2012-07-13 / Front Page

Landing School has global reach

About 20 percent of students travel great distances to attend
By Amber Carter
Staff Writer

A local school with an international reach, the Landing School in Arundel gives its students the skills to excel in the marine industry.

“I think that the Landing School is in a sweet spot,” said Bob DeColfmacker, the school’s president. “If you’re interested in marine studies you are in a perfect place.”

John Burgess and Helen Tupper founded the Landing School in 1978 as a nonprofit, post-secondary school.

The mission continues to be proving quality skills in boat building using hands on education. The first year the school had nine students. Now 33 years later, it educates about 70 students a year from all over the world.

“About 60 percent of them are from New England, with the bulk of them from Maine. About 20 percent come from the northeast and the other 20 percent are from everywhere else,” said DelColfmacker. “There is no rhyme or reason. We joke that we have students from other countries, including California.”

About six of the enrolled students are international, including two from Bermuda. The Landing School is a twoyear program that can provide its students with a one year diploma or a two year associate degree. The programs offered are boat building, marine systems, composite boat building and yacht design. More than 20 students will be returning for a second year in the fall.

Barry Acker, the director of advancement at the Landing School, approached a foundation in Massachusetts that has been involved with the school in the past. He proposed a scholarship for a three year period that would benefit one student a year from Bermuda.

“They have been supportive of the school for years,” Acker said. “Its a wonderful thing.”

Acker said although “Bermuda has an excellent boating industry, the education system doesn’t really educate them in the marine industry.”

He said if the school gets a good number of students from Bermuda in the future, he hopes to continue the scholarship after three years.

Alton O’Connor is one of those students. Hailing from Bermuda, O’Connor has been awarded a scholarship from an anonymous donor so he can return to the school.

The scholarship will pay tuition, as well as cover living expenses. “He is a very nice student,” said DelColfmacker. “He has done very well. It is nice that he can continue to an associate degree.” O’Connor will use this opportunity to complete his two-year degree in Marine Industry Technology.

“I heard about the grant late in the spring. There wasn’t a lot of time to get applicants for the fall. Alton wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to come back a second year, so I told him he needed to apply,” said Acker.

Now the Landing School is working with the schools in Bermuda to seek out potential students. “If we get a good list of students I might approach the foundation again.”

The Landing School provides many different scholarships to students. Some of the donors choose to donate to the general scholarship fund, which can assist any student. Some donors place restrictions on their donations. “Most donors have a program or geography in mind,” said DelColfmacker. “It’s really nice folks want to do these things.”

The next special scholarship that is being discussed at the Landing School is for female students. This past year, seven young women were enrolled; this is the highest number in the school’s history.

“You leave here with a great set of skills,” DelColfmaker said. “The composites program can easily transfer to other industries.” In the program the students build either boats that were designed at the school or designed with the help of others. The boats built are sold to people from the community. They range from traditional 12-foot wooden boats or 22-foot custom fly-fishing boats.

“We have an interesting niche,” said DelColmaker. “We don’t compete with Maine Maritime, but there are other schools that we contend with. We are very well positioned. A number of our alums have great positions of responsibility in the marine industry.”

Acker agrees. “I’m always amazed that we place virtually every student,” he said. “This year’s graduates were complaining they had to go to work right on Monday. The hardest decision for most of them was choosing from one of their many offers.”

He strongly believes that the school provides its students with employable skills. “Everyone should get the post-grad education to give them skills to find a job,” he said.

Staff Writer Amber Carter can be reached at 282-4337, ext 233.

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