A Portland school announced Tuesday that it has received a significant grant that school officials say will be used to improve political discourse and civic engagement among its students and those across Maine.

The $250,000 matching grant will enable Waynflete students to learn the skills they will need to get along with people of different backgrounds and beliefs.

Waynflete, a co-educational pre-K through grade 12 school located in Portland’s West End neighborhood, received the $250,000 matching grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation of New York City. The funds will be used to establish the Center for Civic Engagement, according to a news release issued by Waynflete.

Waynflete said it will partner with other schools and advocacy organizations to foster expanded discourse and civility across political and socioeconomic lines. School officials said the center will help break down barriers that keep students from engaging with peers they disagree with or have little in common with.

Waynflete Head of School Geoff Wagg said Wednesday night that the school has raised about $50,000 of the $250,000 match it must provide. The Center for Civic Engagement, based at Waynflete, should be up and running by the fall of 2019.

“Students must develop the skills and ability to work with and learn from people with whom they may disagree,” Wagg said in a statement. “Our role as educators is to foster optimism, to engage our students as active citizens and civic leaders, and to make replicable models that will that will teach these skills to students and communities on a greater scale.

“With the support of the Edward E. Ford Foundation and the help of partner schools and organizations, we can demonstrate the power, wisdom, and creativity that is unleashed when diversity is honored instead of feared,” Wagg added.

Waynflete will partner with Seeds of Peace, the Maine Heritage Policy Center and Students Shoulder to Shoulder, to name a few organizations, to create the Center for Civic Engagement.

“Dialogue about issues that matter to students cultivates in them a deep sense of purpose that in turn seeds the habits of lifelong civil engagement,” said Tim Wilson, Maine director for Seeds of Peace. “This grant allows Waynflete and Maine Seeds of Peace to continue working with youth who are establishing their leadership in many Maine communities.”

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

[email protected]

filed under: