Fort Kent teen is graduating high school and college this year 

4 weeks ago

FORT KENT, Maine — In a couple of months, 17-year-old Austin Jean will have both his diploma from Fort Kent Community High School and an associate degree in business from the University of Maine at Fort Kent. 

Jean started taking business courses at UMFK because he hopes to become a certified public accountant and open his own business in Fort Kent.

“I’ve always been good with numbers,” he said. “But when I took my first accounting class, it really sparked that interest for me.”

Fort Kent Community High School Principal John Kaleta said they are incredibly proud of Jean’s accomplishment, and this will give him a great jumpstart on his future.

Kaleta said students at the high school have taken advantage of the dual enrollment program for about 12 years. But this is the first time someone has ever graduated from the high school with a college degree.

“Austin here has seemingly done the impossible,” he said. “This is kind of what we had dreamed of at the beginning — having someone get an associate’s degree and graduate from high school at the same time.”

While simultaneously finishing high school and college is an achievement in itself, Jean also works two jobs and participates in sports.

FORT KENT, Maine — April 30, 2024 — Austin Jean, 17, of Fort Kent, is set to finish both high school and college later this year. He is the first student at Fort Kent Community High School to do so in the 12 years that they have offered dual enrollment. (Chris Bouchard | St. John Valley Times)

His weekends, and some weekdays, are spent working at a local Hannaford grocery store. And when he doesn’t have a scheduled shift at Hannaford, he works at Bouchard Family Farm.

A typical day for Jean begins between 4:30 and 5 a.m., when he starts working on the previous day’s homework.

“Then I come [to the high school] for class, and then I go to college,” he said. “I have some classes there. Then I do some homework at the college, come back here for another class, go home, and do more homework after that.”

Jean said he particularly enjoys taking business classes at UMFK.

“I have a good relationship with the business teacher, Dr. [Michael] Curran,” Jean said. “He understands me pretty well.”

And even though UMFK’s campus is next to Fort Kent High School, only a few classes were taken in-person. The majority of classes, he said, were taken online.

Margaret Guimond, Director of Early College at UMFK, said Jean’s hard work will inspire his peers to utilize dual enrollment opportunities offered by the high school and university.

“Austin has used his personal narrative with UMFK Early College to inspire other students to be curious about their future, whether that takes shape as taking a course for credit, or just reaching out to a faculty member on campus with questions and curiosity,” Guimond said.

UMFK Executive Director of Marketing and Brand Management Heidi Carter said the university is incredibly proud of Jean’s accomplishments.

“He is an inspiration to his peers and it will be exciting to see his future unfold,” Carter said.

Jean said about 12 hours of his day are spent on school activities. After this, he works between three to five hours a night.

Jean said he gets through it all by simply prioritizing the most important tasks.

“I make myself a schedule with what’s due first,” he said. “That’s what I start with, and then I just take it from there.”

While doing all of this, he managed to find time to participate on the high school’s wrestling team.

“It was a lot to adjust to, because on Saturdays we’d be on the bus at three o’clock in the morning,’’ he said of his experience on the wrestling team. “And we wouldn’t get back until like midnight or one o’clock in the morning if we were lucky.

This Saturday Jean will participate in UMFK’s graduation. And on Monday, he will begin an internship with local CPA Lee Theriault. He will spend about 15 hours a week while still in school, but once he graduates he will be at the office between 25 to 30 hours a week. 

Looking ahead, he hopes to obtain a bachelors in business, also from UMFK, and then to get his master’s degree at the University of Maine at Orono.

MACHIAS, Maine — May 4, 2024 — Van Buren High Schooler Addion Davis is pictured here during his graduation ceremony at the University of Maine at Machias. Davis completed his college courses and received an associate’s degree before finishing high school. (Contributed photo)

Addion Davis, another St. John Valley teen, will also graduate from high school and college this year. Davis is attending high school in Van Buren and will receive a degree from the University of Maine at Machias.