Pathways Coming to HCA


JUNE, 2018

By Carrie Branson,
Executive Director

As many of you know, HCA was first envisioned by a group of friends and neighbors in Harpswell who were increasingly concerned about the departure of young people from the community, and eager to see more educational choice for students in the area. School consolidation had been underway throughout the state, and hitting very close to home, the West Harpswell Elementary school had recently closed.

This group of engaged citizens envisioned a 6-12 charter school that would offer students a project-based curriculum rooted in mid-coast Maine – using our fields, forests and coastlines as classrooms rich for study of science, art and industry. Their hard work led to the opening of HCA in the fall of 2013, with 6 eager (and perhaps naive) faculty members and 60 students. Today we are a faculty of over 20, with 200 students on two campuses, and recently were granted an additional 5-year charter.

As anyone who has taken part of a start-up knows, the road is not always smooth. And while we’ve had our share of bumps along the road, we have also taken great strides in developing the school that was first envisioned- a school that is founded on the principles of Growth & Discovery, Investigation, Diversity & Inclusion, embracing the Natural World, Depth leading to Breadth, and Service & Compassion.

These principles are at the heart of our school, and they are informing the design of our new Pathways program for Divisions 2 & 3.

You can’t read much about Maine these days without reading about our state’s lack of skilled workers- and the incredible opportunities that exist for the entrepreneurially minded amongst us.

Our Pathways program is designed to address these opportunities. In much the same way that a college student declares a major, after a few years following the general curriculum at Division 2 our students will choose a pathway- one of four that will provide a rich mix of learning experiences including long-term investigations, Region 10 or SMCC classes, Internships, and mentoring relationships. Students will conclude their studies with a capstone project, and post secondary planning that will identify future academic and career goals.

Our Pathways program is not intended to pigeonhole students into a narrow field, but rather to show the connections between different careers, and thus to open student’s eyes to professions they may know nothing about.

  • The Communications pathway will focus on the nexus of media, culture, and society forged in the digital age. A student on this path may look to become a Web Developer, Market Analyst, or Journalist
  • The Environmental Studies pathway will assess how our local marine and forest resource- based industries affect and are affected by global climate change. A student on this path may look to become an Aquaculture Farmer, Scientist, Policy Leader, or Fisherman
  • The Design Thinking pathway will explore in detail the five phases of the design process – discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation, and evolution – by creating real world solutions to real world problems. A student on this path may look to become an Engineer, Auto Technician, or Architect
  • The Service pathway will explore fields ranging from government and policy to teaching, social work and health care, all fields that are expected to be among the fastest growing in Maine. A student on this path may look to become a Teacher, an EMT, a Lawyer, or enter Government Service 

By directly linking our curriculum to clear post-secondary outcomes, we will build engagement amongst students and help them see a path to a productive life for themselves right here in Maine- something our founders hoped for years ago.

We know that we are where we are today because of help from so many members of this community; we also know that this plan can only be successful with the help of many more in our community- our parents, our Directors, area businesses, local politicians, and area entrepreneurs. I invite you to reach out to our faculty or our Directors to learn more about the planned pathways, our Investigations, and the important role that Community Partners play in this work. Thank you all for your continued support of HCA.

–Carrie Branson, Executive Director