PERU — About 150 students participate in Dirigo Elementary School’s Camp Cougar after-school program, which offers a variety of classes such as photography, graphic design, music and health-related topics.

“We were awarded a five-year grant from the state of Maine, the Twenty-First Century grant, and we run off from that,” Dirigo Elementary School After-School Site Coordinator Christine Berry said.

Students even participated in cross-country skiing this past winter, she said. 

Besides the after-school classes offered during the school year at DES and sister school Mountain Valley Middle School, there are also summer programs offered at the middle school.

“(The classes) give a lot of kids a chance for some hands-on learning and we try to align things that they’re learning during the school days with some fun (activities) after school,” she said.

The program runs Monday through Thursday for three hours following the regular school hours. Berry notes that “things have been a little messed up” because an extra hour has been added onto the school day to make up for missed school days this winter.


Enrolled students will be out of the building by 5:15 p.m., she said. 

In photography instructor Nick Waugh’s class, students learn some of the essential rules of the craft. 

“The first thing I tell them when they come in here is to fill the frame,” Waugh said. “We don’t want pictures of a ‘little’ person.”

Waugh is in his third year of running the photography class for the after-school program.

“I have about a half dozen rules that I tell them: the ‘rule of thirds,’ where the most interesting points in a rectangle or a square frame to the human eye come to fall on these intersections within a given frame,” Waugh said. 

Each student is assigned one of the dozen Canon PowerShot cameras and a thumb drive to electronically store their photos. They are also given access to the school’s laptop computers to process their photos but the laptops are shared with other students, so they set up their personal photo libraries on the thumb drives.


Haley Cripe is in her second year with Camp Cougar’s photography class, and since she is “responsible with the equipment,” Waugh lets her use one of his Canon Rebel DSLR cameras to take her photos.

“I just take off the cap, look through the (viewfinder) and find something that’s really good to take pictures of,” Cripe explained. “I like to take pictures of objects — not too much of people.” 

Taking selfies and pictures of girlfriends or boyfriends is part of the fun of taking photos, students Ella Wedge and Richie Livernois said.

“If they take (photography) seriously, they become more observant about the things around them and their environment,” Waugh said. (But) “I let them play around, I mean, they’re kids. It’s fun to have (the class). I wish we had more time and I wish we had more sophisticated cameras.”

The after-school program is also raising funds by participating in Rumford Hannaford’s Good Karma reuseable bag sales program. For the month of May, $1 of any Good Karma bag purchase will be donated to the Western Foothills Kids Association, the organization which funds the after-school program.

Dirigo Elementary School Camp Cougar after-school program photography instructor Nick Waugh, left, shares edited versions of his students’ photographs with them last Wednesday. Dirigo High School Junior Evelyn Skibitsky, center, often assists Waugh with the students in the class.

Camp Cougar’s photography class members pose for a photo during a Mardi Gras celebration this spring. Front row, from left, are Leeward Richeson, Ella Wedge, Haley Cripe, Makalya Downs and Alex Johnson; back row, from left, are Lillyan Hanscom, Lily Tracy, Richie Livernois, Dirigo High School Junior Evelyn Skibitsky and Alyssa Couture.

DES student Haley Cripe, in her second year with the after school photography program, took this photo of members of the photography class last fall as they head out in the woods to take photos.

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