Maine Connections Academy, an online public charter school in Scarborough, has announced its class of 2022 valedictorian and salutatorian, Claire McBride of Richmond and Izabelle Gilley of Stetson, respectively.

Claire McBride Submitted photo

McBride began attending the academy in eighth grade after years of homeschooling to have access to a wider array of academic and extracurricular activities during high school. She has a passion for math and science, but is quick to point out, “I’m that person who always loved all of their classes,” McBride said, according to a news release from the academy.

In addition to her academic success, McBride has participated in various clubs — ranging from the school magazine to National Honor Society to baking club.

But it’s her work on her community 4-H robotics team that stands out the most, as she said that ultimately helped her find a passion for engineering. Her team, Delta Prime Robotics, is becoming more prominent in Richmond because of her efforts.

She credits the school’s flexible curriculum with allowing her to fit these activities and work experience into her schedule.

McBride spoke during the June 3 graduation ceremony at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, urging her classmates to take pride in the obstacles they’ve overcome in recent years and to carry those lessons forward into the next adventure.


“The same perseverance, courage, and strength that got us through these past four years and challenges is the same thing that will get us through the next four — whether that is college, a job, trade school, the military or just simply taking a break from it all,” she said.

She also was recognized as the recipient of the Principal’s Award, which is awarded to a student who has demonstrated outstanding academic and social engagement during their time at Maine Connections Academy.

McBride plans to attend Northeastern University this fall with her sights set on a degree in mechanical engineering. Her goal is to eventually pursue a career in the biomedical field.

Izabelle Gilley Submitted photo

Gilley came to the academy five years ago as an eighth grader while dealing with a variety of medical issues that made traditional schooling a significant challenge. “I was really struggling in 5th through 7th grade — I needed something that fit my needs a little better, “ she said.

Her favorite subject is physics, especially because students are tasked with doing their own experiments spanning the entire semester as part of the class.

Beyond her online assignments, Gilley is a history buff, which led to her starting a history club with several classmates during her senior year. She also enjoys quilting and has made at least five full-size quilts so far.

Gilley is finalizing plans to pursue a STEM degree in college. When asked about advice for other students as she reflects on her time at the academy, she said it’s important to recognize the value of a good support system.

With that support, she’s proud of her own personal growth in recent years, adding, “I’ve definitely come a long way.”

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