Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Wayfinder Schools: A Merger to Help More Maine Youth
Two Maine organizations, over 150 years of experience, one goal: to provide Maine youth with an opportunity for growth and to achieve their full potential.
NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine – The new chair of the board, Fredric W. Williams, announced today that Wayfinder Schools of Camden has merged with Opportunity Farm to create “Wayfinder Schools.”
The merger has been carefully planned for over two years. Both organizations have shared the same goal of encouraging life-long learning and providing students with the skills and experiences necessary to connect with their families, practice personal responsibility, and contribute to their communities. Dr. Dorothy Foote has been named the new Head of School. The transaction represents a $1.6 million combined budget. “On behalf of the entire board of trustees, I am very pleased to celebrate this day,” said Williams. “We have gone through an extremely thorough process to prepare for this merger, and I am confident that we will be able to serve more Maine youth in a more effective manner.”
“We have created a program at Wayfinder Schools with a proven track record of success in educating teenagers by meeting them where they are, rather than expecting them to fit into the mold of a traditional classroom. Our model has also been cost-effective on a per pupil basis, and through this merger we are expanding our program to serve more Maine youth,” Foote said.
In 2009, Opportunity Farm’s board of trustees realized that a new way of working with youth would revitalize the entire organization, while at the same time improving results and decreasing the cost per student. Through a ‘request for proposals’ process, Opportunity Farm’s board contracted with Carole Martin and Common Good Ventures (CGV) to begin a discussion about changing its residential programs. Opportunity Farm and CGV looked at different program models designed to best support underserved adolescents in Maine. They researched what the trends around these youth were, what they needed to be successful, which parts of the state needed assistance, current graduation rates, and other data in order to identify how to make the biggest impact. Through an extensive process, Opportunity Farm realized that what kids needed in the 21st century is a high school diploma that focuses on the whole individual.
In the summer of 2010, Opportunity Farm and CGV sought potential partners and interviewed seven organizations in their desire to find the best match. Because of its strong track record in keeping kids in school, its ability to cost-effectively deliver high quality services, and its visionary leadership, the board decided that Wayfinder Schools was the best possible partner for the future, and in ensuring the best possible outcomes for the broadest number of Maine youth.
“It is my belief that the two organizations are bringing highly complementary strengths together and they have all the essential elements for success,” stated Carole Martin, a respected organizational consultant from Rockland who represented CGV in the merger process. “They have done an enormous amount of hard work to ensure a smooth transition. The future is bright.”
Wayfinder Schools, Maine’s first alternative high school, was founded in 1973 by Maine educators Dora Lievow and Emanuel Pariser and provides two core programs: a nine-month Residential Program, and a home-based Passages program for teen parents, both of which culminate in a state of Maine approved high school diploma. “Our use of restorative justice practices, strengths based work and Positive Youth Development provides some of the greatest support of adolescent success today,” Foote said.
Both Wayfinder Schools and Opportunity Farm agree that the best way to support at risk youth is to provide high quality access to education. Both organizations have also placed heavy emphasis on community service and community engagement. This entails everything from volunteering with the local fire department to serving as after school mentors, to engaging with the natural world and learning how to become more environmentally conscious. As one Wayfinder Schools graduate stated, “Students graduating know how to hook into a community and become civically engaged. They learn to invest not only in themselves but in their world.”
The merger honors Opportunity Farm’s 100 year history of serving Maine youth, while bringing Wayfinder Schools’s successful program model to a second campus and allowing the combined entity to serve many more adolescents in Maine.
The majority of the school’s funding comes from grants and fundraisers. Wayfinder Schools never turns a student away due to an inability to pay, and tuition assistance and scholarships are available. The newly formed Wayfinder Schools will provide opportunities for more than 60 students during the first year of operation.
Wayfinder Schools brings an experienced and pioneering team of educators led by Dr. Foote, as well as a strong track record of success in working with Maine youth in innovative ways. Dr. Foote has years of research experience in adolescent psychology and the development of social justice programs, and serves as an adjunct professor of adolescent psychology at The University of Maine.
Wayfinder Schools will give many at-risk adolescents in Maine the tools they need to reach their potential and become confident, actively involved members of their communities. Not only will this merger prove to be an asset to the students, but it will also enhance the local communities and the state of Maine.
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
The Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) recently featured Wayfinder Schools on its program, Maine Things Considered. Wayfinder Schools staff spoke with reporter, Tom Porter, on our recent merger.
You can read (and hear!) the story via this link: School Merger Aims to Help More Maine ‘At Risk’ Youth
Thursday, July 7th, 2011
(Biddeford, ME) – Mrs. Barbara Bush announced today that the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s Maine Family Literacy Initiative (MEFLI) (www.mainefamilyliteracy.com) has awarded $25,000 to The Passages Program of Wayfinder Schools.
Passages Program Director Martha Kempe proudly accepted the award from Mrs. Bush at a ceremony held at the J. Richard Martin Community Center in Biddeford, on June 15, 2011. The grant will be used to support the family literacy work of Passages, a home-based high school diploma program for teen parents, aged 14-20, residing in Knox, Lincoln, Waldo, and Washington counties. The Passages Program provides individualized instruction to students in their homes, thereby eliminating student need to secure daily childcare and transportation to attend school. Students and teachers form strong relationships based on mutual learning and respect for students’ strengths, needs and their desire to be the best parents they can be. Students work at their own pace to meet 24 core skill requirements in Academics, Parenting, Life Skills, including math science, social studies, English language, budgeting nutrition, family literacy, child development and more. Both parents and their young children participate in this program, which includes strong adult, early and intergenerational family literacy components.
“The abilities to read, write and comprehend enable people to create brighter and more prosperous futures for themselves, their families and their communities,” said Mrs. Bush. “The staff and volunteers with the MEFLI programs are making a wonderful difference in many lives, and I am proud of their work to make Maine a more literate state.”
A total of ten grants of $25, 000 were awarded this year from applications submitted by libraries, adult education and public schools across the state. Programs receiving support provide family literacy services including adult and early childhood instruction, and time for parents and children to read together. An additional two planning grants of $5,000 each will help communities develop the partnerships and resources needed to implement a family literacy program in 2011.
Five “Lighthouse Model Programs” grants of $25,000 have also been awarded to well-established, model family literacy programs that have proposed outreach activities to support the promotion and expansion of family literacy services in Maine. Applicants were selected based on their ability to demonstrate experience and success in providing family literacy programming, the creativity of their outreach activities, and the diversity of their partnerships and target audiences.
Since 1996, The Maine Family Literacy Initiative has awarded 243 grants totaling $4,341,991. To learn more, visit www.mainefamilyliteracy.com