Friday, August 28, 2009

Thornton Academy Welcomes Boarding Students

One year ago Thornton Academy announced its plans to start a boarding program. This historic decision will allow the nearly 200-year-old independent school to truly make a global impact as international students move to campus.
There are 38 students currently enrolled for the fall who will live in TA’s new dorm, recently named the James E. Nelson Residence Hall after a longtime member and former President of TA’s Board of Trustees.
The two story, 16,500 square-foot residence hall is now complete. It was designed by Barba+Wheelock of Portland, Maine. PM Construction is the construction manager and financing is by Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution.
Four faculty apartments divide up the space set aside for boys and girls in the dorm. It has two single-occupancy rooms and 18 double-occupancy rooms that are 115 square feet and 220 square feet, respectively. Each student will have a bed, a desk, a wardrobe, a dresser, a bookshelf and a desk chair. The building also has two common areas for socializing and studying; three snack rooms each equipped with a refrigerator, microwave and sink; and modern features like radiant heating and colored concrete floors.
Wireless Internet access will be available to students and since the dorm is located right off of Route 1, they can easily walk to shops and restaurants in downtown Saco or go to the new Amtrak train station nearby to get to Portland, Boston and beyond.
Rick Thompson, chair of the foreign language department, says it’s an exciting time at TA as the school welcomes people from other parts of the world. He believes that teachers and students alike will benefit from the added perspectives of international students in the classroom.
To help our visitors feel welcome, Thompson says that faculty, staff and students will need to make an effort to meet and befriend the new people on campus.
“For them a simple ‘Hello’ in the hallway can make the difference between a good day and a hard day thousands of miles from home,” he explains. “Conversely, making friends from other countries can change the life of a young person. I remember getting to know Gonzalo, a Venezuelan exchange student in my high school. Suddenly I had a practical application for my new Spanish skills and I quickly gained confidence as a second-language speaker. This experience helped direct me to the life I live today.”
Kelli Corrigan, Director of Residential Life and Dean of Residential Students, has organized events and activities for this week that will help students feel acclimated to life in the U.S. There are trips planned to Funtown/Splashtown and to Boston, a movie night in Hyde Library, and dinner at an Old Port restaurant. The incoming boarding students will also participate in freshman orientation, which will help them become familiar with TA’s campus, and visit the Maine Mall to buy what they need for their dorm rooms.
“Our goal is to introduce kids to the staff who will be part of the residential program. We want to bond with them that first week. There will also be outreach projects with teachers and clubs once school begins,” she says.
Corrigan is also organizing student ambassador and host family programs, which will also help boarding students feel at home away from home. Kimberly Dao ’10, whose parents emigrated from Vietnam, is among those ready to enthusiastically greet the newcomers.
“I hope that they get to experience everything good about the American lifestyle,” she says. “They may lead sheltered lives compared to kids who grew up here in Maine. We want to get them out to have fun!”