Graduates to Watch

Joshua Bragdon, a 2020 graduate of Gray-New Gloucester High School, has received a scholarship to attend Southern Maine Community College. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Throughout the coronavirus shutdown, while many of his classmates have been staying home, Joshua Bragdon has worked four afternoons each week, delivering meals to residents at the Ledgewood Manor, a nursing home in Windham.

It’s a job Bragdon has held for a year through a work-study program at Gray-New Gloucester High School, and fear of contracting COVID-19 wasn’t going to keep him from doing a job he enjoys.

“We’re taking all the precautions we can take,” he said. “It’s a lot different in some ways, but the people are all the same, including the other workers. I try to make people smile and feel better about being there and make sure everything is clean and safe.”

Beyond being an “essential employee” during the pandemic, Bragdon has endeavored to become a motivated and productive student. It wasn’t easy.

He had a syndrome known as PANDAS, which stands for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. While most other children recover from strep throat, it caused a variety of health and behavioral issues for Bragdon, especially in the classroom.

“I struggled a lot in school,” he said. As a result, he was enrolled in special education classes, where he benefited from smaller class sizes and one-on-one instruction from teachers.


By his sophomore year, his health and educational challenges subsided and he was able to transition into nearly all regular classes. School staff said he has shown exceptional growth in academics and accountability.

Candid and self-effacing, Bragdon said he was surprised to be included among the 2020 Graduates to Watch.

“I feel like I’m an average Joe,” said Bragdon, 17, of New Gloucester.

Bragdon credits his mother and his teachers with helping him succeed through the years. He has received a scholarship to attend Southern Maine Community College and may enroll there in the fall.

For now, he said, he plans to take an online introductory business course this summer through Central Maine Community College. If he likes the class, he may pursue a business degree as a versatile foundation for many careers, such as a real estate or insurance agent.

The pandemic has forced him to reconsider his options.

“I’m a little uncertain what I’m going to do,” he said. “Right now is a really hard time for a lot of seniors, especially with the job market being the way it is.”

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