Archive for April, 2010

Dancing with Local Stars

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Save the date for this year’s Dancing with Local Stars event, Friday, April 15, 2011. Watch this page for details!

We Are National Champions

Friday, April 9th, 2010

National Champions - Fastest High School Team

Currently, the C-School You Later toboggan team from Wayfinder Schools of Camden, Maine is a member of an elite club of national champions, which includes the likes of the New York Yankees and New Orleans Saints.  Yes indeed, we are national champions!

While the attendance at the National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl this past weekend may pale in comparison to the millions who tuned into the World Series and Super Bowl, the character it took to endure single digit temperatures over the course of a full weekend and to continually accept the reality of climbing onto a thin slab of wood with a few of your closest friends and being shot out of an icy chute at 40-50 miles an hour across a frozen lake with no clear way of knowing how or when you were going to stop at the very least provides the rest of us ordinary champions with a sound and deserving reason to feel proud of ourselves.

Ian Betts (a student at Wayfinder Schools who did not participate in the race but stood chute-side all the while cheering on his classmates) explains, “It was a cold and long experience.  It took a lot of guts for people to go 40 miles per hour and get shot out onto a frozen lake.  However, I also questioned the intelligence of having that many vehicles on the ice.”  Ian then went on to say, “I was definitely concerned for my friends.  I mean it was pretty dangerous.  But then I was really happy for them afterwards.”

Khia Newell (a member of the all-women’s, four-person, “fastest high school” team called C-School You Later) explained: “I guess I never realized that tobogganing was that popular.  At first I was really scared.  But it was so exciting.  I definitely couldn’t have done it without all of my good friends around me.”

Natalie Paul (another member of C-School You Later) added:  “It was so fun.  I can’t wait to do it again.  We were all almost seriously injured.  But then we got better each time we went.  I just buried my face in Karen’s back and held on with all my might.”

Tyler Sabattis (the front-man of The C-School Express, which finished second in the fastest high school category behind C-School You Later) offered his perspective by saying:  “It seemed like we kept getting 8.8 seconds all day long.   But there was so much competition there that my team (The C-School Express) just wanted to make the cut and get our name up on the Finals Board.”

Jake Schmidt, (an intern at Wayfinder Schools and member of The C-School Express,) noted, “It was definitely a rush being thrown down a chute of ice at 50 miles per hour.  I was pretty cramped.  But it was so much fun.”

Zech McIntosh (C-School Express) agreed:  “It was fun, scary, and dangerous,” he said.  “And I’m glad I did it.”

Joseph Hufnagel (the Director of the Residential Program at Wayfinder Schools and humble member of the less accomplished Mountain Donkey toboggan team) beamed:  “I am so proud of these kids,” he said.  “What a special group!  When we first started talking about the idea of entering a couple of sleds into the National Toboggan Championships, I received some strange and peculiar looks.  But then we watched a few You Tube clips and started getting excited about the idea of being a part of something that seemed just crazy enough to be fun.”

“Initially, our competitive juices were turned inward and against one another,” Hufnagel continued.  “First it was the girls’ sled versus the boys’ sled and then it quickly turned into the students’ sleds versus the staffs’ sleds.  Who knows?  Perhaps it was the Legend of Granny’s Sled that served to unify us in a way once race day rolled around.”

What Hufnagel is alluding to actually emanates from a true story in which Jen Durato (a member of The Mountain Donkeys) purchased an old, creaky Sears Roebucks sled for $5 a few days before the race from a ninety year old woman who proceeded to explain to her how the last time she was on it, as a little girl,the sled just kept going and going…down the hill, through the corn field, through the apple orchard, through the wheat field.  It just kept going and going.’  Or so she said.  Anyway, we all wound up sharing Granny’s Sled and it actually wound up being pretty fast,” Hufnagel explained.

Alix McLean (a Residential Overnight Counselor at Wayfinder Schools and member of The Mountain Donkeys) shared, “There have been moments throughout this term when I have thought to myself,  “I am doing something right now that I may never feel comfortable doing alone”. But in the presence of this amazing community of students and staff, I have felt surprisingly connected, comforted, and grateful to find myself surrounded by these great individuals and in the midst of this incredible adventure that we seem to be on together.”

