This spring, Foxcroft Academy student Ethan Curtis ‘20, received a letter from the University of Maine Cohen Institute for Leadership and Public Service offering him the chance to attend their very first summer leadership program for Maine high school students. The summer program only selects one high school from each Maine county, and from there, the school gets to decide which student to send to the program. The FA Administration team–void of Head of School Arnold Shorey–selected Curtis based on student requirements set by the Institute, so this was a great honor for Curtis to receive, as well as the school. Those selected for the program are awarded a scholarship to cover their full tuition, room, and board.
The summer program is a one-week, residential experience that offers students intensive leadership development from UMaine faculty in Leadership Studies, as well as opportunities to interact with leaders from across the state. An academic course called “Foundations of Leadership” is offered, and counts for three early college credits. “When I first found out about this opportunity I was grateful,” said Curtis, “and after learning of the early college credit, I was really looking forward to learning and being challenged on a new scale.”
Though, to earn the college credit, that meant he would face college-level assignments. As part of the preparation for the program, Curtis was required to have completed two readings before the course, “Leadership–It’s a System, Not a Person!” and “What Every Leader Needs to Know About Followers,” by Barbara Kellerman. He was also required to submit a three-page essay describing his thoughts and reflections before the program about his skills and capabilities as a leader, along with his views about what makes a good, effective leader.
On July 7th, after arriving and settling in at UMaine, Curtis and the group of 18 students had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Senator Susan Collins and then begin their first leadership exercise at the UMaine Ropes Course. Then the group had a tour of the campus and got to experience the Emera Planetarium.
On Monday, their first full day, the theme was “Leadership in Maine.” The group had the opportunity to listen to several speakers, including Thomas A. Daffron, former Chief of Staff to Senators William S. Cohen, Fred Thompson, and Lisa Murkowski; another speaker was Mark Salter, former Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator and Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain. The students then sat through their very first class, “Foundations of Leadership,” taught by Professor Ryan LaRochelle. As part of the class, students had to read Tom Rath’s “Strengths-Based Leadership,” a book that guided the classroom discussion. Later that afternoon, Curtis and the rest of the students had their second leadership activity canoeing on the Stillwater River.
“Public Stewardship and Leadership” was the main focus on Tuesday. President Joan Ferrini-Mundy of the University of Maine spoke of “Leadership in Higher Education.” After their required Foundations of Leadership course, the group then visited the UMaine Climate Change Institute and also the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center to discuss “Leadership through Applied Scientific Research.” They ended their day with a leadership exercise of rock climbing–one of Curtis’s favorite activities of the week.
The students had several group activities on Wednesday, which required them to lead within their assigned teams, as the theme for the day was “Leadership through Teams.” Pat Denenke, UMaine Football, Offensive Line Coach, and Chris Ferguson, Senior Captain and Quarterback came to discuss leadership in athletics. That evening, the leadership exercise was to hike Little Chick Hill.
Thursday’s focus was “High Powered Leadership,” and that morning, Patrick Veroneau gave a presentation of what that meant. After their class, the group visited the Alfond Arena and then departed for the Bangor Air Guard where Major General Rachel Beal gave a speech on protecting Maine’s citizens.
On Friday, their last full day, students learned their final “Leadership Lessons.” The group had their last Foundations in Leadership class, then departed for a roundtable politics and current events discussion. That afternoon, Curtis said they were given some time to spend at the New Balance Recreation Center for a yoga session, as well as various other sports activities that they could choose from. On this day, the students also had the opportunity to have a conversation with Senator William Cohen over FaceTime, another one of Curtis’s favorite activities.
Every night the students were required to log a journal with specific prompts. Each prompt would align with what the students learned in class that day and would be graded. One of his journals focused on the student’s top five strengths that they found by taking the StrengthsFinder assessment in their class. Curtis said his top five strengths were: “achiever, competition, consistency, learner, and discipline.” The prompt also asked how these strengths can be applied in leadership development and how the student has used one of these skills in the past week. Curtis said, he used his learner skills to gain knowledge “about leadership throughout the week,” and also to learn more about his “peers to build deeper relationships through trust.”
Overall, Curtis recalled that he learned a lot over the week.“I took away that I need to open myself up to new opportunities and take risks. I believe that this can be obtained by having greater self-confidence,” said Curtis.
Curtis revealed that he acquired many useful connections and enjoyed his time with the people at the Institute; he was thankful for the experience. On the last day, the students had a graduation ceremony for passing the course. Curtis went home with a graduation award, signifying his completion of the “Foundations of Leadership” course, earning him three college credits.
“It was a great honor for Foxcroft Academy to be selected as the only high school in the county for this program,” said Head of School Arnold Shorey. “I am glad that Ethan had a good experience, and I hope that next year FA will be able to select another student to attend as well.”
For more information on UMaine’s Cohen Institute for Leadership and Public Service, click here.