Unity College 2019 graduates: Be prepared for change

by Jeanne Marquis

The theme heard at the Unity College graduation ceremony, on May 11, 2019, was the importance of being prepared for the changing world ahead. New graduates will need to do more than survive change but lead the way for others. Those who will thrive, in the decades to come, will fearlessly embrace challenges by having a deep understanding of the world and possessing the unique skills to solve 21st Century problems.

Unity College President Melik Peter Khoury announced to the 130 graduates of Unity college and their families: “Class of 2019, you have the foundation and the pedigree needed to take the next steps into this challenging green economy on a global scale. And I speak for all of us here at Unity College when I say that we cannot wait to see what those next steps are. Please, share your stories, share your successes and share your adventures.”

Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills delivered the 2019 Commencement address and was bestowed with an honorary doctorate in sustainability sciences. While on patrol in April 2012, SSG Mills was critically injured by an IED on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. He is one of only five quadruple amputees who survived from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His inspiring spirit turned his overwhelming challenges into success. After his hard road to recovery, he established the Travis Mills foundation to help other wounded veterans and wrote a New York Times best seller, Tough as They Come. Travis Mills, with a sense of humor, encouraged the graduates to embrace their own challenges – “I had one really bad at work. Then, I went on to have seven fabulous years since that day.”

The philosophy of embracing change has been deeply ingrained in Unity College since its establishment in 1967. The college founder Bert Clifford envisioned that building a college would secure their town’s future in an era when rural towns were declining nationwide. Clifford’s vision came to fruition with a college that serves the local region and attracts students nationwide.

Raymond Hall, a 2019 recipient of a master’s degree, selected Unity College Online after his own intensive search He found the academic rigor to be competitive, and the online format worked with the demands of his position as a safety specialist of environment protection at University of Texas — MD Andersen Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. (photos by Jeannie Marquis)

In recent years, Unity College also demonstrated resilience and embraced change. The college leaders’ keen ability to forecast future global needs transformed Unity college into America’s first environmental college.

All areas of study at Unity College blend academic rigor with hands-on field work and a goal of teaching students to translate their knowledge into sustainable solutions. Among their majors are Sustainable Agriculture, Biology, Marine Biology, Captive Wildlife Care and Education, Parks and forest Resources, Environmental Writing and Media studies, Wildlife and Fisheries Management, Sustainable Energy Management and Conservation Law Enforcement.

Nolan Allen, a 2019 graduate with a degree in Conservation Law Enforcement, has accepted a position as an officer on the Fairfield Police Department. Allen chose Unity College because of the flexible law enforcement major that provides him with a variety of career options. He appreciated the low student to faculty ratio, 15 to one, which gave him the chance to get to know his professors.

Recognizing a growing need for distance education, college administrators once again embraced this change and developed Unity College Online offering bachelor’s, master’s and non-degree credits. Distance education provides the flexibility, while maintaining the same high standards to reach out to professions who seek to advance their careers. Unity College Online is fully accredited and most of the online faculty are fulltime faculty or are leading experts in their fields. The online capability provides Unity College to reach students globally and provide students with more diverse field experiences.

Raymond Hall, a 2019 recipient of a master’s degree, selected Unity College Online after his own intensive search. He found the academic rigor to be competitive, and the online format worked with the demands of his position as a safety specialist of environment protection at University of Texas—MD Andersen Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas. Hall says the emphasis on problem-solving throughout the the college course work has prepared him well for challenges that lie ahead.




Pfeiffer: School budget no impact on local taxes

by Mary Grow

The good news about Vassalboro’s 2019-2020 school budget, which totals more than $7.7 million, is that it is more than $26,000 lower than the current year’s budget. It will have no impact on the local tax rate, and no adverse effect on local education.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said the major reason for the lower budget is the tuition account, which is lower because more Vassalboro students are graduating from high school than are entering.

Within the budget is a request for state approval for two new school buses, instead of the usual one a year, justified by the age and condition of Vassalboro’s fleet. Pfeiffer said bus repair costs are rising steadily.

Many other budget lines are flat or nearly so, Pfeiffer said. The only planned staff increase is a change from a half-time contracted social worker to a full-time employee.

The 2019-2020 school budget is in Articles 49 through 63 of the warrant for the June 3 town meeting. On June 11, voters will accept or reject the June 3 decision. The June 3 meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Vassalboro Community School (VCS); June 11 written-ballot voting will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the town office.

