The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences graduated its eighth and biggest class yet at a ceremony at Moody Chapel on Friday.

Guest speaker Tonya Arnold is silhouetted against the stained glass windows inside Moody Chapel during commencement ceremonies for the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Fairfield on Friday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

The state’s first public charter high school handed out diplomas to 35 students seven years after graduating its first class of five.

Tonya Arnold, former head of MeANS, was the guest speaker at the ceremony near the campus of Good Will-Hinckley, the school’s parent organization.

An honorary diploma was awarded to Mike Pike, a parent of two MeANS graduates and a driving force behind some of the school’s most successful volunteering and safety initiatives.

“It’s amazing how far our school has come in just seven years, and we see this year’s graduation as a celebration of that growth,” Emanuel Pariser, director of instruction and education program designer for MeANS, said in a press release. “We have about 197 students now, which is an incredible number. And I think that’s a testament to the two, very essential things we provide: a program that’s experiential in nature; and a low student-to-teacher ratio that allows us to provide a strong advisory system and individualized support for students.”

Nathan Pendergrass, center, leans forward to listen to guest speaker Tonya Arnold during commencement ceremonies for the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Moody Chapel in Fairfield on Friday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Founded in 2012, MeANS was created as an alternative to traditional public and private schools, giving students a more structured, experiential-based education that meets their needs and helps them grow. The school’s curriculum includes everything from agriculture and beekeeping to maple-sugaring and greenhouse cultivation.

“George Walter Hinckley’s vision when he started Good Will-Hinckley back in 1889 was to provide a safe haven to young children and teens—a place where they could learn and grow in a healthy, encouraging environment,” Pariser said. “MeANS is a part of that broader vision, with an emphasis on getting kids ready to enter our communities as active, productive citizens.”

 


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