Wayfinder Schools annual dinner honors longtime volunteers

Posted on Wednesday March 9, 2011

Close to 60 people attended Wayfinder Schools’s annual dinner on February 17 at the Rockport Opera House, as the school honored long-time volunteers John and Louisa Enright, Gail Nicholson and Linda Leonard for their significant contributions to the school. Also recognized were the school’s team of academic volunteers, who donate considerable time each week to helping students with math, science, English Language Arts, individual research projects, time management, post-graduation plans and more.

The night’s speakers included Head of School Dorothy Foote, Residential Program Director Joseph Hufnagel, Passages Program Director Martha Kempe, Lead Teacher Carrie Braman, Development Director Michelle Peaco, and students from the Passages and Residential Programs.

The first student to speak was Passages student Jennifer Bodman, who spoke about the program’s impact upon on her life as a teen parent seeking her high school diploma. “I was scared,” Bodman said when she learned she was pregnant during her junior year of high school. Now on track to graduate this spring, Bodman thanked her teacher, Andrea Itkin, and said, “I couldn’t have done it without Wayfinder Schools.”

Six Residential Program students then stood to introduce themselves and share what they’ve learned during their Green Initiative and Social Justice and Diversity classes. As part of these classes, students have been studying the localvore food movement and making changes to the school’s culinary program. At the dinner, they presented the results of their research on the meat packing industry, which helped raise student awareness about environmental, economic, health and safety issues. They conducted their own food cost comparisons and made compelling arguments for the purchase of locally grown meat for the school. They also invited those in attendance to get more involved in food issues, and encouraged them to watch the documentary, Food, Inc.

After the student presentations, attendees watched a short but powerful film about The Passages Program. The film featured interviews with several Passages students who spoke about the positive impact the program has had upon their parenting, academic and long term goals.

The final portion of the evening was dedicated to the school’s volunteers. Braman spoke about the important role academic tutors play in students’ lives, and, along with art teacher Tom Butler, presented each tutor with a certificate and a single red rose.

Hufnagel then spoke about long-time volunteers John and Louisa Enright, who in addition to serving on the school’s board of directors, have acted as dedicated tutors in math and science. John served four years active-duty with the Air Force Intelligence Service before the couple moved to Washington, D.C., where they raised two sons. Before retiring and moving to Maine seven years ago, John pursued a long career in information technology and development, working for the both the Northrop-Grumman and Dynamics Research Corporations. The couple now volunteers actively in the Camden community, in between frequent visits to South Carolina to share time with their sons and growing brood of grandchildren.

Peaco then spoke about volunteer Gail Nicholson, who has dedicated countless hours to the school’s fundraising efforts, whole simultaneously acting as cheerleader and support person to the school’s staff. Peaco said, “She opens her home to us during the auction, she works with us in the evenings to catalogue auction items, and she supports and nurtures the staff.” Nicholson, who moved to Maine in 2002 after a long career as Court Curator for the US Supreme Court, is now also working on the school’s Dancing with Local Stars committee. “She does all this, Peaco said, because she believes in our school, and our students.”

Foote then introduced honoree Linda Leonard, and describing Leonard as a strong businesswoman and mentor. Leonard has served on the school’s board of directors, and has been a longtime volunteer and mentor to students. Leonard has had a long and extraordinary career in the design world, and is currently mentoring a former student as he develops a line of jewelry for distribution throughout Maine and beyond. Leonard is extremely passionate about the school, and the students, and has spent significant time making improvements to the school’s building and grounds. After receiving her award, Leonard spoke about how much fun she’s had working with the school, and how much she enjoys mentoring students. She also thanked others in the audience who have helped her in her efforts to redecorate the school with new furniture, lighting fixtures, window treatments, floors and paint. Hufnagel also acknowledged Leonard’s hard work on facilities improvements and said, “I think we have the best furnished alternative school in Maine.”

Foote closed the program by acknowledging the students, and thanking them for inspiring the school’s alternative approach to education. “You asked for something new, and demanded that we work hard to provide it, so thank you for inspiring this work.”