Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
By Dorothy D. Foote, a school administrator in Camden
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dorothy D. Foote is head of school at Wayfinder Schools.
CAMDEN — “Thank you for having hope for me when I didn’t have hope for myself …”
These were one student’s words as she spoke to a standing-room-only crowd, prepared to graduate from Wayfinder Schools last week.
We serve youth at risk of not completing high school – students who, for a variety of reasons, have not been successful in a traditional setting.
We operate a residential program in Camden and New Gloucester and the home-based Passages program for teen parents. We work with small groups of students on a highly individualized basis to help them become connected, contributing members of society and earn a state of Maine-approved high school diploma. Our students often come into our school as disengaged learners – where a difficult event in their lives or a challenging learning or school history has derailed their success.
As researchers in adolescence, we often talk about “risk and protective factors” predictive of problem behaviors such as substance abuse or delinquency. The ultimate goal of this body of work is to increase protective factors (e.g., resources, caring adults, access to quality after-school programs) and reduce risk factors (e.g., effects of poverty, abuse and neglect, truancy or dropping out).
Certainly, it is widely known that the presence of a caring adult is one very important protective factor.
Also, what we find in our work at Wayfinder Schools is that simply keeping a youth engaged in school is one of our greatest protective factors. Our students are around caring adults who create a healthy environment for learning – which leads to a meaningful high school diploma.
Earning a high school degree is an important marker in terms of moving successfully into adulthood (high school was designed for this purpose). So, going back out into Maine communities and putting students back in school not only helps divert the possibility of delinquency, but also works with a higher moral goal and our primary belief that all students can learn and have tremendous capacity to be strong participants in our communities.
Within our progressive curriculum, which meets the student where he or she is academically and developmentally, we put much focus on relationship-building and communicating effectively – components of emotional literacy. (High emotional literacy translates directly into greater success in relationships, academics, the work force, etc.)
One significant foundational practice that provides important scaffolding for high emotional literacy at Wayfinder Schools is the use of restorative justice practices.
Restorative justice models stress inclusion and repairing relationships over exclusion and punishment in instances of wrongdoing. Many traditional schools, however, continue to use a punitive system of detention, suspension and expulsion (isolation or exclusion) in the effort to “right a wrong.”
Restorative justice practices have been used in the United States for more than 30 years. In place of separating an individual from a community after he or she acts unacceptably, restorative justice stresses bringing the individual back into relationships as the key to resolution.
At Wayfinder Schools, we observe weekly restorative circles where students practice nonviolent communication, problem-solving skills and work toward building trusting, respectful relationships with their peers and the entire school community.
In this system, all voices are heard, as the group works toward mutually agreed-upon solutions to problems, building a culture of mutual care and respect. The skills that students learn during circles – such as how to respectfully resolve conflicts and listen to and honor the feelings of others, while accepting responsibility for their own actions – continue to serve them well in their post-graduation lives, as they will have new skills to handle the challenges they will face in adulthood.
Restorative justice practices have played an integral role in our success at Wayfinder Schools – this year graduating 24 students. Since 2009, we have posted a significant graduation rate, nearly 100 percent of our students were offered jobs after graduation, and half were accepted to the college of their choice. These were students who, for one reason or another, felt they had little hope of graduating from high school.
Our use of restorative justice practices, strengths-based work and Positive Youth Development provide some of the greatest support of adolescent success today. By using restorative practices, we can combat the significantly high truancy and high school dropout rate in Maine that affects not only our youth but also our communities and the economy.
– Special to the Press Herald
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Former First Lady Barbara Bush announced awards totaling $310,000 to 14 communities in Maine to support her passion for parents and children reading and learning together. The grants are awarded through the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy which funds local programs focused on reading, writing and language comprehension.
“The ability to read, write and comprehend empowers people to create brighter and more prosperous futures for themselves, their families and their communities,” said Mrs. Bush. “The Foundation thinks it is important this year in hard times to volunteer more, give more money, and use our resources to support family literacy programs.”
The grantees were honored at a ceremony held at the George and Barbara Bush Center at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. Representatives from each program accepted their grant awards from Mrs. Bush and Doro Bush Koch, co-chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation. They were joined by U.S. Senator Susan Collins, First Lady Ann LePage and Danielle Ripich, President of University of New England.
Applications were submitted by libraries, adult education programs, and public schools across the state – seven family literacy programs were selected to receive $25,000 each. An additional two planning grants of $5,000 each will help communities develop the partnerships and resources needed to implement a new family literacy program.
Five “Lighthouse Model Programs” have also been awarded to well-established, model family literacy programs with significant outreach activities to support the promotion and expansion of services in the state. Awardees are 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.
Wayfinder Schools’ Lighthouse Model Program Award is for its Passages program for teen parents. Passages 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.
For more information about Passages, please call 236-3000. For more information The Barbara Bush Foundation’s Family Literacy Initiative, visit www.barbarabushfoundation.com or www.mainefamilyliteracy.com.
Friday, June 8th, 2012
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Head of Schools Dottie Foote recently wrote an op-ed that appeared in today’s Portland Press Herald. In the piece, Dottie shared the schools’ philosophy of utilizing restorative justice practices in our programs and the impact of positive, caring adults in a teenager’s life. Dottie states,
“What we find in our work at Wayfinder Schools is that simply keeping a youth engaged in school is one of our greatest protective factors. Our students are around caring adults who create a healthy environment for learning – which leads to a meaningful high school diploma.”
Click here to read the complete article and feel free to share the link.
We are so proud of Dottie, our programs, and our students!
Tuesday, June 5th, 2012
Click the image to the right or this link to read our latest Residential Moon Newsletter to see how our students spent their winter and spring!
Feel free to share the newsletter with your friends and stay tuned for news on our graduations and events gearing up for next fall!