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.
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.
A beautiful, snowy morning on Frenchman Bay seems like the right moment to reflect a little on my first days as President of the Maine Seacoast Mission.
My first days have been gloriously filled with stories: how, in 1917, the Sunbeam I first brought dental services to Maine’s coastal island communities, how a young scholarship recipient found her voice with help from the EdGE program, how both lives and homes are transformed through the Housing Rehabilitation program, and how, for a century, the Mission has served as safe harbor for all. Stories of great good work, stories of fearless service, and stories of commitment to the Mission values. The Mission’s long legacy has been the ever-present backdrop for my first week of service.
Mine has been a week of powerful firsts. My first full tour of the grand Colket Center. My first meetings and meals with the welcoming Mission staff. My first extended time with the Rev. Scott Planting — what obvious love he has for you all and what big shoes to fill. And I look forward to so many more firsts to come: voyages, school visits, community meals, and so many more.
Of all the firsts to come, I am most excited to meet all of you and to hear all of your stories about what the Mission has meant to you and your families through the years.
I’ve only been on the job for a few days and already I am grateful for the Mission — grateful for the welcome I am receiving, for the Mission’s work, for the excellent staff and board of directors, for stories shared, and for stories yet to come.
Mostly I am grateful my own meandering story has led me here.
I am grateful to all of you for the opportunity to steward the Mission’s legacy. Together, I trust we can respond to the challenges of the present, anticipate a bright future, and always — by our actions and in our words — honor the rich past of the Maine Seacoast Mission.
Everyone wants to know my first order of business. That’s easy: learn as much as I possibly can from the collective wisdom of a century of powerful service. Starting now.
For More Information: Contact: Scott K Fish, Communications and Marketing [email protected] or 207-458-7185
John Zavodny, Ph.D., to be new Maine Seacoast Mission President
BAR HARBOR, ME — The Maine Seacoast Mission has announced that John Zavodny, Ph.D., will be its new president beginning on February 19, 2019.
Stacey Smith, board Chair, noted that “we are fortunate to welcome John to the Mission. During our interviews with him his excitement and compassion for the work of the Mission and an understanding of life in rural Maine were evident. He is a broad and collaborative thinker, an empathetic communicator and we look forward to the next chapters of the Maine Seacoast Mission with John at the helm.”
Dr. Zavodny comes to the Mission from his current position as chief of staff at Unity College in Unity, Maine. Unity College offers a unique education based on sustainability science that engages students with its rural environment. During his 18-year career at Unity College, Dr. Zavodny has also served as professor of philosophy and humanities, academic chair, director of the Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities, and dean of academic services.
Dr. Zavodny has also been active as a community volunteer, serving on the board of WERU Community Radio in Orland and in various capacities for the Camden Conference and the Maine Humanities Council, among others. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in classical languages from Lipscomb University. He currently lives in Belfast, Maine, but plans to relocate to the Mount Desert Island area.
Dr. Zavodny assumes the Mission’s presidency with the retirement of the Reverend Scott Planting, who has served as president since 2010.
“What an incredible opportunity and humbling responsibility,” said Zavodny. “Over the last century, leaders like Scott Planting have helped Maine Seacoast Mission establish a powerful history of service with island and coastal Maine communities. With the support of the board, friends of the Mission, and amazing team of professionals already in place we can steward that legacy, honor community relationships, and build on the good work that has already been accomplished,” said Dr. Zavodny.
As president, Dr. Zavodny will oversee the operation of the Maine Seacoast Mission and its many programs delivered from campuses in Bar Harbor and Cherryfield and from the Sunbeam, a 74-foot boat. Since 1905, the Mission has served the isolated communities of the unbridged islands and coastal villages of Hancock and Washington counties with health, education, food assistance, Christmas, and community-building programs, and pastoral care.
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Maine Seacoast Mission – 127 West St. – Bar Harbor, ME – 04609