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Thursday, January 27, 2022

A new scholarship for non-traditional students at BFA and MVSD honors late educator Michael Cain | News

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Swanton – Michael Caine was known as the man who carried an old sea kayak on the roof of his car.

His motto: “No child is left inside.”

This fall, teacher and outsider Michael Caine is memorialized by a scholarship fund in his name to support non-traditional students at both Bellows Free St. