• GSA Jazz at States

    Posted by Mark Messer on 3/19/2019

    jazz band after awards

    The GSA Jazz Band after the awards. Photo by Stacia Nevin


    Jazz Ensembles Hit High Note at State Festival

    The GSA jazz combo Jam Bake, who came in third at the Berklee festival earlier in the year, earned a Gold Medal 1 rating from the judges with a score of 96 points.

         Individual honors for Jam Bake: Courtney Bianco ‘19 on alto sax and Edward Conte ‘19 on drums were named Division III MVPs. Outstanding soloist and musicianship awards were earned by LeeAnn Varnum ‘19, tenor sax; Courtney Bianco ‘19, alto sax; Erika Hipsky ‘20, alto sax; Duncan Howell ‘20, trombone; Elana Williamson ‘19, vibes; Tess Williamson ‘19, piano; Quinn Stabler ‘20, bass; and Edward Conte ‘19, drums.

         The GSA Jazz Band earned a Silver Medal 1 rating for their set.

         Individual honors for the GSA Jazz Band: Duncan Howell ‘20 on trombone and Edward Conte ‘19 on drums were named Division IV MVPs. Outstanding soloist and musicianship awards were earned by Quinn Stabler ‘20, bass; Erika Hipsky ‘20, alto sax; Dawsen Astbury ‘20, trumpet; Gabe Hall ‘22, trumpet; Elana Williamson ‘19, vibes; Tess Williamson ‘19, piano; Courtney Bianco ‘19, alto sax; Edward Conte ‘19, drums; LeeAnn Varnum ‘19, tenor sax; and Duncan Howell ‘20, trombone.

         Up Too Early also earned a Silver Medal 1 rating.

         Individual honors for Up Too Early: Ian Howell ‘20 on bari sax was named Multiple B Combo Division MVP. Outstanding soloist and musicianship awards were earned by LeeAnn Varnum ‘19, alto sax; Ian Howell ‘20, bari sax; Joseph Mitchell ‘20, guitar; and Dawsen Astbury ‘20, drums and whistler.

         Octessence received an Honorable Mention, as did Out Too Late.

         Individual honors for Octessence: Outstanding soloist and musicianship awards were earned by Amara Birdsall ‘21, vocals; Emma Brown ‘21, vocals; Morgan Davis ‘22, piano; and Gabe Hall ‘22, trumpet.

         Individual honors for Out Too Late: Outstanding soloist and musicianship awards were earned by Adam Mathewson ‘21, vocals; Zeke Sacaridiz ‘21, drums; River Muise ‘22, bass; and Hunter Sargent ‘20, guitar.

         Steve Orlofsky directs the GSA Jazz Band, Jam Bake, and Up Too Early. Fiona Schubeck ’08 directs Octessence and Out Too Late.

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  • ISIP Exhibitions Set

    Posted by Mark Messer on 3/6/2019

    Nikki Jaffray

    GSA School Nurse Nikki Jaffray '04 chose a career in nursing because of her ISIP.


    Exhibition Night To Conclude This Year's ISIPs


    An evening of presentations and exhibitions will celebrate the conclusion of the Independent Study and Internship Program projects undertaken by juniors and seniors at George Stevens Academy. The event will take place in the GSA gym on Wednesday, March 20, starting at 7 P.M.

         This year, more than 130 juniors and seniors spent two weeks after February break on academic and experiential projects they designed themselves. Most undertook these projects close to home; others traveled to other states or countries.

         The range of this year’s ISIP subjects, which include filmmaking, learning music, building an instrument, producing music, 2D art and design, fashion, performing arts, 3D arts/crafts, architecture, language and culture, history, writing, literature, politics, law, law enforcement, engines, engineering, fabrication, teaching, education, business, economics, industry, medicine, behavioral health, wellness, fitness, computers and electronics, science and research, culinary arts, outdoors careers, animals and animal care, was as broad as ever and reflected students’ diverse interests.

         Every project had a mentor, and with two-thirds of those projects and internships set in the local area, scores of area experts helped GSA students with their projects. Of those local experts, nearly one in five was a GSA alum.

