Lincoln Academy residential students take a selfie during a November field trip to Pemaquid Beach. Photo courtesy of Missy Abbott.

Lincoln Academy residential students take a selfie during a November field trip to Pemaquid Beach. Photo courtesy of Missy Abbott.

On Thursday, February 2 at 4 pm, members of the community are invited to learn more about hosting a Lincoln Academy International Student during a school vacation. Hosting a student for a vacation week is an accessible way for local families to get to know students from around the world. LA Residential Life Director Ken Stevenson will present on the nuts and bolts of hosting a student–or two–during vacation week in February or April.

By now the sight of international students walking up and down Academy Hill is a familiar one to most people in the Damariscotta/Newcastle community. Over the last four years Lincoln Academy has grown from a pilot program of fewer than a dozen international students living with local host families to a full-fledged residential program with 84 students from 16 countries living in two campus dormitories.

“Lincoln Academy has grown in many ways with the Residential Program,” said Lincoln Academy Head of School David Sturdevant. “Our campus has grown with the renovation of Hall House and the construction of the new dorm. Our programs have grown with the introduction of new classes that include not only English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, but also more science, art, Mandarin, and AP offerings. Our staff has grown to include dorm families, more dining hall staff to provide 3 meals a day, seven days a week, and new teachers. Our students have grown as they get to know classmates from all over the world. We have all grown in our understanding of what it means to be a multicultural school.”

There are many examples of Lincoln’s international students enriching the lives and educations of local students. Perhaps most significantly, a dozen or more local students have traveled to other countries, including Spain, China, and the Czech Republic to visit their classmates. International students have brought their traditions, such as Lunar New Year, to Lincoln Academy, and many students have shared their own culinary traditions: in the LA dining hall, through the FARMS Community Kitchen Cooking Classes, and in private homes where they are guests of their classmates.

“Food is a great way to build bridges between cultures,” said Ken Stevenson. “Many of new friendships start with food, and lead to places we never expect.”

As the LA Residential Program has grown rapidly, local residents have had multiple opportunities to interact with students from overseas. These students have volunteered at Pumpkinfest and the Pirate Festival, they have spoken in classrooms at Great Salt Bay School and other local schools about their cultures. Several students have presented at the Hyde School in Bath, and will speak at an upcoming conference at the University of Southern Maine on the subject of using Restorative Practices and Community Circles in schools.

This year, Lincoln is formalizing a Vacation Homestay program that will facilitate the process of local families hosting students during February and April vacation.”This is a wonderful chance for our international students to spend time with local families, and for local families to spend time with our international students,” explained Stevenson. “Students can stay in pairs, which gives them a friend, and takes the pressure off families to provide company for students every minute of every day. We hope to make this an appealing and enriching experience all around.” Vacation hosts do not have to have an affiliation with Lincoln Academy to host a student, however, some background information and a visit by Residential Life staff are required for safety reasons.

Stevenson will make a presentation to the public on Thursday, February 2 at 4 pm at Skidompha Library. “We hope to expand the circle of community members who have positive interactions with our international students through the vacation homestay program,” said Stevenson. Anyone interested in hosting should contact Ken Stevenson at stevenson@lincolnacademy.org, or attend the Skidompha presentation.