A Message from President Zavodny – The Island to High School Program

A Message from President Zavodny – The Island to High School Program

With your help, Douglas Cornman’s ‘Island to High School’ program prepares island kids to thrive in the midst of change.


You know the Maine Seacoast Mission is steadfast in addressing the challenges faced by many people in this region

I’d like to tell you about one piece of the Mission’s work that may surprise you. The Island to High School Program is an example of how the Mission watches and listens to our communities, and then responds creatively.

Every summer, a group of resilient young teens scattered across eight unbridged islands off Maine’s coast are faced with the reality that — come fall — they will have to leave their islands to attend a mainland high school. They are about to trade the island life they know for a life utterly foreign to them.

Do you remember the self-consciousness of being a high school freshman? Imagine that same blazing ball of worry amplified for island teens by leaving their family and their home. Their island population may only be 45, with a school of perhaps six K-8 kids in one room with one teacher. They’re moving to a school with 600 students and 70 teachers.

Nearly all these island students will be boarding on the mainland during high school, staying with relatives or family friends. Some families work together to rent a house on the mainland, where the parents take turns being the house chaperone. Each of these solutions is complicated. Each adds to the anxiety these kids are feeling.

It’s a difficult time, and much rides on their making a successful transition. Won’t you send your gift to the Mission today to help these young adults succeed?

Douglas Cornman, Mission Island Outreach Director, works with island kids for three years beginning in sixth grade to help them prepare for the changes high school will bring. Aboard the Sunbeam, he visits eight islands monthly so these students can learn and practice social-emotional skills.

Once a year, Douglas and other Mission staff bring them all together on the mainland for an overnight retreat with a carefully thought-out curriculum. The kids get to know one another, enlarging their circle of friends. Douglas invites high school teachers and staff to the retreats to spend time with the students. They talk about what to expect. They answer questions. They reassure.

Douglas builds in lots of opportunities for the kids to talk with each other and with him about their concerns. Volunteer high school students attend retreats and use their experience to help the islanders. These conversations answer the questions kids are more comfortable asking peers … about joining sports teams, fitting in, finding friends, dating.

These young people will thrive with your help. Your support lets us continue preparing Downeast youth for success through targeted programs such as Island to High School. The Seacoast Mission invests in the future, and has been a partner of island families for over a century. It fosters youth and family success, provides health services and basic needs — all to build resilient communities.

Your support puts our hands to work. Please send your gift today. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,
John Zavodny

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