JAY — A small flood of enthusiastic people who enjoy students and helping them to be successful at Spruce Mountain High School are busy developing new programs and providing one-on-one assistance.

The school, along with Carrabec High School and schools in Portland and Ellsworth, are sharing in a $2.2 million, three-year School Turnaround AmeriCorps grant.

Eleni Margaronis is site coordinator for SMHS and Carrabec High School.

Full-time AmeriCorps lead member on the local campus is Rick Labrenaye, who oversees the dozen or so half- and minimum-time AmeriCorps members.

Along with supporting the half- and part-time AmeriCorps employees, Labrenaye also often serves as an “on-the-fly” mentor for students who want to talk about issues in their lives and assists wherever he is needed, sometimes teaching how to successfully take notes, manage time and study.

Some of the minimum-time AmeriCorps members include older students at the school. Margaronis is looking for more such members, particularly from the SMHS community, to come into the school to offer their skills, mentorship and other talents to help make every student successful.

One of the major components of the program right now is the establishment of PLATO. This is an online program that offers young people a chance to retake or recover classes they may not have been successful with.

Jasmine Flaherty, a Jay senior, is one of those students.

On a recent afternoon, she and several others were working on two classes so that she can graduate with her class in June.

“It’s good,” she said. “I’m making progress.”

She said she can work on those classes at various times.

“Last year, there was just a teacher. This year, it’s more convenient,” she said.

A sophomore, whose name cannot be released, is using the tutoring offered to catch up with his English class.

“This is definitely helpful,” he said.

Margaronis said the students who come in for assistance have been working very hard.

“They are doing an outstanding job,” she said.

One of the half-time people, Sara Lolley, who graduated from the University of Maine in Farmington in December, loves her job as a tutor.

“I love the people. It’s cool to be a part of something new,” she said.

Some of the school’s AmeriCorps students are organizing a Parents Night Out for Feb. 7 when child care will be available so parents can have a night to themselves. The event is also one way the AmeriCorps program can get more members of the community involved with the school.

Right now, in addition to offering assistance in recovering classes and in-school tutoring, the AmeriCorps program is preparing to launch an after-school tutoring and study program, and a Vacation Academy on Feb. 18-21 for students who want additional help with their studies.

Together with the school, AmeriCorps also helped with a Career Pathways program earlier in the school year, when community members made presentations about their careers and how they got there.

The grant was announced in August by Superintendent Robert Wall and Learning Works Director Ethan Strimling. They, along with SMHS Principal T.J. Plourde, are very enthusiastic about the opportunities such a grant and program can offer the newly merged high school.

“The grant is about human investment in our community and our young people,” Wall said.

Educational technician Debbie Storer is a strong believer in the program. 

“It is helping greatly by tutoring our kids. We’re lucky to have them,” she said.

Anyone in the community who would like to learn more about the AmeriCorps program or who wants to serve as a minimum-time member may call Margaronis at 907-9316.

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