Cathy Ames (the culinary instructor at Wayfinder Schools and proud member of the C-School Express) observed:  “That may have been the craziest 8.8 seconds of my life.  As we were sliding and spinning around across the ice it was so quiet and intense, and I just kept hoping that nobody was going to let go. “

When asked what made them get back on the toboggan and do it again after they crashed so badly the first time, Khia Newell (C-School You Later) explained:  “Cause we wanted to bring it home and finish what we started.  I don’t think our school has ever had a trophy before and now we do.  I guess I just wanted to be able to say that we won.”

Khia later went on to add:  “When we woke up on Sunday morning we weren’t going to do it.  But then we realized that there was no point in stopping there because we hadn’t really accomplished anything yet.  I guess we just really wanted to finish what we started.”

Laughingly, Billie Pirruccello (C-School You Later) added:  “It was so scary getting back on the sled again after we crashed the first time.  We were all pretty sore and bruised, but then we thought, well it’s nothing that can’t be fixed.”

Karen Johnson (C-School You Later) recalled:  “The scariest part for me was having to go down first before the boys’ sled.  Go girls!  It was exciting.  It got tiring and we got pretty beat up.  I was definitely happy to be done when it was all over.  But now I’m thinking that we all need to meet back here again next year.  Or at least all the girls are gonna have to come back to kick some butt again.”

Eric Knight echoed this sentiment.  “Was it worth it?” he asked.  “Let me put it this way, I think I got frostbite on my legs and I never even went down the chute myself.  But I think it was worth it.  Next year our C-School Reunion sled is going to have to come back to defend our title.”

Tyler Sabattis (The C-School Express) concluded:  “All in all, it was a phenomenal experience.   There were so many toboggans and interesting people there.  My highlight definitely had to be the actual racing and the competition.  I mean there were over 400 sleds in the competition and we had a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing.  At least the other half of us won and we came close ourselves to bringing home the gold for the fastest high school.”

The Winning Run

C-School Spirit Shines at Coffee House

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Music, dance, and a whole lotta laughter filled Wayfinder Schools’s living room on Thursday night as students, staff and volunteers broke new ground on what’s sure to become a long-standing C-School tradition, the open mic coffee house.

Residential Overnight Counselor and event organizer Alix McLean spent much of Thursday decorating, preparing food and setting up the sound system, and by the time the event kicked off, the school had the feel of a funky art house/coffee house, complete with tapestries, white lights and a photo exhibit from the kids’ recent trip to New York City. 

On that trip, which was extended by one day due to the breakdown of the school’s van on the drive home, students celebrated the crossing of each state’s border by singing the National Anthem.  It seemed appropriate, then, to launch the coffee house with a lively rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, which had everyone singing to the rafters, and (mostly), on key. 

 The first individual performer to take the stage was C-School culinary instructor Cathy Ames-Cruz with a silly, rhyming ditty that showed off her inner-rapper and hidden talent for the stage.  Who knew that in-between baking brownies and whipping up multi-course dinners, Cathy is a secret actress/singer/dancer/rapper/poet?    Her performance of “Harry the Hairy Ape” set a great tone for the evening, and inspired the next act, an alarmingly good dancing chicken interpretation by student Tyler Sabattis.  

How Tyler managed to wrap his red long johns around himself in a way that forced his body into an undeniable chicken shape and move around the room so gracefully, while still leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was, in fact, a chicken, will probably always remain a mystery.  But his performance combined just enough over-the-top “wow” factor to send it from the silly to the (almost) sublime.  

Next up was intern Jake Schmidt, and students Ian Betts and Erich Knight, with a baritone version of “I Feel Pretty”, complete with lipstick, heels and a dress worn by Mr. Betts.  They got the well deserved laughs they were after, but they also pulled off a pretty (no pun intended) solid musical performance. 

Betts, Knight and Sabbatis then took the stage together to show off their dance moves to “Yummy”, a performance that prompted Residential Program Director Joseph Hufngael to say, “We’re having dress rehearsal next time.” 

The night took a more serious and definitively artistic turn with the next performance, by student and singer-songwriter Zech McIntosh.  Zech took the floor with his guitar and wowed everyone to silence with his soulful strumming, vocals and lyrics.  His untitled work left no doubt in anyone’s mind that this kid has got talent, and wondering how he managed to combine punk, folk, rock and pop all in one solid song.  

Next up was Lead Teacher Carrie Braman, who read a funny, insightful essay about religion, politics, pop-culture and the power of chance encounters, and with her reading, reminded everyone about the importance of observation, and putting pen to paper.  

