PORTLAND – Casco Bay High School’s graduating class of 2010 was commended Wednesday night for taking a “huge leap of faith” by enrolling in a new school that no one knew for sure would succeed.

Forty-three seniors received their diplomas during a ceremony held at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

The students are only the second class to graduate from the expeditionary-based learning school, which was established by the city of Portland in 2005 as an educational alternative to attending Deering or Portland high schools.

Learning expeditions are long-term, in-depth studies of a single topic that may include field trips.

Casco Bay students have explored topics such as Portland’s working waterfront, ancient Greece, and flu pandemics. They have camped on Cow Island in Casco Bay and helped build homes in Appalachia.

“While the class before them were the pioneers, this class was clearly the builders,” Susan McCray, a humanities teacher, told the audience.

After just five years, Principal Derek Pierce said classrooms are full, enrollment stands at 250 and there are 30 students on the school’s waiting list. Classes are held at the Portland Arts and Technology High School on Allen Avenue.

Maggie Eismeier, a 17-year-old senior from Portland, plans to attend Whitman College in Washington state this fall.

Eismeier, who earned the title of class writer, said she opted to attend Casco Bay High School because “I wanted to have the option of having a stronger voice in my education and to make my mark. I felt I could shape what the school was going to become.”

“We grew as a class, we stuck together, but we persevered on our own,” said Ness Smith-Savedoff, who interviewed every one of his classmates for a graduation project.

He edited and produced “Voices of 2010” — snippets of those interviews — which he presented during the ceremony. He plans to attend Oberlin College in Ohio this fall.

Portland Superintendent James Morse urged the graduates “to lead a life of the possible.”

Calling their decision to enroll at Casco Bay High School a “huge leap of faith,” Morse said the decision will pay dividends for the rest of their lives.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]