Family Futures Downeast Graduates First Class at WCCC

By Lura Jackson 

It has been said that education is the great equalizer – that by attaining knowledge and skills that are valuable to society and to oneself as an individual, one can overcome any other societal barriers. It is with that philosophy in mind that Family Futures Downeast (FFD) was originally created, with a goal of elevating parents and their children out of the cycle of poverty in Washington County. Eight families graduated from the first year of the program on Wednesday, July 19th, at Washington County Community College (WCCC).

All of the families that entered in to the FFD program come from backgrounds of economic hardship. To qualify for the program – which enrolls parents in college classes while their children receive educational programming from Child and Family Opportunities (CFO) – families had to be receiving public assistance of some kind. In most cases, the parents had no college background prior to beginning the program.

Eleven families enrolled in the program for classes at WCCC. The classes were all part-time, held at night, and geared toward granting the participants core college credits at the same time as imparting useful knowledge related to interpersonal and child psychology. While the parents participated in the classes, their children were watched over by the staff at CFO. 

Difficulties abounded for parents and for organizers during FFD’s first year, much of which stemmed from it being a pilot program. As it began to level out and personnel became established, the participating families began to support each other and themselves in new ways. “You rose to the challenge,” said Alex Clifford, Academic Dean of WCCC and one of the original advisors for the program. “What’s most impressive is how you’ve gelled as a team – how you’ve come together as a group and established lifelong relationships.”

While some families dropped out during the first year, eight families made it through to the graduation ceremony, including the families of Amanda Boyd, Alycia Clark, Tammy Cox, Amber Follis, Cinthya Massy, Felicia Newell, Oceanna Perry, and Ambrosia Ross. Every single parent that completed FFD at WCCC will be going on to additional college classes, meaning that the program not only elevated its participants to a functional capacity, it elevated them well beyond the standing of the average student. 

The second year of FFD is already underway, and enrollment has exceeded that of the first year. Classes are available at both WCCC and the University of Maine at Machias. If you would like to find out more about the program or to enroll yourself, contact Marsha Sloan at msloan@sunrisecounty.org.