Hufnagel and the students, especially Betts and classmate Natalie Paul,  showed off their acting ability in a short video reenactment of an actual school-wide hiking trip gone wrong.  On that trip, students hiked for about four hours in the Camden Hills, looking for an overnight cabin they never found.  However, rather than complaining about their misfortune, the students took the whole thing in stride and good humor, and turned their experience in to a “Blair Witch Project” type video featuring shaky camera footage, ominous music, an odd encounter with a shady Park Ranger (played by Betts), and the eerily disturbing disappearance of Hufnagel and his unusual plot-unifying prop, a jar of jelly.   Thankfully, Hufnagel was actually present at the coffee house to remind everyone that what they were watching was actually (mostly) fictional. 

In the final two acts Betts and Knight took the floor again to show off their rapping skills with a rendition of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice, Baby,” and then joined the entire student body in an all school dance number, The Cha-Cha Slide.” 

All in all, it was a great start to a new tradition, and a great chance for the students to shine, once again. 

For more information about Wayfinder Schools, call 236-3000 or visit

C-School Honors Supporters

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Barb Russo presents Bruce Gamage's award

Over 50 people gathered at The Rockport Opera House on Wednesday night to honor long-time Wayfinder Schools supporters Bruce Gamage, Doug Felton and Elizabeth Biddle. 

In addition to honoring Gamage, Felton and Biddle, fourteen volunteer tutors were celebrated for their enormous dedication of time and skill to the school.  

Volunteer tutors meet with students at least once a week, and often much more frequently, to help them reach their personal and academic goals.   Some of the subject areas in which tutors provide assistance are: math, science, social studies, English Language Arts, S.A.T. prep, culinary instruction, developing personal care and goal plans, and even extra-curricular skills like knitting, crocheting and sewing.

Residential Program Director Joseph Hufnagel, Passages Program Director Martha Kempe and Lead Teacher Carrie Braman introduced each of the volunteers, to much applause from the crowd, and particularly from the students themselves.

One student shouted out that his tutor had provided “the best math class ever,” and many in the crowd were teary eyed as each tutor took the floor to accept a rose and a certificate of appreciation.

Hufnagel also had significant praise for his staff and for the students, while school co-founder Dora Lievow thanked the students for helping those in the room build a strong community.  Fellow co-founder Emanuel Pariser could not be at the event, but sent a poem, read by Head of School Dottie Foote, thanking the students and letting them know he’d be at their graduation ceremony in May.

One of the highlights of the night was a short film created by media maven and part-time staff member Carolyn Horn, who paired music, still photographs and video clips to create a compelling narrative of life at the school. 

Featured were Passages students and their children, including footage from a recent music class they participated in, and a short clip of a graduation Passage that occurred over the internet, using technology that allowed the student, who is currently living in Japan, to see and talk to her teachers as they presented her with her diploma.

Participants also saw a glimpse of residential life at the school and witnessed students preparing food, rock climbing, camping, studying, working with tutors, and even visiting New York City.  They were also treated to a voiced over video of one student performing an original poem using sign language, and another video of students learning to compost as part of the school’s new environmental education initiative with the Newforest Institute.

Participants also heard about the student’s internships in the community, about their new partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and about the many community service projects they’ve participated in since September.

The highlight of the video was recent footage of the students at The National Toboggan Championships.  It was thrilling to see the students zip down the chute on their five dollar yard sale sled, and even more thrilling as the girl’s team, “C-School Ya Later” took home the National Toboggan Championship prize for fastest high school.

The crowd burst into applause as the student’s championship status flashed on the screen, and it would be (mostly) safe to say there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

After the video, Foote spoke of the enormous contributions of long-time volunteer Biddle, who has served the school in many capacities, including as board member and long-time policy advisor.  Hufnagel spoke fondly of Felton, who has dedicated thousands of technical assistance hours to the school, and most recently spent many months volunteering to help create the school’s new web-site. 

Board President Barbara Russo introduced Gamage, and his wife, Becky, and they took the floor together to accept a wood-framed plaque honoring their years of service to the school.  Gamage has run the school’s highly successful fundraising auction for close to thirty years, and Russo said, “I don’t know what we’d do without him.”

Russo spoke of Gamage’s other volunteer service as well.  Over the years, he has helped raise over one million dollars for local charities, so the crowd was particularly pleased when Gamage said that Wayfinder Schools has a special place in his heart.