         Though many students use ISIP to explore a topic of personal interest, many go on to careers in the fields they study during ISIP. A good example of that is Nikki Jaffray ’04, who did her second ISIP at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital.

         “ISIP was eye opening,” Jaffray said. “I walked in and had never done or seen anything that the nurses, doctors, x-ray techs, or any of them were doing, and I was kind of blown away. People actually do this?” she remembered thinking at the time.

         “I mean, you go to the hospital, but you never really think about working there because” you’re sick and scared and worried about getting better, she said. “So to go there and see what the nurses are doing is a job, and what the doctors are doing is a job … was really neat.” It was a pivotal moment for Jaffray, who knew then that she had found her career. Now she’s the school nurse at George Stevens Academy, a strong example of how the program gives back to the community.

         The year in which the first ISIP was offered at GSA is unknown, but in a recent social media post, Bernice (Bartlett) DeBlois said that she did her ISIP her senior year, 1969, making the program more than 50 years old.

         The public is invited to attend the exhibition.

         For more information on ISIP (and more pictures!), visit www.georgestevensacademy.org/ISIP.

         If you know more about the origins of ISIP, please email the details to Mark Messer at m.messer@georgestevens.org.

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  • Student Heading to Fencing Junior Olympics

    Posted by Mark Messer on 2/9/2019 12:00:00 PM

    Bowden fencing

    Hope Bowden, right, fences with Conall Gouveia of Medway in preparation for the Junior Olympic Fencing Championship in Denver Feb. 15-18.


    Fencing Draws GSA Student to Junior Olympics

    What started as an “oh, cool, learn sword-fighting type of thing” has turned into a competitive sport for a sophomore at George Stevens Academy.

         Hope Bowden of Orland, who studies fencing with John Krauss of the Down East School of Fencing in Verona, will compete in the Junior Olympic Fencing Championship, set for Feb. 15-18 in Denver.

         Bowden started fencing in fifth-grade, and though it is still interesting and fun for her, she has picked up a lot about timing and strategy, as well as learning that she prefers saber, one of three fencing disciplines. The others are foil and epee.

         The weapons differ, as do the targets and approaches to the sport. Saber involves more slashing and is more aggressive, according the U.S. Olympic Committee website, and it’s faster, said Bowden.

         You use the side of the blade, not the tip, she said, where foil and epee are slower, and you “stand around and poke at people now and then.”

         That’s how a fight scene in “The Princess Bride” started, with “a little bit of foil, then they started cutting at each other, like saber, too,” Bowden said, noting that what we see on screen doesn’t always present fencing accurately.

         Bowden will compete in the Junior Women’s Saber event on Saturday and the Cadet Women’s Saber event on Monday, according to the Junior Olympic Fencing website, and she just hopes to “learn from the experience,” Bowden said.

         Two other students from the Down East School of Fencing also are expected to compete in Denver: Lily Millard of Old Town in Cadet Women’s Foil and Cadet Women’s Epee, and Ian Bowden, Hope Bowden’s younger brother, in Cadet Men’s Epee.

         If there is enough student interest and a faculty or staff advisor can be found, Bowden hopes to start fencing club at GSA.

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  • Student Artworks Win Scholastic Awards

    Posted by Mark Messer on 2/5/2019 5:00:00 PM

    Wardwell ink on paper

    Isaac Wardwell's "A big paper boat for a kid in a raincoat."


    Five Students Win Scholastic Awards

    Seven works of art by five George Stevens Academy students were selected recently for honors in the Maine Region Scholastic Art and Writing Awards competition. Four of them have been on display at the Maine College of Art in Portland and will be up till the conclusion of an awards ceremony Saturday, Feb. 9.

         “Confidently Content,” ink and gouache on paper by MacKenzie Tapley, and “A big paper boat for a kid in a raincoat,” ink on paper by Isaac Wardwell, were selected for Gold Key awards, the competition’s highest honor. Both are automatically considered for the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards competition.

