SOUTH PORTLAND — Maine Connections Academy, Maine’s first tuition-free virtual charter school for students in grades seven-12, hosted an in-person commencement ceremony to honor its third class of graduating seniors on Thursday, June 8, at the Augusta Civic Center.

Graduates included Tayla McGoff of Auburn, Amber Bezio of Oxford, and Paul Shaw of Jay.

MCA’s third graduating class is comprised of 45 students, up from six in its first year of graduating students in 2015.

Three graduates were recognized with awards from the Maine Principals Association, which honors students who have achieved academic excellence and embody exceptional citizenship. The three recipients also served as student speakers, sharing their unique stories with the crowd, and expressing their gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of MCA.

The keynote address was delivered by local Paralympic athlete, Joshua Kennison, who shared his story of overcoming great odds to compete and excel in the sport of Track and Field. Born with no hands, feet or tongue, Kennison described how the support of family and friends helped him learn to speak, walk and eventually run, breaking the T-43 World Long Jump Record in 2012. During his speech, Kennison encouraged students to always keep a positive mindset throughout their lives.

“As long as you have a positive mindset, you can walk out those doors and do anything you want,” he said. “So just go out there, have fun and help people.”

Kennison’s speech and the students’ remarks are available for viewing on the MCA Facebook page.

“The entire MCA staff is extremely proud of our graduates, who are an exceptional group of thoughtful, determined individuals,” said MCA Principal Doug Bourget. “They have all demonstrated perseverance and self-motivation to get to this point, which will serve them well no matter what career paths they choose to pursue from here. I look forward to watching them take the skills they have learned with us, and apply them towards all of their future endeavors.”

FMI: 207-805-3254, www.MaineConnectionsAcademy.com.

Maine Principal’s Award recipients

• Anthony Moore, North Yarmouth

• Julianna Saucier, Sanford

• Leela Stockley, Chester


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