By Pam Harnden, Staff Writer
JAY — Nathan Dana, new Jobs for Maine’s Graduates instructor at Spruce Mountain High School, is excited about the opportunity.
Dana was a 3rd grade teacher in Hartland last year, fresh out of college. His mother had worked with SMHS Principal TJ Plourde. Through that connection he heard about the opening.
Dana was hired as a long-term substitute last fall when Barbara Jewett had to step down due to health reasons. The Regional School Unit 73 Board of Directors officially hired him in February.
Dana said this is a transition year. He’s trying to figure things out, make the JMG program his own.
“I don’t want any of the kids to miss out on something they would have had if the transition hadn’t happened. I’m doing my best to see they have those opportunities,” he said.
Dana plans to continue several JMG programs.
“A lot of the big events Barbara held were community staples. People expect them. Some of my Seniors have been going to the Harlem Superstars for as long as they can remember,” he said.
Dana is working with Amanda Pelky at the middle school to host a Financial Literacy Fair this spring. Otis Federal Credit Union is sponsoring it. Gear Up may be providing a $500 scholarship.
Dana said his focus this spring will be on community service. Possible projects involve working at the French Falls Recreation Area and unloading shipments at the Knights of Columbus Hall. He would also like to focus on the school.
“Spring is almost here. I want to spend some time outside,” he said.
Dana is working with JMG president Skyler Lewis on the JMG graduation. It will be informal with a barbecue. He wants to make it his own.
“It’s an important thing. The seniors are proud of their accomplishments,” he said.
There are 48 students in the JMG program. 24 are seniors.
Other JMG officers are Vice President Megan Mercier, Volunteer Coordinator Mallory Mercier, Secretary Joel Soper, Treasurer Abigail Redman and Scholarship Coordinator Caleb Blanche.
Dana is particularly proud of how well the students have handled the change in leadership.
“It was stressful. Some have had a long relationship with Barbara Jewett. They’ve all done a fantastic job,” he said.
Dana said the transition wouldn’t have been so smooth without Lewis’ help.
“She knew how it worked. She is a rock star!” he said.
Dana said apple picking and the food drive are really good causes that he would like to see continued.
“Barbara has a lot of contacts in the area. I’d like to reach out to them,” he said. “Barbara’s been fantastic about checking in, making sure everything is okay. She says ‘these are her kids.’ She’s been a Godsend.”
The awards won recently at the JMG Career Development Conference were re-affirming, but not the goal Dana had. He wants students to be the best they can be.
“I have enjoyed myself. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been working. It’s definitely easy to see the purpose of JMG, how much it impacts these kids’ lives,” he said.