Chewonki Waypoint: A Six-Year Mentoring Program

Program Overview

Chewonki Foundation, with the generous financial support of the Emanuel and Pauline A. Lerner Foundation, as part of the Aspirations Incubator, runs the Waypoint program, a six-year youth mentoring program for middle school and high school students from Maine Regional School Unit 1  (Arrowsic, Bath, Phippsburg, and Woolwich).

Lerner Foundation

The Chewonki Waypoint Program draws on Chewonki’s outdoor education experience and facilities across Maine, to provide participants from RSU1 with opportunities for self-discovery, aspiration, and leadership development. This is done through outdoor learning, ongoing mentorship, increasing a sense of civic responsibility, expanding worldviews, and encouraging focused preparation for life after high school. 

Goals for Chewonki Waypoint Participants:

  1. Grow civic engagement, awareness, compassion, and community service within the local community.
  2. Improve understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of the natural world.
  3. Increase self-resilience and determination to succeed.
  4. Expand individual leadership and community-building skills.
  5. Strengthen commitment to post-secondary or technical education.

"It’s a great way for my son to stay connected to peers in a supportive and confidence building environment. He experiences challenges through tasks and team building which helps him push himself outside his comfort zone. And the staff are wonderful mentors and trusted friends. I’m so grateful to the Waypoint program!"

Parent of 11th Grade Waypoint Participant

In 2021

96%

of student survey respondents reported a positive change in their Critical Thinking

87%

reported positive change in their Learning Interest

84%

reported positive change in Assertiveness*

 

*Statistics derived from survey results created by the PEAR Institute’s Holistic Student Assessment. Surveys are administered twice a year to determine socio-emotional strengths and challenges of each student as well as the efficacy of the program on encouraging positive growth in students.

Student Cohorts:

Each Chewonki Waypoint cohort is a group of 16 students from RSU1 who enter the program in 7th grade and can continue through high school graduation. Participants continually engage with mentors including Waypoint Coordinators, parents, teachers, volunteers, community leaders, and peers.

Each year of the Chewonki Waypoint program has a different theme and structural focus, part of a carefully sequenced curriculum for the cohort of students. Student cohorts have regularly scheduled meetings, averaging twice a month, work closely with mentors, are provided opportunities to influence programming through their own “Voice and Choice”, and participate in an annual Expedition Trip as a team.

"Izzy has been an incredible source of encouragement to not only my daughter, who is a rising 8th grader in Waypoint, but also to our family during a difficult time in our lives."

Parent of 8th Grade Waypoint Participant

Annual Overviews:

7th Grade

Theme: Building Relationships

Day Trips Include: Visit the Chewonki Farm & Volunteer at Animal Refuge
Expedition Trip: Team Building and Camping at Chewonki 

In the introductory year, the 7th grade cohort focuses on creating positive relationships within the group as a foundation for the years ahead. The students meet together twice a month to engage in a series of team building activities and games, exploring what it means to get to know each other and be in Waypoint. In addition to a volunteer day at a local animal refuge, students will visit the Chewonki campus for activities on Saltmarsh Farm, on the Challenge Course, and participate in a camping weekend full of community and team building!

8th Grade

Theme: Engaging with Community

Day Trips Include: Chewonki Farm Day, Work with local land trust, Work with local food bank
Expedition: Celebrating Middle School at Fourth Debsconeag Lake Wilderness Camps

The 8th grade cohort focuses on building community – within the group, within the local area, and between the two, moving from strengthening their cohort from within, to looking outside of themselves. Students plan and participate in a Community Panel with local professionals, formulate and execute a Community Engagement Project, and work with the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust to give back to the natural world. The group’s 4-day overnight camping trip to Fourth Debsconeag Lake Wilderness Camps will celebrate a transition from a smaller middle school community to a larger high school community, while providing tools and building skills for the transition.

9th Grade

Theme: Connecting to the Natural World

Day Trips Include: Day Hike, Winter Adventure, Work with local land trust, continued work with the Chewonki Farm
Expedition: Winter Skills & Community Living in Chewonki Yurts

The 9th Grade year is an intentional balance of in-school time and support as students begin high school, along with cohort community building, and outdoor learning. Students will have the opportunity to learn about Maine’s history and natural world through units on mindfulness, outdoor skill building, climate justice, visits with the animals at Chewonki’s Traveling Natural History Program, farm work, and more. The overnight expedition will allow students to put their new skills to good use, and solidify their group bond as high school begins, on a winter adventure in Chewonki’s yurts.

10th Grade

Theme: Leadership & Expanding Horizons

Day Trips Include: Exploring Portland, Visiting Monhegan Island, Option to Attend Maine Youth Action Network’s Youth Leadership Conference
Expedition: Sharing Leadership while Overnight Canoe Camping

Moving into 10th grade, we offer the group more freedom to design their journey, structured around events or outings they choose or get to run. 10th grade units will focus primarily on leadership development, communication, and decision-making, as we believe that at this age students will be grounding in high school and have the ability to both self-reflect and look ahead. Students will have the opportunity to facilitate team building activities for each other on a culminating Low Ropes Initiative Day, as a way of utilizing their new skills. The group will explore and expand their horizons through an overnight canoeing expedition in the heart of mid-coast Maine.

11th Grade

Theme: Preparing for College & Career

Day Trips Include: College tour, Job Shadow, Outdoor Adventure (Group Choice)
Expedition: Exploring Maine’s College Offerings

In 11th grade, we focus forward, working together to plan for each student’s life after high school. The year is, overall, more urban, centering around exposure to both college campuses and post-high school job training programs. Students will embark on a career mapping and visioning process, as well as attend guest workshops on Resume Building, Interviewing, and Financial Literacy. By the end of 11th grade, we hope students have a heightened understanding of what they may want to do after high school and specific action steps on how to get there, along with an increased awareness of the options available to them. Students will have the opportunity to engage with at least one local job shadow and the group’s overnight expedition will involve exposure to a variety of college campuses that Maine has to offer.

12th Grade

Theme: Mentoring the Next Generation & Looking Ahead

Day Trips Include: Training hikes for final expedition, Mentoring at 7th grade events, Chewonki Waypoint Graduation
Expedition: Exploring Baxter State Park & Celebratory Challenge Hike

The focus of the final Waypoint year is mentorship, planning for graduation, and giving back. Waypoint participants are expected to provide guidance and encouragement to younger students in the program. This connects young citizens with one another across grade levels and gives the eldest students a chance to reflect on their journey to this point. We finish out the 12th grade year with a transformational 4-Day trip, including the option for a celebratory challenge hike of Mount Katahdin. Cohort members and their families are invited to Chewonki for a graduation celebration in June.

Graduation and Beyond!

After six years of supporting each other, adventuring through the Maine outdoors, and working as a team to build inspiration and aspiration, we hope Waypoint friendships and relationships will last a lifetime.
Waypoint graduates will have a special status in their communities and at Chewonki. We want them to stay in touch with their own mentors as well as the younger students they mentor, playing a meaningful role in leading their community forward.