The good news about Vassalboro students is that they are welcome in the high schools they choose to attend after finishing eighth grade at VCS.

At the request of The Town Line, Pfeiffer queried officials at Winslow and Waterville high schools and Erskine Academy, in South China, about former VCS students. He got positive information from all three schools. Among Winslow High School’s graduating seniors from Vassalboro, several will be going on to college and will receive scholarships, to be announced on Class Night, according to Guidance Counselor Tom McNeil. Another senior earned her Emergency Medical Technician license through Mid-Maine Technical Center and the state; and another has a long-term internship at Vassalboro’s Duratherm Window Corporation.

“We truly value our relationship with VCS and relish the involvement of all 40 plus Vassalboro residents who attend WHS,” McNeil added.

From Waterville Senior High School, Principal Brian Laramee reported that two of the top ten students in the graduating class, including the valedictorian, attended VCS. They and five other Vassalboro students are heading for college in the fall.

Erskine Academy Headmaster Mike McQuarrie reported that four of the 32 Erskine students in a graduating class of 144 are in the top ten academically. Vassalboro students have a 100 percent graduation rate, with 30 of the 32 going on to some type of higher education and the other two enlisted in the military.

“A great contingent of young people from Vassalboro!” McQuarrie commented.

The school has received other commendations from outside its walls. In April, the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce honored Jobs for Maine Graduates head Victor Esposito as Outstanding Professional at its annual awards ceremony recognizing businesses and individuals for community service.

The good news about the Vassalboro School Board is that members are not resting on these successes, but continue looking for ways to help students even more. At their May 21 board meeting, they discussed tentative plans for a strategic planning workshop to look at goals for the next five years.

Possible topics include programs, textbooks, keeping up with technology and physical plant needs – Pfeiffer often praises building maintenance, but points out that VCS is now 27 years old.

Poverty and trauma make demands on every school, Pfeiffer observed, and “Money will always be a problem.”

Following the path of foster care youth program

by Jessica Roderick

As the JMG College Success Specialist at Kennebec Valley Community College, it has been an honor to witness, firsthand, the incredible academic journey of Jillian Cadman and Sergei Bing. Over the past three years, I have had the privilege of watching these two grow, mature and overcome many obstacles on their path to success. Jillian and Sergei are both foster care youth who have faced some serious challenges. In fact, statistics show that only 2-3 percent of foster youth actually graduate from college. These two students ignored and beat those odds, and have proceeded to write their own stories.

Jillian graduated from KVCC this past December with an associate’s degree in early childhood education and is currently interviewing for a position within her field of study. Sergei is receiving his associate’s degree in applied electronics and computer technology from KVCC next month and has already been accepted to the University of Southern Maine where he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science this fall.

Both students credit some very important support systems in place at KVCC. They were enrolled in JMG’s College Success Program, a unique college prep, bridging and attainment program that focuses on ensuring students don’t just enroll in college, but receive the support they need to attain a degree. They also received critical help from the Good Will-Hinckley College Step Up (CSU) Program, which focuses on education, life skills and network development for youth who need a supportive environment.

During a recent conversation with Sergei and Jill, they both agreed this journey has been anything but easy. They discussed their battles with anxiety, issues with self-confidence, as well as learning how to prioritize and tune out distractions. There were difficult days where they could have chosen to quit. Instead, they pushed on, proved their resilience, and were able to achieve their goals. And, I am confident that this is only the beginning. The sky is the limit for Jill and Sergei, and I cannot wait to see where the future takes them.

Maine-ly Harmony installs new officers

Maine-ly Harmony’s recently installed officers are, from left to right: Jenny Clair, Kathy Joyce, Janet Dunham, Barbara Combs, Candace Pepin and BJ Sylvester-Pellett. (Photo by Anne Danforth)

Maine-ly Harmony women’s barbershop chorus recently installed its 2019-2020 officers. Serving the chorus are president BJ Sylvester-Pellett, of Winthrop; vice president Candace Pepin, of Augusta; secretary Barbara Combs, of Topsham; treasurer Janet Dunham, of Belgrade; and members at large, Kathy Joyce, of Bowdoinham, and Jenny Clair, of China Village. Installing officer was Sue Staples, of Bangor, and membership representative was Nancy Bossie, of Chelsea. Directed by Kathy Greason, of Brunswick, the chorus welcomes singers to visit their Wednesday 6:30 p.m. rehearsals at the Emmanuel Lutheran Episcopal Church, 209 Eastern Ave in Augusta. Anyone interested in scheduling the chorus to perform for a special event or fundraiser should contact Nancie Hugenbruch at 293-4779 or email hugabook4@yahoo.com.

