of Ashland High School. Students receive reduced tuition  as long as they pass those courses with a C average.

High school guidance counselor Lynwood McHatten approved Calhoun’s college classes.

“Really, he did all the heavy lifting. I just coordinated,” McHatten said.

Students in high school can take up to 12 credits per year at no charge, paid for by the Maine Department of Education and the college campus, McHatten said. Each course at UMPI costs between $800 and $900.

Calhoun recently visited Maine Maritime Academy, where he asked the registrar’s office to review what he has completed and make recommendations.

His associate’s degree will open up pathways for him to explore a masters degree with the possibility of a double major, or pick up a minor, he said. Based on students he has talked to, it’s common at Maine Maritime for students to pursue a double major or minor.

Calhoun is interested in naval architecture and logistics as primary minors.

He loves to make things, and has even created a turbo engine out of 40 different 3D-printed parts. He developed an interest in 3D modeling, computer assisted design, and 3D printing a couple of years ago and made the turbo engine during his spare time at home.

Calhoun shared some advice for other high school students looking to pursue early college education: Do the work given to you right away, because there is always something else on your plate.

“Don’t be afraid to take more than you think you can handle, but in doing so, learn how to manage your time and don’t procrastinate,” he said.