FAIRFIELD — What’s an example of a student who will attend the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a new educational venture opening next month on the Good Will-Hinckley campus?

Envision Gov. Paul LePage as a boy, said Glenn Cummings, president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley.

Cummings told visiting U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, that the state’s agriculture-based magnet school is ripe for youth motivated to graduate high school and determined to succeed, but whose parents may not be supportive.

LePage, one of 18 children in a poor, abusive family, left home at age 11 and lived on the streets of Lewiston for two years. He later graduated from Husson College and the University of Maine, and was general manager of Marden’s and mayor of Waterville prior to being elected governor in November.

The 2,450-acre campus of Good Will-Hinckley was one of several stops Tuesday for Michaud.

Cummings and several other academy staff members briefed the congressman on the history of the 113-year-old residential school and led him on a walking tour past Moody School, residential cottages, the L.C. Bates Museum, a frog pond, basketball and tennis courts, a sugar shack and green fields.

As of Tuesday, 18 students had committed to attending the first high school in the state to focus on agriculture, sustainability, forestry and work and living skills, according to Emanuel Pariser, Good Will’s education program designer. Those 18 come from many communities, he said.

Of the group of students, eight boys and four girls are slated to live in campus cottages. Within the last 48 hours, the academy fielded three calls from parents seeking hands-on education for their children, Cummings said.

“I think we are going to grow very rapidly,” said Cummings, adding that during the next few years the academy could add another 125 day students and board as many as 70 students in its residential cottages.

Pariser said Maine Academy of Natural Sciences students in the 2011-12 school year will follow a September to June calendar. In 2012-13 and beyond, he said it would make sense for the agriculture-based school to be in session when crops needed tending and to take more time off during other seasons.

In addition to raising crops in fields and in a greenhouse, Pariser said the integrated curriculum will feature raising small livestock, cooking and nutrition, recycling, composting, creating trails, marketing and accounting.

Students will also have access to classes at Kennebec Valley Community College. A sale is pending of the central portion of Good Will’s campus — about 680 acres — to the Fairfield-based college. The sale is set to include the Alfond Recreation Center, a farm, Averill School, the president’s residence and a chapel.

Cummings also briefed Michaud about several other future possibilities for the Good Will campus.

One is a step-up program to better prepare high school students for college. Cummings said a considerable percentage of first-year college students drop out. The step-up program, he said, would focus on imparting skills that young adults need in order to be successful in higher education.

Another possible program would support young veterans who have returned from war and wish to acquire educational skills as they transition back into society. Veterans could live on campus and take courses at Kennebec Valley Community College.

A third possibility, said Cummings, is the National Guard Youth ChalleNGeProgram. The program’s mission, according to its website, “is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16- to 18-year-old high school dropouts, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens.”

Good Will would be the site for the program, which would draw youth from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, Cummings said.

Cummings said he is meeting with Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, next week to discuss the program.

“It’s not a perfect fit with us, but the spirit is right,” he said.

Several new instructors and administrators have also been hired, including Bill Brown, who was on the tour with Michaud. Brown, a former senior special assistant on budget and fiscal matters for several former speakers of the Maine House of Representatives, including Cummings, John Richardson and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, is the new vice president of operations at Good Will.

Jeff Chase, a former Unity College student and former executive director of Herring Gut Education Learning Center in Port Clyde, is the agriculture specialist.

Cummings said a lot has gone right in 2011 for Good Will-Hinckley.

In 2009, because of cuts in state and federal funding and a shrunken endowment, Good Will’s board of directors shut down its core residential and school programs and laid off 110 staff members. This year, Good Will has hired back several people it had laid off.

Cummings recalled talking months ago with LePage before the state’s biennial budget was unveiled, and LePage indicated there would be a lot of bad news with the state budget, but that Good Will-Hinckley, which originally provided a home for orphaned boys, would be the good news.

LePage was right. The biennial budget approved in June by the Legislature included $860,000 for the school.

Beth Staples — 861-9252
[email protected]

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