         “Composition in Color,” mixed media on paper by Emma Brown, and "Olive Us," colored pencil on paper by Tapley, were selected for Silver Key awards. Both Gold and Silver Key artworks were offered the chance to be exhibited at the Maine College of Art.

         Honorable Mentions were awarded to “Squishy Face,” colored pencil on paper by Genevieve Claybaugh, “Window Pain,” fingerpaint on paper by Asha Kirkland, and “Soleil,” linoleum block print also by Kirkland.

         “I’ve been on cloud nine with the kids. They did such an excellent job,” said Mariel Duym, art teacher at GSA.

         The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for creative teens is the oldest such competition in the United States. According to promotional materials, the criteria for selecting artworks haven’t changed since the contest started in 1923: originality, technical skill, and emergence of personal vision or voice.

         Wardwell’s piece, in addition to winning a Gold Key award, earned Honorable Mention in the Congressional Art Competition for which all submissions to the Scholastic competition are considered. He’ll be invited to display his artwork at the State House in Augusta later this spring, “a huge honor,” said Duym.

         To see a gallery of all seven works of art, click on the story in the Arts in the News section of our website.

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  • Middle School Appreciation Night II

    Posted by Mark Messer on 1/31/2019 7:00:00 AM

    Lehto and Foster

    Theron Lehto, Knockout winner, with Michael S. Foster.


    Big Crowd for Bucksport Game

    Middle School Appreciation Night games between the GSA basketball teams and Bucksport drew large crowds to the gym on Jan. 30. The JV team took an early lead and finished with the win, 40-19. The varsity team scored the first points of the night, and while their game was closer and more competitive, they stayed focused and strong on the court and won the very exciting game 42-26.

         Members of the Junior Eagles and Junior Bobcats, two youth development teams, came to the game for a meet-and-greet and autograph session with both GSA varsity basketball teams. They also lined up to welcome the varsity girls into the gym for their game.

         It was Senior Night, too, and four seniors had the chance to thank their parents for their support before team introductions. We thank you, too, parents!

         Middle School Appreciation Night gave more than thirty seventh- and eighth-graders from area sending towns free admission to the game, a free slice of pizza and drink, giveaways, and a chance to see our teams in action.

         At halftime of the varsity game, four names were drawn for a game of Knockout. Each competitor got a GSA Together T-shirt, and the winner, Theron Lehto of the Blue Hill Consolidated School, won a black, long-sleeved shirt from GSA's collection of spirit wear. (Visit GSA Spirit Wear to find out what's available. We now have items in an online store that are not available on campus. Check them out!)

         Everyone was entertained by the GSA Band, directed by Steve Orlofsky. The band kept the crowds pumped up, and as at the first Middle School Appreciation Night game, there was plenty of cowbell, just like Athletic Director Larry Gray likes it. Gray also impressed us all with his arena-level announcing skills. Iiiiintroduciiiiiing ...

         Middle School Appreciation Night, organized by Michael S. Foster and Christie A. Snow of GSA Admissions, was a chance for area seventh- and eighth-graders to get a glimpse of what it's like to be an Eagle. 

         Click here to visit the Athletics in the News page where you can see this story with more photos and a video of the Junior teams welcoming the varsity Eagles.  

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  • Student on to State Contest

    Posted by Mark Messer on 1/30/2019 6:00:00 AM

    Magnolia Vandiver POL

    Magnolia Vandiver ’21 competes in the Poetry Out Loud regional Finals at Hampden Academy.


    Vandiver Advances in Poetry Out Loud Competition

    And then there were five.

         Magnolia Vandiver ’21 of George Stevens Academy is one of five finalists chosen at the Poetry Out Loud Northern Maine Regional Finals in Hampden to join five Southern Maine finalists at the state competition at the Waterville Opera House on Monday, March 11, at 3 P.M.

         “It feels a little odd,” Vandiver said of being named a finalist. “I didn’t really come with the expectation that I was going to place at all.”

        Vandiver recited “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, the poem cast in bronze for display at the Statue of Liberty, and “Author’s Prayer,” by Ilya Kaminsky, in the first two rounds of recitation. The judges then selected 11 competitors to compete in the third round, in which Vandiver recited “Difference,” by Stephen Vincent Benet. The five finalists then were selected.

