FARMINGTON — Jean Mason decided she wanted to go to college after raising her three sons, now ages 5, 7 and 8.

She just didn’t know how to do it.

But the 33-year-old from Livermore Falls did know where she could get help.

Mason had kept in touch with Ray Therrien, an educator she met while attending Mt. Blue High School.

He guided her through a series of traumatic events during high school, when Mason struggled with the suicide of a close friend and other problems.

They developed a student-mentor friendship that continued after graduation, with Therrien always pushing Mason to seek a higher education despite life’s challenges.

When the time was finally right for Mason to give college a try earlier this year, Therrien helped her enroll in the college transitions course at Franklin County Adult Education program in Farmington.

Mason completed the course and planned her next step after Therrien, director of the program, told her about a unique network that gives people in rural Franklin County communities more options to get a higher education.

The Franklin County Community College Network works with educators, public school districts, colleges and businesses in the area, with a goal of helping people get degrees and other job training.

The adult education center is among the partner groups and this link gave Mason a defined path to follow toward reaching her goal of working in early childhood education, she said.

She started classes this fall at Central Maine Community College in Auburn and plans to get an associate’s degree in two years. She wants a career working in special education with children younger than age 5, something she couldn’t have accomplished without help from Therrien and the network.

Mason picked her career because she wants to help others by sharing her personal experiences, having raised two autistic children, she said.

Getting a degree will also make a big difference for Mason and her family, which has been relying on the income of her husband, a logger.

Mason has started helping out other aspiring college students at the adult education center. During one of her visits last week, Therrien characterized Mason as the perfect example of a student who the center and network are trying to reach.

Therrien described the center and network as sharing a goal of being “barrier busters,” tearing down the obstacles standing between people and a higher education.

The network, founded in 2005, has offered hundreds of community college courses at sites across Franklin County, where affiliated educational institutions host the classes, according to network officials.

There have also been targeted job-training classes through the network, which has researched what skills employees need to get hired by growing businesses in the community.

Both the adult education program and network have received grants recently to expand their missions, including plans to add a campus at Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley.

Therrien praised the network partnerships for improving rural communities, many of which have to overcome the absence of more traditional educational programs.

“We are a team of individuals who are creating a better quality of living for people,” he said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]


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