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Gallery: Maine Community College’s professional logging program

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    Gallery: Maine Community College’s professional logging program - Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Donald Burr, head coordinator of Maine Community College System's mechanized logging operations program, gives a thumbs-up to a student rolling past in a grapple skidder.

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    Gallery: Maine Community College’s professional logging program - Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Payton Ross, 19, of Rangeley sits in the cockpit of a delimber, which strips trees of their limbs and stacks the logs in piles for transportation. Ross graduated from high school in June, joined the mechanized logging operations program in July and already has a job lined up after he completes the course this month.

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    Gallery: Maine Community College’s professional logging program - Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Jessica Michalik, 25, stands near the eight-wheeled harvester that she's learning to operate through Maine Community College System's mechanized logging operations program – a three-month, tuition-free course. Michalik had a forestry background before joining the program but now has the ability to train on a variety of heavy equipment. Mechanized logging also levels the playing field between men and women in the industry. "It's pulling levers," she said about the high-tech cockpits in which they operate. "It's a video game. It's not about strength."

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    Gallery: Maine Community College’s professional logging program - Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Andrew Cole, 20, of Houlton climbs into the feller buncher that he's learning to operate. He will soon graduate from the Maine Community College System's mechanized logging operations program. "Honestly, it's a godsend," he said of the free tuition. "I am just blessed to be out here to learn so many great things." Cole still has to pay for food, transportation and about $75 per week for boarding. He has a job interview scheduled for the day after his graduation this month.

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    Gallery: Maine Community College’s professional logging program - Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Ahren Harrison, 18, of Staceyville stands near the grapple skidder he's learning to operate in the Maine Community College System's mechanized logging operations program that will allow him to join the lumber industry in high-skilled logging jobs. "It's been really nice to not have the debt of a regular college," he said. If not for free tuition, Harrison would be cutting wood by hand with his stepfather. He said he hopes working in mechanized forestry will lead to greater financial success.

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