The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, the state’s first charter high school, will celebrate its fifth graduating class in the school’s history on Saturday with a commencement ceremony at the Good Will-Hinckley campus in Fairfield.

The class of 2016 includes 12 students from around the state who Principal Tonya Arnold called the school’s “diehard” students in a press release Friday.

“They have thrived during the greatest period of change in the school’s short history,” said Arnold, who took over as principal in August 2015. “These students have seen the school practically double in size, triple in space and have worked with me as a brand new principal.”

The school, which emphasizes agriculture and science in its hands-on approach to learning, opened in 2011 at the site of the former Good Will-Hinckley School for Boys and Girls and in 2012 became the first charter high school in Maine. Saturday’s commencement is its fourth as a charter school.

Because of the agricultural curriculum, students take classes year-round and graduation is typically held in August.

“I am proud of the progress we have made as a school and of these students in particular because despite the many changes faced by the entire school community this year, they have kept their eyes on the prize — graduating high school,” Arnold said in Friday’s release. “I have never worked with a staff more committed to the best interests of students, and this graduating class has been the beneficiary of that high degree of attention and encouragement.”

In September 2015, the school completed a $7 million renovation and expansion at the former Moody School on the Hinckley campus, a move that officials said would allow them to grow from a population of about 125 students to about 200 over the next three years.

The school also had a number of leadership changes after president and executive director Glenn Cummings departed in 2014 to take over as interim director of the University of Maine Augusta. The position was only recently filled with the appointment of former SAD 74 superintendent Ken Coville as president and director of development and Rob Moody, interim president, being named executive director.

Gordon Donaldson, chairman of the school’s board of directors; Troy Frost, a former principal and co-founder at the school; and Desiree Lyons Johnson, a member of the class of 2016, are scheduled to speak at Saturday’s commencement. Remarks will also be delivered by Bill Lord, an honorary graduate.

“(The class of 2016) took hold of the opportunities here and made them work. They connected with teachers and advisers to get a better sense of their interests, their capacities, and their connection to the larger community,” said Emmanuel Pariser, director of instruction and education program designer for the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in the release. “They represent the incredible diversity that comprises the MeANS community, and we are proud of them for following their own personal vision for a meaningful future.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.