The REAL School welcomed some special guests to their campus on Mackworth Island last week. Governor LePage, along with his senior policy advisor on education issues, Tom Desjardins, met with students, staff and the AmeriCorps team on Wednesday, July 9th.
The purpose of the Governor’s visit was to learn more about the school’s innovative approach to service learning and workplace readiness. REAL School staff has developed a comprehensive guide to project-based service learning to allow students to learn and demonstrate proficiency in academic standards in authentic, hands-on ways.
The REAL School’s service learning program will be replicated at both Windham High School and Manchester School next year. REAL School principal Pender Makin said the school has received additional grant funding from the Maine Commission for Community Service to support four full time AmeriCorps National Service Members, two at each school. They will help implement the program with students at risk, with a goal of increasing academic engagement, said Makin.
According to Makin, the success of the program during the past two pilot years has prompted the Maine Commission for Community Service to recommend that they seek federal funding as a national model for increasing academic engagement in at risk students. “We are hoping to fund our service learning program and curriculum guide as a national model through the Corporation for National Community Service, based on the success of our pilot programs and our upcoming replication projects,” she said.
During his visit, Governor LePage swapped stories with students about difficult childhood experiences, socio-economic struggles, homelessness and challenging school experiences. The students and the Governor agreed that strong adult mentors and caring teachers can make all the difference to young people in need, said Makin.
“We were grateful to be recognized for the accomplishments of our wonderful students, staff members and AmeriCorps team. The students enjoyed meeting the governor, and commented later that he seemed like a really nice guy,” she added.