LIMESTONE, Maine — Few Aroostook County high school graduations involve classes as diverse as those from the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, with students from around the state, nation and globe attending the magnet school.
Among the young men and women participating in today’s graduation ceremonies will be a Lisbon Falls teen who is headed to U.S. Military Academy at West Point next month, a 15-year-old who completed all of the required studies in three years, and a 16-year-old former home-schooled student who plans a career in mathematics.
Twenty-nine seniors will graduate from MSSM at 1 p.m. today in the auditorium of the Limestone Community School, 15 years after the state’s only magnet school opened. Close to 100 percent of those graduates plan to attend college immediately, pursuing careers in medicine; chemical, computer and nuclear engineering; forensic science; psychology and other fields.
Patrick Brown, 18, of Lisbon Falls came to MSSM three years ago in hopes of being more challenged academically and furthering his chances of getting into a good college.
“When I was in Lisbon, I could get A’s without even really trying,” he said Friday. “When I got here, I started spending five hours a night on homework on top of my class work. It was definitely hard to get used to.”
He said the hard work paid off, though, as Brown has been accepted to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point this fall. Only about 13 percent of applicants are accepted during any given year, according to statistics from the academy. Brown credited the rigorous curriculum at MSSM and the discipline needed to balance academics with other aspects of life as helping him to get into the military academy. Brown will head to the academy in June and plans to major in international relations.
Tim Buchak, 16, of LaGrange was home-schooled before he came to the Limestone campus in 2007 along with his brother,Eric Buchak, who also is graduating today. Tim Buchak skipped a grade and took five Advanced Placement courses when he came to MSSM, allowing him to graduate earlier than most of his classmates. He will attend the University of Maine in the fall and will major in mathematics.
“I was bored with home schooling, but I got here and immediately realized that this is where I belonged,” he said Friday. “I started taking high level math courses and really got the education I wanted.”
Buchak will not be the only senior who is graduating early. Una Huang, 15, of Readfield also will be receiving her diploma after spending three years at MSSM. Huang spent all of her high school career at the school, serving as one of the founding members of the school’s Civil Rights Club and winning second place in the state “Letters About Literature” competition. Huang will be attending Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
While mathematics and science are heavily emphasized at the school, not all of the graduates gravitate toward careers in those fields, Sharon Daigle-Gerrish, director of public relations and marketing at the school, said Friday. She said students also get well-rounded educations in the humanities, the arts and other areas and that some choose to pursue careers in those fields.
Katie Jimenez, 18, of Montville is one of those students. Jimenez spent three years at MSSM, becoming a “big advocate” for the school’s theater program and being highly active in the arts program. Jimenez is taking a year before attending college to explore opportunities in theater. She intends to study psychology while at-tending Moravian College in Pennsylvania.
“I am actually not a big math and science fan,” she said Friday. “But I studied hard and I learned so much here academically. I also learned a lot about myself, which I think is one of the most important things. I learned what my limits are and that I need an outlet for things, and I’ve really found that here through arts and the theater and music. I don’t think that most of us would be as prepared for college as we are now if we had not attended MSSM. I think we’ve all learned time management and how to balance academics with other things. We’ve also lived in the dorms so we’ve had our ‘I am away from home and I can do what I want stage.’ This has been a great experience and I think we are all looking forward to the future.”
This year’s keynote speaker will be Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake.