C-School Honors Supporters

Posted on Wednesday April 7, 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.