         “I was blown away by the other recitations completely,” said Vandiver, who will be joined at the state competition by Hanna Lavenson of Messalonskee High School, Emily Campbell of Waterville High School, Emma Jacot-Descombes of Rangeley Lakes Regional High School and Shaphnah McKenzie of Bangor High School.

         The Poetry Out Loud State Finals will take place at the Waterville Opera House on Monday, March 11, at 3 P.M. Admission is free and no tickets are required. Poetry lovers, even those who don’t know the competitors, are encouraged to attend, as the level of competition is very high.

         The winner of the state competition will represent Maine at the national competition in Washington, D.C., in mid-spring.

         Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation competition organized at the national level by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is administered in Maine by The Maine Arts Commission. Throughout the state, 4,300 students participated. According to the commission, the “program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.”

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  • Jam Bake Takes Third at Berklee

    Posted by Mark Messer on 1/29/2019 2:00:00 AM

    Jam Bake and Mr. O

    Jam Bake and director Steve Orlofsky pose at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival Saturday. 



    Sixth GSA Combo To Place in 17 Years

    “When they announced the honorable mention, we thought ‘aw, there goes our chance at placing,’” said Erika Hipsky of the GSA jazz combo Jam Bake, “but when they announced our name, we were kind of like, did this just happen?”

         Indeed it did. On Saturday, Jam Bake wowed the judges and took third in its class in the Berklee High School Jazz Festival, the largest of its kind in the United States, with more than 200 ensembles competing.

         "We were all going for the experience of being at Berklee, and then when they called our name, we [realized] we belong here,” said Tess Williamson.

         Jam Bake is composed of Courtney Bianco ’19, alto sax; Edward Conte ’19, drums; Hipsky ’20, alto sax and flute; Duncan Howell ’20, trombone; Quinn Stabler ’20, bass; LeeAnn Varnum ’19, soprano and tenor sax; Elana Williamson, ’19 vibes and piano; and Tess Williamson ’19, piano and vocals.

         “The camaraderie and support that the members of Jam Bake show for each other is phenomenal,” said Steve Orlofsky, the combo’s director at George Stevens Academy. “They really pull for each other, and they are a joy to work with. Their whole demeanor is amazing, and it showed in the performance.”

         “It’s an exhilarating moment as a music educator,” said Orlofsky, “anytime you can play with some of the best high school ensembles in the country and do better than all but one or two of them.”

        Jam Bake earned 274 of a possible 300 points from the three judges. Ron Reid, one of those judges, called the three-song set “a brilliantly varied program and a pleasure to watch. … The camaraderie you shared with your background lines and feel changes was imaginative and endearing.”

         This is the sixth time a GSA jazz combo has risen to the challenge and placed in the top four at the festival, which they did in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2017, quite a feat considering the competition. The schools that finished ahead of GSA this year are an arts magnet school in Connecticut and a music school in Puerto Rico, both of which set aside hours every day for their ensembles to practice.

         “And then there’s little old GSA,” said Orlofsky, who meets with Jam Bake for three 65-minute periods a week. 

         Jam Bake listened to some of their competitors, including the school from Puerto Rico that placed second. “None of us thought we could compare to them,” said Hipsky. But “we were only like eight points [behind],” said Conte.

         The group also attended the performance of an ensemble from South Portland High School to see what the competition is like in another division, and that group and some of their family members came to support GSA.

         “All the Maine schools were supportive of one another,” said Tess Williamson, “but in a month, we’re gonna be rivals,” she said, referring to the District 6 High School Instrumental Jazz Festival to be hosted by George Stevens Academy on Feb. 27.

         To listen to Jam Bake's performance (and some introductory information and announcements), visit the festival's competition results page and scroll down to Class S4. 


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  • GSA Seniors To Join Medical Mission

    Posted by Mark Messer on 1/18/2019 4:00:00 AM

    Hattie and Oshi

    Hattie Slayton, left, and Oshi Ragot will join the Hancock County Medical Mission to the Dominican Republic from Feb. 9-23.


