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Coastal Studies for Girls graduates pioneer class in Freeport

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Coastal Studies for Girls graduates pioneer class in Freeport

FREEPORT — On a beautiful spring afternoon, 13 sophomore girls became the first class to graduate from the Coastal Studies for Girls Science and Leadership School. Graduation activities took place last week at the school's farmhouse on Wolfe's Neck Road.

The pioneer class included students from Maine, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, the greater Boston area, Los Angeles and Baltimore. For 16 weeks they lived in a renovated 1850s farmhouse on eight acres of land leased from the Wolfe's Neck Farm Foundation.

They ate together, studied together and learned to trust one another at the only residential school of its kind in the United States.

Abigail Mahoney of Cove Road in Freeport is one of the four Mainers in the first class.

She said she knew she wanted to attend a semester school during high school, and the all-female, marine science focus of CSG appealed to her.

"I knew I wanted to try something different and I really liked that it was hands-on learning," she said. "I am familiar with my surroundings, but I also learned more about where I live."

Every morning the students took language, humanities and math classes, Mahoney said.  Mondays and Wednesday afternoons were dedicated to marine science studies, and Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons were leadership classes. Field trips were on Fridays and Saturdays.

"Sundays, we cleaned and did homework," she said.

While living with 12 other girls in close quarters was a challenge for Mahoney, she said the program helped make her more aware of herself and her strengths.

"I feel more independent now, more sure of myself, and I know I can participate in group activities," she said. "The whole experience was awesome. I would encourage other girls to visit the farmhouse, to talk to the staff, and see how passionate they are about the school."

Ginger Jones, director of marketing and development, said the program encourages the students to pursue interests in science and math in a safe and nurturing environment.

In order to help support the science and leadership educational program, Jones said Time Warner Cable recently awarded CSG a three-year challenge grant for $100,000. The grant  will help fund science programming and equipment and launch a scholarship fund called “Scholarships for Science” for high school sophomores.

Jones said the grant from Time Warner Cable and the graduation festivities made last weekend an exciting end to a wonderful semester.

"These parents are so brave to let their daughters be the first in this program," Jones said. "This group has been challenged in many ways, and we learned from them as much as they learned while they were here."

Roberto Munoz of Los Angeles, Calif., said CSG has been an "awesome experience" for his daughter, Christine.

"At first, I said no, it isn't time for college yet, but then I said why not. Christine is interested in marine biology, and I am open-minded about education for my daughter," he said. "I left home at an early age to go to the seminary. If I made it, I know she can make it too."

Christine Munoz said she matured at CSG. 

"It will be hard to go back to my life at home," she said. "I feel I have changed so much here. I feel transformed."

Tameika Banks, a sophomore from Boston, said she never thought she could accomplish everything she had at CSG. She said she kayaked, hiked and learned more about the environment than she knew was possible.

"I may look the same on the outside, but inside I am a whole new person," she said. "I am now what you call a woman of wilderness."

Margaret Keefe of Camden said the semester affected her life in many positive ways.

"I want to be involved with the future classes," she said. "Maybe I can host a hike around the Camden area for the next class."

Jones said after a short summer break, the staff at CSG will gear up for the next class of sophomore girls to attend the semester school. 

"Seeing the joy of the board, (executive director) Pam Erikson and all the parents is my joy," Jones said. "This celebration and the grant affirms we are on the right track. We are doing the right thing here."

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net