Chris Percy, long time Maine Coast Semester Spanish teacher, dean of residential life, and photographer, has a way of standing that lets you know he is ready for anything. Shoulders squared, back straight, face full of anticipation, like an eager kid. Boisterous class? He can deal. Challenging student? He’s by their side. He’s equally game for a wilderness canoe trip, a sheep round-up, a fast motorcycle ride, an honest conversation about a topic everyone else is avoiding, and a world that needs healing.
“I am someone who’s always on the go,” says Percy. He describes his five years at Chewonki as “the longest I’ve stayed anywhere.” He is a man in motion, eager to get outside, ready for the next adventure, yet he is also known and loved here for his heartfelt commitment to students. When they–or fellow faculty members–have needed him, he’s always been there.
Asked what he values most about his Maine Coast Semester years, he responds quickly: “Hands down, the relationships with kids. Walking with kids through hardships. Seeing the distance they travel while they are here. Having the privilege of being part of that has been wonderful.”
He also treasures the outdoor adventures he’s had in Maine, from bird-hunting on Chewonki Neck with his Labrador retriever, Rubio, to canoeing legendary rivers and backpacking across mountains with students. He describes being outdoors as “a great release, a way to experience the world unencumbered…Life moves move more slowly when you are hiking and paddling.”
Now Percy is in motion again, leaving Chewonki to begin a master’s program in clinical counseling at North Carolina State University. He hopes to focus especially on male adolescents. His professional goal aligns with a deep-seated desire “to help people tell their story on their journey of life, listen to them, reflect back to them. I like being someone who can challenge them and also support them through challenges.”
“There’s a groundswell of need for counseling,” he believes. “Every day, more and more need. I’ll stick with adolescents and college-aged students. The thing I like about this age is that they haven’t gotten life all figured out yet. They’re mature enough to engage in conversation and still willing to hear you and process what may be a different way of looking at their situation.” He hopes to weave outdoor experience into his practice, perhaps through wilderness-based or equine-assisted therapies.
As a New Jersey high school student, Percy studied Spanish in high school but didn’t care much about it until senior year, when he had a Guatemalan teacher who “brought the language to life,” he says. “He showed me that learning Spanish is not just about learning a language; it’s about learning a culture.”
At Connecticut College, he majored in Hispanic studies, and after graduating, travelled to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where he met the founder of a nonprofit organization, the Village Mountain Mission Project, that builds houses in the Dominican Republic for people in need. “I decided I wanted to be out in the world effecting change,” he says.
Throughout his Chewonki years, Percy spent most vacations in the Dominican Republic working for that project and, more recently, helping to create another organization called a Group Of Extraordinary Students, for which he leads educational service trips for American high school and college students in Latin American countries.
Percy’s big, friendly spirit made him a magnet for both students and faculty at Maine Coast Semester. Among other things, that’s helped him in his role as semester photographer. With his camera and smile at the ready, he’s snapped thousands of photographs, creating a rich chronicle of this community and this place. In the sampling of his work below, notice the authenticity of the smiles he elicits from his human subjects, as well as the unique perspectives and details his eye discovered.
“I guess photography is a way for me to tell stories and help others remember their stories,” he says. He tries “to capture moments–joy, sadness; to create photos that will help people remember their journey.”
Ten un viaje feliz, buena suerte, y gracias, Chris Percy!