    Pair Latest in Long Line of GSA Volunteers

    Hattie Slayton and Oshi Ragot, two seniors at George Stevens Academy, will take their love of the Spanish language and interest in the medical field with them on the next Hancock County Medical Mission. Both have been awarded scholarships for the mission to the Dominican Republic Feb. 9-23.

         Nearly every year since 1989, medical professionals and others from Hancock County have volunteered their time to provide primary care and surgical services to underserved populations in Ecuador, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. This is their sixth trip to the Dominican Republic, where they are hosted, along with others from the United States and Canada, by Medical Mission International.

         “We’re still building the team,” said HCMM’s Ted Spurling Jr. in an email. “The Maine group is always the largest.”

         “Besides the surgical team,” Spurling said, “There is a team of family practitioners, Dominican and North American, that goes out by bus each day to different villages … for general checkups, aches and pains, infections, health lessons” and surgical referrals. Eye and dental teams composed of Dominicans or Haitians also take part.  

         Ragot and Slayton found out about the opportunity to join the team from GSA alumnae Jessica Soukup and Maya Pelletier, mission volunteers in 2017, and from George Stevens Academy Spanish teacher Nancy Buckingham. GSA students started participating in the program 19 years ago, Buckingham said, and have gone on the mission most of those years.

         “GSA students seem very well prepared in their Spanish and seem motivated,” said Spurling. Though the application process is open to juniors and seniors from all Hancock County high schools, “it’s mostly from GSA, Ellsworth and MDI that we get applicants,” he said.

         The two students will use their Spanish language skills as translators, but they also will play other roles during the two-week mission to Nagua and El Factor, perhaps sterilizing instruments, or working as medical assistants or in the pharmacy, said Spurling.

         Ragot thinks she’ll spend most of her time, “very full days,” interacting with patients. “I’m interested in studying medicine in college or going into the medical field as a career,” she said, and this will be a great way to find out if she likes it.

         She also thinks this will “be a great way to immerse [herself] in the language.”

         “I’m definitely not fluent, but [they’ve] prepared me pretty well,” Ragot said of GSA’s Spanish courses, which she started taking as a freshman.

         Slayton also started studying Spanish at GSA as a freshman, but this will not be her first long-term immersion experience. She spent her junior year in Zaragoza, a city in Northern Spain, as a student in School Year Abroad. She lived with a host family and took classes with 60 other American students. They studied English and math with teachers from the United States, but teachers from Spain taught them every other subject in Spanish, which helped her improve her language skills quickly.

         “When I left, I was starting to feel really confident,” she said. She said that she might have lost some fluency over the summer, “but I think it will come back.” One of her concerns, though, is the accent. “I’ve heard the Dominican accent is very difficult to understand.” Fortunately, both Slayton and Ragot have opportunities to learn that accent from Miranda Contreras and Ricardo Sanchez, two GSA boarding students from the Dominican Republic.

         Slayton, like Ragot, sees this mission as “a good opportunity to experiment with what the medical field looks like and see if that’s what [she’s] interested in.”

         The seniors will take part in meetings with other mission volunteers between now and their departure. They also were given a Spanish medical textbook to help them learn some technical vocabulary before the trip, one of Ragot’s main concerns. “I’m working on my Spanish a lot,” she said.

         Slayton also is concerned about “being so important to someone else’s well-being” and whether she’ll be able to learn enough medical Spanish. Perhaps, though, a good deal of her translating will involve less technical vocabulary and more exchanges like “Where does it hurt?” she said.

         “We don’t expect high school students to be perfectly fluent in Spanish,” said Spurling. “We’ll never put anyone in a situation beyond their ability.” Of the overall experience, he said, students “always come home having learned more than they expected.”

         To donate toward the purchase of supplies or to learn more about the Hancock County Medical Mission, visit hcmm.homestead.com.

