My name is Amanda Cates. I’m writing this letter to the Rockland Board of Education in reference to Wayfinder Schools. I am currently a student in the Passages program who will be graduating in May after two years of being in the program. The last grade I completed in public school was the seventh grade. I had no intention of going back to school because it was really hard for me and I could not have one-on-one time with teachers.
In 2003 I found out I was pregnant and I knew that I could not tell my kid she had to finish school and go through with it when I didn’t finish school and had no intention of going back. I knew to set a good example I had to find a way to get into a school that was willing to have one-on-one time with me and to really fully explain things that I couldn’t understand. A friend named Trisha told me about the Passages program and highly recommended it. She brought me over to fill out the forms. Two months later I was in school. At the time I was five months pregnant.
I chose to stay in Wayfinder Schools. The subjects that I studied,which they don’t have in public school, such as: pregnancy, infant care, parenting and early childhood development, prepared me for being a mom. Something that public school staff don’t address is that teenage parents have a very hard time staying in school while being pregnant and raising a child.You have to have a job to pay for day care, pay for gas, and all the other expenses that come along with having a kid. Obviously, it’s hard to stay in school, have a job, and raise a kid at the same time. There is no time in there to be with your child, to raise her; there’s just so much you would miss out on. That’s not fair to the baby or to the parent. With the Passages program, they’re willing to work around your schedule, they come to your house so you don’t have to send your child to a babysitter, and they spend a huge amount of one-on-one time with the student. The teachers support each student, going out of their way at times to help the student find the strength they need to make difficult choices.
I think that you should support Wayfinder Schools. I don’t think you fully understand how difficult it is to be a teenager and have to raise a child, have a job, yet still have no money because you have so many expenses. Wayfinder Schools allows me to be a full-time student on my own time; that way I can still get a part-time job and be a full-time mom.
I just want to thank Wayfinder Schools for everything they have done to help and support me, and for the way they made me feel confident enough to finish and get my high school diploma.
I write to you today to explain how I have become who I am and hope you will see that Wayfinder Schools in Camden Maine has been instrumental to my success.
In 1999, as a high school drop-out I found myself pregnant, and had long given up any ideas of becoming a contributing member of my community. I had lacked the self confidence and foundational education needed to complete high school. With a baby on the way, I felt destined to be the poor house wife that lived in a small apartment built off the side of her parent’s home. At least that was the case until I was introduced to the Passages Program at Wayfinder Schools. The basis on which the C-School teaches is a self directed learning program. This nontraditional style of education allowed me to work quickly through core skills that I was comfortable with, such as budgeting, science, and art. It also awarded me the freedom to take more time on skills that I had not developed such as math and reading. Also, the flexibility of having my one-to-one teacher come to me and the personalized attention was ideal for a new mother with a lack of transportation.
The Passages Program of Wayfinder Schools is so much more than just traditional academics. Core skills, like parenting, conflict resolution, and health care bring light to some of the challenges young parents are faced with as they provide for their children and themselves. Learning that to be a good mom meant that I would have to take care of myself was something I never would have been introduced to without the C-School.
Perhaps though the most significant part of the school for me was the connections it provided me with when I needed them the most. The school provided adults who could be positive role models, who could give insight and wisdom, when it was asked for, and who could instill confidence by showing their confidence in me. Wayfinder Schools and my one-to-one showed me opportunities in my life that I could not see. They supported my passions and inspirations and encouraged me with a gentle, guiding hand to develop my own moral compass, spirituality, and character. All of these things led me to become the person I am today.
The passages program has support many teen parents to become successful by their own definition. I know I am not certain of the path I would have been on today without them. Even if this program benefited just one young parent that should be enough for anyone to want to implement this program within their community.
2002 Graduate of the Passages Program
Andrea Itkin will always have a very special place in my heart. While working with her in the Passages Program she was not “just a teacher,” she became my friend and a very good support system. I grew very close to Andrea and think that she is the best teacher I have ever had.
While other teachers from my regular high school looked down on me and closed my world to a limit, Andrea supported me and opened many new doors. She taught me things I never could have learned in a regular school, but at the same time she pushed me to do my best. She brought out qualities that no other teacher has ever even tapped upon.
Andrea made me feel like it was a privilege and a gift to have a child at a young age, rather than making me feel horrible and like I messed up. When there were times I was having a rough time, she always knew and was always there to talk with me. She did not react like every other teacher and tell me to focus on my school work and not to let my personal life interfere with school. I believe she did not say things like that because she realizes that your personal life does affect your school work, and she is such a caring person.
I would love to see Andrea continue working in the program because she is so compassionate about her work. She makes time for people and their problems, not just their work.
I thank God every day that I had Andrea to help me through school, and not just “another teacher.” She is such a special person to me and always will be. Whenever I hear someone say Wayfinder Schools, or I think about the school, I will see Andrea’s glowing smile and hear her unique laugh. I am going to miss her very much, but I know that it is time now to let her touch someone else’s life in the ways she did mine.
Here I am standing in a sand pit and I am slowly sinking to the bottom. You ask why I didn’t get out while I had the chance. Well I didn’t know I was going to sink far enough that I couldn’t get out! When I realized it I called out for help, but nobody seemed to want to help me. My old high school just stood there and waved good-bye, but oh look beside me…A LADDER! I climbed up the rope and what did I find? The passage program…they led me to safety.
The passage program changed my life. It has not only made me a better mother, but an incredible student. I always thought I was dumb until I joined passages and they showed me that I was actually a very smart student with a lot of potential. They showed me that I could be anything I want to be…they showed me how to be me.
High school was a failure to me. I started out getting fairly good grades, but by the end of the quarter I had d’s and f’s in every class. Some of it was because I slacked off, but a lot of it was because I just didn’t understand the work. When I started failing I was too embarrassed to ask for help because everybody else seemed to get it and I was to teach myself what they already knew. When the f’s started overtaking my report care knew there was no way that I could possible bring those up and that no matter how hard I tried I was going to fail anyways, so I stopped trying. I started paying attention to my social life and that overtook everything. I didn’t bother do anymore school work and I skipped almost every class. Like the sand pit, I was silently calling out for help and nobody wanted to help me.
I found out I was pregnant and my whole life flashed before my eyes! How was I going to provide for this baby? I am failing in school and I have no chance at a career. I’ll just drop out and try to find a job at burger king or something. I started to walk away, but that is when passages grabbed me by the neck and said, “NO YOU WON’T!” When I called the Passage program I didn’t know that it was going to be the call that changed my life, but it was.
The passage program is so good. I have a one-on-one teacher who comes to my house and works with me. We work at the pace I need to go and don’t jump ahead until I am ready for the leap. It is all about me.
The core skills are stuff that actually relate to my life and I feel as though I can use them in the “real world”. I can open up whatever ones I want to work on and set my own assignments.
The teachers come to you and the best part…your baby can be with you. They will even stop the “class” for a minute if your baby needs a bottle, a diaper change, or even a hug.
Being a student of the Passages Program I have become an incredible student and the best part: I had it in me the whole time! I just needed a kick in the rear to get me going and that’s what the passages gave me. They taught me how important education is and how easy it is to succeed. I f I started slacking off they asked what was going on and pushed me to succeed.