HINCKLEY — The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences graduated 33 seniors on Aug. 4 at the Moody Chapel on the Kennebec Valley Community College Harold Alfond Campus. MeANS is Maine’s first charter high school, and serves students from throughout Maine.

Twenty eight of the 33 students graduating marched into the chapel at 6 p.m. to take their seats as the school’s Principal Tonya Arnold welcomed everyone to the school’s sixth graduation. She pointed out that this was the largest graduating class the school has ever had and one of the largest in the entire 130-year history of Good Will-Hinckley, according to a news release from Emanuel Pariser, director of instruction, education program designer at MeANS.

Charlotte Emerson, from Cape Elizabeth, gave the senior speech stressing the impact that the program had on her. Emerson said, “This is a good place. I have seized my opportunity here and I am forever grateful for the teachers who supported me along the way … I never thought an environmental change could have such an incredible effect on me,” according to the release. Emerson stressed the importance of the support she got from her advisor, Mary Littlefield, and added that she would graduate with six college credits from KVCC and has been accepted at the University of Maine in Farmington this fall. As a student who lived on campus, Emerson described life on campus as her “home, and it will forever have a spot in my heart. I look forward to coming back.”

Brenda Poulin, the retiring director of MeANS’ student support center and guest speaker, began with a few words of advice to the graduates saying, “You have done it. You have fulfilled every learning standard that the department of education states you need to receive a diploma. But, you have also done so much more. You now understand what it truly means to belong to a community. When our community hurt, you helped heal it. When a classmate or staff member suffered a tragic event, you were there to support them. You represented our school positively in front of politicians, professors, farmers, business owners and many other community members. Thank you!” said Poulin, according to the release. She told the students that they had become proficient in the school’s three core values — respect, responsibility and community, and that these values would hold them in good stead in the years to come.

Arnold then gave out awards to students for their modeling of the school’s core values. Hannes Moll, of Windsor, received the respect award; the responsibility award was granted to Leanna Laws, of Winslow; Alexandra Karter, of Winslow, received the community award. Arnold also gave out the newly established Brenda Poulin Resiliency Award to Griffin Patchell, of Solon, Kayleb Shaw, of Hartland, and Jasmine Martins, of Waterville.

Scholarship awards to KVCC were given to Robbie Ellis, of Waterville, Leanna Laws, of Winslow, Hailee Buzzell, of Canaan, Meaghan Brown, of Hartland, and Starla Fox-Lonsdale, of Searsport. Laws also received the George J. Mitchell Scholarship Award. Emerson received the University of Maine Academic Scholarship award.

John Willey, Good Will-Hinckley class of 1952, of Waterville, witnessed the graduation and commented, “I’m convinced that GWH and MeANS are a modern-day extension of the principles followed by Dr. Hinckley when he founded the school in 1887,” according to the release. “Last Friday’s ceremony was far more cheerful than the one that delivered my diploma. Many of the kids hugged their teachers and principal. … I would have hugged one of my own in 1952, but that was not ‘done’ in those years.”

For the last two years, Willey, a master woodworker, has been mentoring 2017 MeANS graduate Hannes Moll, of Windsor, in woodworking.

The ceremony ended with Arnold urging the graduates to, “Be safe this summer and give those who have supported you as many extra hugs and kind words of thanks as possible,” according to the release.

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