Penboscot Bay Press Compass Logo

Penobscot Bay Press
Community Information Services

News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, December 12, 2019
Stonington student is a ‘STAR

STAR Student of the Month

Sam Gaffen is Maine Connections Academy's November 2019 STAR Student of the Month.

Photo courtesy of Maine Connections Academy

Maine Connections Academy (MCA), the state’s first virtual public charter school, has selected Sam Gaffen, a 9th grader from Stonington, as its November 2019 STAR Student of the Month. The STAR Student of the Month is an MCA student who has shown particular accomplishments and spirit, according to a news release.

This is Gaffen’s third year at MCA, after having first been homeschooled through sixth grade. For Gaffen, online school has given him the ability to study at his own pace. The schedule is more flexible, allowing him more time for being with family and friends.

A typical day for the young student starts out much the way it does for a student at a regular school—but it’s happening at home.

“I wake up, check my lessons, do some work before breakfast, then have breakfast, then work on my live lessons until mid-morning,” Gaffen said in the release.

“Live lessons” are just that: lessons led by a teacher on-screen, with all of the students in that class participating simultaneously via their screens, all across the state.

Gaffen’s favorite class is Earth Science with Mr. Gallo, one of MCA’s many Maine-certified teachers. “He has a good sense of humor; it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like fun,” Gaffen said. Some of the Earth Science classwork takes place online, including videos, some of it involves hands-on activities at home, using materials found in every kitchen and house.

Outside of school, Gaffen likes to ride his bike, go hiking—and take care of his pet hamster, named Oreo. He also enjoys tinkering with electronics: He built his own computer from leftover parts in 5th grade. These days, he’s working on projects such as fixing his laptop’s hard drive.

Gaffen is thinking about more schooling—and perhaps a career—in computer science. Maine Connections Academy is proud to select him as the November 2019 STAR Student of the Month, the news release stated.

Maine Connections Academy is Maine’s first statewide, tuition-free, online charter school for students in grades 7-12. Now in its sixth year, MCA provides students with the flexibility to learn from anywhere there is an internet connection. Students enjoy a personalized approach to education, with an award-winning curriculum, certified Maine-based teachers, dynamic electives, cutting-edge technology tools, and engaging social activities. MCA is authorized by the Maine Charter School Commission; its teaching center is based in Scarborough. Educational programs and other services are provided by Connections Academy, a national leader in online learning for more than a decade. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit