Maggie Lincoln, 18, of Brewer is one of 12 students who will earn an associate's degree through the United Technology Center this year. Credit: Courtesy of Maggie Lincoln

Twelve local high school seniors are graduating this year with associate degrees and certificates from the United Technologies Center in Bangor, giving them a head start toward more school or a career.

Of the 12 students earning associate degrees, one has a degree in liberal arts studies, one in communications technology coding, and the rest are in career studies, which also come with a certificate in business management, according to Aaron Jackson, a UTC video and audio production instructor.

In addition to participating in their respective high school graduation ceremonies, many of the students will walk in the Eastern Maine Community College’s graduation on Saturday morning at the Collins Center for the Arts.

The center’s associate degree program has grown since 2019 when it was first developed, and that growth has been driven by the high school students looking for ways to earn more college credits and kick-start their careers.

“They’re the ones who are continuing to grow this program and drive its development,” UTC Director Amanda Peterson said. “They’re not waiting for the adults to figure it out. We’re here to support them, and that’s a cool thing to be a part of.”

Students from UTC’s seven local “sending schools” can take a half-day of classes in one of the career and technology center’s several programs. UTC’s areas of study range from trade programs such as automotive engineering, welding and plumbing, to law enforcement and culinary arts, among other trades.

Peterson had only three students in 2011 when she started as a business instructor. Now, the center’s business program has more than 80 students and the automotive program has 30 students — the program’s maximum due to safety reasons.

Rebecca Willette, a UTC business management instructor and former UTC student, said the center aims to prepare students for whatever they choose to pursue after graduation, whether that’s college or beginning their careers.

“We also present students with opportunities that may not be available everywhere,” Willette said. “It also gives students the opportunity to discover what they don’t like, which saves them time and money later.”

Maggie Lincoln, who earned a career studies associate degree and a small business certificate this year, said she joined UTC because she was looking for something different than her local high school was offering and wanted to set herself apart from her peers.

“As soon as I finished my first year at UTC, I knew I wanted to go into business, so finishing the degree felt natural,” she said.

Lincoln will start her freshman year at the University of Maine this fall where she plans to study marketing with a minor in education.

“Going into my first year of college, I’ll have 60 more college credits than most freshmen, which will put me in higher level classes,” Lincoln said. “It’ll be stressful, but it’ll help me graduate faster and save me so much money, so I’m grateful to be ahead in that aspect.”

Entering college with college credits will save Lincoln an estimated $20,000 based on the University of Maine’s current course prices, she said.

Lincoln said she hopes to work on the marketing team for the TD Garden in Boston due to the variety of events the area hosts. She could also see herself later teaching at a career and technical center.

“I love my teachers and I think it would be so cool to, if not work with them, work in their positions,” she said. “I’m so grateful to have found this program.”

The 12 students are: Ryan Adams, Julia Butler, James Dumond, Cole Francis, Kristen Gerrish, Gary Glidden, Jaylin Hills, Maggie Lincoln, Kimberly Penney, Allexys Wilson, all earning Certificates in Small Business Management and Associate Degrees in career studies; Trinity Plourde, earning an Associate in Liberal Studies; and Paige Schiele, an Associate in Computer Technology Coding.

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...