Archive for June, 2010

Passages students to graduate Saturday

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Nine students from Wayfinder Schools’s Passages Program for teen parents will graduate this Saturday, in the school’s third, and final, graduation ceremony of the season.

Tiphani Williams, Christian Roberts, Misti Norwood, Naomi DeWalt, Nicole Wallace, Renee Grey, Naomi Marr, Kristina Ott and Sarah Troxel will receive their high school diplomas on Saturday, in what is sure to be another emotional day of well deserved celebration for these young students.

The Passages Program is a home-based high school diploma program for teen parents, and in order to graduate, students must complete requirements ranging from traditional academics to parenting skills.

Students complete work in 23 core areas, including math, science, social studies, English language arts, nutrition, budgeting, and child development.

They do all of this while raising children, and sometimes, holding down jobs or internships at the same time.

Students must also complete a final graduation project, or “Passage”, which they present to a team of advisors before graduation. Each Passage project represents a particular passion, fear, goal or challenge for the student, and they typically spend many months working on their projects.

For her Passage, Naomi Marr is learning to play guitar, and has been learning a particular song her grandfather used to play for her, so that she can play it for her own young child as he grows up, and pass on an important family musical tradition.

Tiphani Williams is learning how to knit, and is making a hat and slippers for her young son. Christian Roberts is designing a computer game, and Naomi DeWalt is conducting a clothes and food drive for the homeless.

Misti Norwood is job shadowing at a local hair salon in preparation for applying to cosmetology school in the fall. Nicole Wallace worked with a nutritionist to expand her cooking options and she has put together a recipe book for her two young sons with special nutritional needs.

Renee Grey is starting a young mom’s playgroup to help young mothers break through the isolation of new parenthood. Kristina Ott is learning to bake with the help of a local pastry chef, and is creating a cookbook.

Sarah Troxel is learning how to drive, moving into her own
apartment, applying to culinary school and creating a scrapbook that reflects her experiences as a new young mother.

All of these students have worked hard to complete high school, and create a better life for their children.

When they graduate this Saturday, they will be giving their children the best gift they can give them- parents who have worked hard to create a bright future for their children.

Graduation will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday, at The John Street Methodist Church in Camden.

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

Graduation night at Wayfinder Schools

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

On May 28, over 120 people filled Hall Mountain Hall in Camden to celebrate the graduation of Wayfinder Schools’s Residential Class of 2010.  Students Tyler Sabattis of Indian Township, Khia Newell of Lincoln, Zech McIntosh of Gardiner, Billie Pirruccello of Benton, Ian Betts of Deer Isle, Eric Knight of Union, Karen Johnson of Lewiston and Natalie Paul of Freeport earned well deserved high school diplomas in an emotional ceremony that left hardly a dry eye in the house.

The celebration began with a Community Potluck at Wayfinder Schools, and ended, several hours later, with staff and students embracing each other as they broke into an impromptu version of “Lean on Me.”

In between, there was a beautiful processional down Washington and Main streets, speeches, a video and slideshow, the awarding of diplomas, and a group dance.

Tyler Sabattis lead the processional with a Passamaquoddy honor song and drumming, and each student carried a colorful staff they had made themselves earlier in the week.

Each student was dressed in a different color cap and gown, and along with their colorful staffs, Sabattis’s drumming and singing, and the huge crowd of friends, family and supporters that marched alongside them, the students made a fabulous, traffic-stopping picture as they made their to high Mountain Hall.

Residential Program Director Joseph Hufnagel opened the ceremony by looking proudly upon the students and asking the crowd, “Have you ever had a dream come true?  Because this is one of mine.”

Hufnagel then asked each member of the crowd to and acknowledged staff, board members, volunteers, student employers and co-workers, friends, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, former students, and every person who has supported the school and the students over the years.  Hufnagel is fond of saying, “Without community, we’d be just another school,” and a quick look around the room on Friday night made that abundantly clear.  The community support for these students was overwhelming.

Hufnagel spoke with pride of the students, their accomplishments, their new awareness, and their responsibility to themselves.  He closed by telling the students that he loves them all, and it was abundantly clear just how much he meant it.  Hufnagel has become a father figure of sorts to the students, while simultaneously becoming a new father himself.  Hufnagel and his wife, Amy, welcomed a new baby in April.

Lead Teacher Carrie Braman was next to take the floor, as she spoke with pride about students Karen Johnson and Natalie Paul, citing Johnson’s kind heart and Paul’s love of magic and belief that anything is possible.

Residential Overnight Counselor Alix Gillian Martin spoke fondly about Billie Pirruccello and Ian Betts.  She reminisced about swimming with fellow ocean lover Pirruccelli, and dancing “goofy” dances with Betts.  She said her feet ached to dance with Betts one more time, and she read a poignant Mary Oliver poem to Pirruccello.

Residential Overnight Counselor Maureen El Hajj and Culinary Instructor Cathy Ames spoke of Eric Knight and Zech McInstosh.  Ames talked with pride of Knight’s cooking abilities while El Hajj spoke of her love for McIntosh, despite what she called their equally strong “stubborn streaks.”  She and McInstosh shared one of the most extended hugs of the evening.

Residential Overnight Counselor Scott McPherson took the floor sporting a suit and tie, along with a green Mohawk, as part of a promise he made to the graduates if they completed their requirements on time.  Martin and Hufnagel made similar promises, and sported slightly more subtlety colored hair, although Hufnagel’s hands bore tell-tale and significant traces of blue hair dye.

McPherson, who was expecting a new baby any day with his partner, Caitlin, thanked the parents in the crowd for entrusting the staff with their children, and spoke highly of Khia Newell and Tyler Sabattis.  He cited Khia’s acceptance at two colleges and Tyler’s holding of the Passamaquoddy language, and told them they can do anything they set their minds to.

After the awarding of diplomas, several parents, grandparents, friends, tutors and school supporters stood to congratulate the students.  One volunteer tutor said she’d learned more from the students than they had probably learned from her, while one proud parent said, “If there were more schools like this one, we’d all be better off.”  Several parents, teary eyed, thanked the staff, while one parent said, “You uncovered the diamond we always knew was there.”

Head of School Dottie Foote kept her closing remarks brief, but not before turning traditional commencement sentiment on its head.  Rather than asking the students to make the world a better place for others, she asked the audience to “ferociously” commit to making the world a better place for the students.

After an enthusiastic response from the crowd, the kids tossed their caps in the air and broke into their favorite all-school dance, The Cha-Cha Slide.

Eleven Passages Program students will graduate in June.