Area Eagle Scouts perform over 6,000 hours of community work

China Troop #479’s Assistant Scoutmaster Ron Emery described Eagle Scout Nivek Boostedt’s ceremony, above, as an occasion for pride and joy, as well as a time of reflection. (Contributed photo)

The Kennebec Valley District finished 2018 with 36 Scouts attaining the highest rank – the Eagle Scout. The Scouting district covers five counties (Kennebec, Lincoln, Knox, Franklin and Somerset) sweeping from the Canadian border to the rocky coast. In 2018, there were 141 Eagles from the State of Maine and 52,160 young men across the nation earned Scouting’s lofty award. If all of those class of 2018 Eagle Scouts wanted to gather to watch the Red Sox at Fenway Park, they would fill up all of the 37,731 seats and spill out onto Yawkey Way.

Locally, churches and charities from Jackman to Camden and from Wilton to Albion saw Scouts providing more than 6,000 hours of service just through projects led by teenagers hoping to earn their Eagle Scout rank. “This is absolutely amazing,” said Kennebec Valley District Chairman Bruce Rueger, of Wateville. “When you think of all the good that our Scouts are doing in the community from building handicap ramps to restoring forgotten veterans grave markers to making life easier for seniors and the needy and building trails and so much more- I am truly impressed. It really is heartening in this day and age to see a program where young people are taught that they have a responsibility to help other people at all times. I am so proud of our Scouts.”

The fact that a boy is an Eagle Scout has always carried with it a special significance. The award is a performance-based achievement whose standards have been well-maintained over the years. Not every boy who joins Scouts, BSA earns the Eagle Scout rank. This represents more than 2.25 million Boy Scouts who have earned the rank since 1912.

While a Life Scout, a Scout plans, develops, and gives leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, school, or the community. In addition to providing service and fulfilling the part of the Scout Oath, “to help other people at all times,” one of the primary purposes of the Eagle Scout service project is to demonstrate or hone, or to learn and develop, leadership skills. Related to this are important lessons in project management and taking responsibility for a significant accomplishment.

Eagles scouts from each central Maine counties:

Kennebec County:

Mathew Dow, Jr., of Albion – Albion Troop #446 – 26 hours of service restoring the Albion Historical Society train for educational purposes.

Alexander Steward, of Augusta – China Troop #479 – 202 hours of service building an outdoor classroom at Lincoln Elementary School, in Augusta.

Matthew Allarie, of Sidney – Sidney Troop #401 – 45 hours of service building a trophy case for the high school music department.

Nicholas Shelton, of Winslow – China Troop #479 – 98 hours of service at Waterville Creates building pottery studio shelves.

Jaxon Roan, of Oakland – Waterville Troop #417 – 358 hours of service building and installing cat climbing and exercise structures at PALS no kill animal shelter.

Maverick Lowery, of Vassalboro – Vassalboro Troop #410 – 208 hours of service building and improving trails at the Annie Sturgis Sanctuary including installing bridges where needed.

Michael Littlefield, of China – China Troop #479 – 50 hours of service building shelves for the China Food Bank.

Jack DiGirolamo, of Belgrade, Troop #401 Sidney – 93 hours of service building mountain bike bridges for Quarry Road Trails in Waterville

Lucas Eric Lenfest, of Smithfield – Troop #453 in Belgrade – 176 hours of service constructing a Veterans Memorial in front of the Smithfield Town office including walkway and granite bench.

Tieran Croft, of Sidney – Waterville Troop #417 – 162 hours of service building eight benches for the town of Oakland.

Nivek Boostedt, of China – China Troop #479 – 132 hours of service building an outdoor classroom for the China School Forest.

Adam DeWitt, of Sidney – Troop #401 in Sidney – 270 hours of service putting on and promoting a benefit concert to raise awareness for Travis Mills Foundation.

Joshua Robert Hoffman, of Augusta – Troop #603 in Augusta – 132 hours of service building a small playground at St Michael Roman Catholic School.

Dawson Poulin, of Sidney – Troop #401 in Sidney – 568 hours of service building helmet and baseball bat racks for the Sidney Athletic Association and then rebuilding them after vandals destroyed them a day after they were installed.

Kai McGlauflin, of Sidney – Sidney Troop #401 – 114 hours of service building an awards cabinet and work bench for the Messalonskee High School and Middle School Robotics Teams.