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  • Jam Bake Heading to Berklee

    Posted by Mark Messer on 1/11/2019

    Jam Bake

    Jam Bake Combo will compete in the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston on Jan. 26. Back, from left, Duncan Howell, Edward Conte, Quinn Stabler, and Tess Williamson. Front, from left, Erika Hipsky, Elana Williamson, LeeAnn Varnum, and Courtney Bianco.


    Jam Bake to compete in 50th Berklee festival

    A George Stevens Academy jazz combo will compete at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival on Saturday, Jan. 26. Thousands of musicians from 131 schools across the country are expected to participate at the largest festival of its kind in the United States.

         Jam Bake Combo is composed of Courtney Bianco ’19, alto sax; Edward Conte ’19, drums; Erika Hipsky ’20, alto sax and flute; Duncan Howell ’20, trombone; Quinn Stabler ’20, bass; LeeAnn Varnum ’19, soprano and tenor sax; Elana Williamson, ’19 vibes and piano; and Tess Williamson ’19, piano and vocals.

         Combos from GSA have competed at the prestigious festival for many years. In 2017, the school took second place in its division, it’s best finish so far. That year, Yvonne Rogers and Joseph Boulet both received Outstanding Musicianship Awards, “a huge honor,” said Steve Orlofsky, “as only five awards are presented per division.” Orlofsky directs the jazz program at the George Stevens Academy.

         The school placed third or fourth in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011, and Ross Gallagher is the only other GSA student to earn an Outstanding Musicianship Award, in 2004.

         School officials hope that alums and other supporters of the music program will show their support by attending the festival and watching Jam Bake Combo compete at 11:45 a.m. The festival, held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, is open to the public, and no tickets are required to attend. Performances take place throughout the day. For more information, visit http://festival.berkleejazz.org.

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  • Poetry Out Loud Winner Named

    Posted by Mark Messer on 1/2/2019

    Magnolia Vandiver

    Magnolia Vandiver ’21 competes in the Poetry Out Loud competition at GSA.


    Vandiver Will Represent GSA at Regionals

    Magnolia Vandiver ’21 was selected the winner of the George Stevens Academy schoolwide Poetry Out Loud competition in December. Asha Kirkland ’19 was named runner-up.

         Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation competition organized at the national level by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is administered in Maine by The Maine Arts Commission. English teacher Maria Johnson organized the GSA event and introduced the competitors.

         Vandiver, Kirkland and Jon Robbins ’19 each recited two poems, one contemporary and one from before the 20th century, in front of a panel of judges. Vandiver recited “Author’s Prayer,” by Ilya Kaminsky, and “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, the poem cast in bronze for display at the Statue of Liberty.

         “I was shocked to win,” said Vandiver, who chose “Author’s Prayer” for its imagery and “The New Colossus” because, “although it was written in the 1880s, it seemed so fitting and apropos” to today. To practice, she said she repeated the poems aloud for 30 minutes to an hour each week.

         Kirkland recited “No Coward Soul Is Mine,” by Emily Brontë, and “The Albatross,” by Kate Bass. Robbins’ two poems were Rita Dove’s “Banneker” and “A Birthday,” by Christina Rossetti.

         Every competitor, said judge Michael Kazmierczak, made a “wow-level connection to the audience” at one moment or another during their recitations. Kazmierczak and the other judges, Martha Horne and Bill Case, all GSA teachers, praised the participants and encouraged them to continue reading and reciting poetry. Accuracy judge Sue Jellison, score tallier Elisabeth de Sévigné and prompter Lucy Morison ’20 helped with the event. Jellison and de Sévigné also are teachers at the school.

         Vandiver will compete in the Northern Maine Regional Finals at the Hampden Academy Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 3 p.m. For this, she must select and learn a third poem, which she said will be longer than the first two. If for any reason she cannot compete, Kirkland will take her place as runner-up.

         Five finalists from that competition and from the Southern Maine Regionals will go on to the state finals in Waterville on March 11, from which a student will be selected to represent Maine at the national competition in Washington, D.C., in mid-spring.

         The state competition involves approximately 10,000 students per year, according to The Maine Arts Commission. The “program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.”

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