Tucker Leonard, of Palermo – Troop #479 in China – 112 hours of service constructing an outdoor classroom at the Palermo Consolidated School.

Eric McDonnell, of Augusta – Troop #603 Augusta- 177 hours of service built three benches and picnic table for the Kennebec River Rail Trail for Augusta age Friendly.

Travis John Nickerson, of Augusta – Troop 6#06 in Farmingdale – 81 hours of service gathering items and raising awareness in the community to help those who need help through the Bridging the Gap Center for Resources, Essentials Pantry & Clothing Bank, in Augusta. In total, 1,218 items were collected for those in need of essential items.

Somerset County:

Nathan Bloom, of Skowhegan – Skowhegan Troop #431 – 97 hours of service collecting photos and uploading them to help make it easier for those looking for loved ones or working on genealogy.

Lucas Eric Lenfest, of Smithfield – Troop #453 in Belgrade – 176 hours of service constructing a Veterans Memorial in front of the Smithfield Town office including walkway and granite bench. (Note, Lucas is listed in both Somerset and Kennebec as he is a member of a troop in one county while living in the other.

Austin Wright, of Madison – Troop #481 serving Madison/Anson/ Starks – 78 hours of service to demolish and old ramp and build a sturdy handicap accessible ramp at the fire station.

Jackson Dudley, of Fairfield – Skowhegan Troop #431 – 80 hours building three new picnic tables at Mill Island Park from materials he solicited In the community.

Keeping French heritage alive in central Maine

Some of the students who participate in the Maine French Language Heritage program. (contributed photo)

by Eric W. Austin

“French is French,” Charles Hicks tells me adamantly over coffee at Pat’s Pizza, on State Street. Hicks is the coordinator and sole teacher for the Maine French Heritage Language Program, in Augusta. He’s lamenting the idea that the French spoken in Maine isn’t perceived as “real” French.

Maine has a rich French heritage with nearly one-third of our residents having French in their background. That heritage is evidenced by the many French names of towns in Maine, among them Calais, Caribou, Montville, Presque Isle and, of course, Paris, just to name a few.

“There was a time when they would beat kids in elementary school for speaking French,” Hicks says, “so it totally made sense that you wouldn’t want to teach your kids something that would get them hurt.” But in consequence, much of the French language and Maine’s deep French legacy is being lost.

The Maine French Heritage Language Program (MFHLP) looks to change that. Established six years ago by Julia Schulz, who also co-founded the prestigious Penobscot School of Language Learning and Cultural Exchange, in Rockland, and Chelsea Ray, an associate professor of French Language and Literature, at the University of Maine at Augusta, MFHLP is a nonprofit after-school French language and culture program for children in grades first through sixth. Held from 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Buker Community Center, in Augusta, the program is open to any interested students in central Maine.

Charles Hicks

Hicks himself has had a roundabout trip on the way to his position as coordinator of Augusta’s Maine French Heritage Language Program. Growing up in western Massachusetts, on the border with New York, his first experience with the French language came in college where he was, initially, a political science major. After spending his junior year abroad in France, he fell in love with the language and culture. It inspired him to pursue his master’s degree in the French language at the University of Maine at Orono. This led to a two-year stint in Fort Kent, an Aroostook County town in northern Maine with a large Franco-American population, followed by another prolonged stay in France as part of an advanced graduate program.

On returning to the states, Hicks spent 12 years as a traveling French language teacher to students in grades K-6 for schools in Manchester, Wayne and Mount Vernon. After budget cuts in 2007 killed the French language programs in many Maine elementary schools, Hicks took a position with MFHLP as a French teacher. When the coordinator left a few years later, Hicks embraced the dual roles of sole teacher for the program and also coordinator for its nonprofit fundraising efforts.

In addition to those duties, Hicks also teaches at Lawrence Junior High School, in Fairfield, and is an Adjunct Professor of French at Kennebec Valley Community College, in Fairfield.

There are nine central Maine students in this year’s Maine French Heritage Language Program, seven from Augusta and two from Waterville, although Hicks would like to see that number increase to 20 in order to have enough students to organize both a beginner and an advanced class. Currently, all students are taught together. The program teaches children French language and culture through the use of fun activities and games, and with cultural excursions to places like the Maine State Museum. The program costs $9/class or $18/week per student.

On Saturday, April 27, 2019, the Maine French Heritage Language Program will host its big annual fundraiser, “Springtime in Paris,” from 6 – 9:30 p.m., at Le Club Calumet, on West River Road, in Augusta. The event features French food and music, as well as both a live and silent auction in order to raise money for the program. They are looking for people interested in attending, at $40 per person, or sponsoring a table of eight for $300. The money raised from this event will support the continuance of the program for the rest of the year. Tickets can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com, or by calling Wendy at the Buker Community Center, in Augusta, at 626-2350. Checks should be made out to “City of Augusta.”

They are also looking for people willing to donate items for the auction. Although items related to the French culture or language are preferred, and will usually go for a higher bid-price, any type of item will be gratefully accepted.

Anyone with questions about the program, or the “Springtime in Paris” fundraiser on April 27, is encouraged to contact Hicks by email at MFHLPAugustaME@gmail.com or phone at 215-3621. The language program is also in need of community volunteers, especially those with a knowledge of the French language, history or culture.

“French is French,” Hicks says again, at the end of our interview, “and we want the kids in Maine to learn it because it’s part of our heritage.”

Shakespeare presented by homeschoolers

Contributed photo

Southern Maine Association of Shakespearean Homeschoolers (SMASH) presents The Tempest by William Shakespeare. It will be performed in historic Cumston Hall at Monmouth Theater on Thursday, March 28, at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m., and a matinee Saturday, March 30, at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, please visit smashmaine.jimdo.com.

Deadline nears for film and video conference 2019

Photo from www.mainestudentfilm.org

Registration is now open for the second annual Maine Student Film & Video Conference, a full-day event offering a slate of hands-on workshops for middle and high school students in narrative and documentary filmmaking, broadcasting, photography, and technical production. Educators will have access to professional workshops and presentations focused on teaching and learning with film in the classroom. Attendance and participation in the conference is free, and registration is limited to 200 students and 50 educators.

Colleges, universities, working filmmakers, and professionals in the digital arts from Maine and nationwide will be in attendance and lead all workshops, working with small groups to provide individualized instruction. Lunch will be provided, and film-related prizes will be drawn at the end of the day to encourage skills development. To register for the 2019 Maine Student Film and Video Conference, visit: https://www.mainestudentfilm.org/conference.

“The conference is a perfect opportunity for students to try out the digital arts – from photography, shooting video, animation, editing and more,” said Dave Boardman, director of the Media Mass Communications program at the Mid-Maine Technical Center and co-director of the Maine Student Film and Video Conference. “The teenagers who came last year loved it, and the line-up is even better this year. The opportunities in this field are growing so fast, and this is the place where young people are getting a look at what’s possible.”

Arts society to offer scholarships

The Waterville Area Art Society (WAAS) is now accepting applications for its annual $500 scholarship award to be given to a graduating high school senior who pursues a degree in visual arts, performing arts or music. It is open to students from the following schools: Waterville, Winslow, Lawrence, Messalonskee, Erskine Academy, Snow Pond Arts Academy and Mid-Maine Technical Center.

Information has been sent to guidance departments asking for nominations. Information requested includes: student contact information; teacher recommendation; the student’s artistic ability and need; and three photos or video clips of student work. These can be submitted by mail to Waterville Area Art Society (WAAS) PO Box 2703, Waterville, ME 04903-2703) or digitally to waasmaine@gmail.com. Nominations must be submitted by May 1, 2019.

Previous winners and former applicants are also eligible to apply again, with a former high school or college teacher’s nomination and materials.

To receive further information, send email to waasmaine@gmail.com or contact Mary Morrison at 207-872-5843.

Empty Bowls fundraiser to be held at Messalonskee

Empty Bowls has been a fundraiser for several years at Messalonskee High School. The purpose of this project is to raise money for food pantries in our communities. It is also about raising awareness that many people are struggling to provide food for their families.

Students in pottery classes, faculty members, and people in the community have been crafting ceramic bowls under the direction of ceramics teacher Sherrie Damon, to be sold as part of the dinner. The bowls will be on display for diners to choose and take home after their meal as a reminder of the event and what is represents.

This year the Empty Bowls will be held on Friday, March 8, from 5 to 7 p.m., in the Messalonskee High School Cafeteria. Cost is $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students.

The menu will include homemade soups, salads, rolls, drinks, and desserts. There will also be a raffle and prizes to give away.

Diners can complete the evening by attending Something Wicked This Way Comes, performed by the MHS Players. The show starts at 7 p.m.

For more information call Susan Perrino at 465-9135 or email sperrino@rsu18.org.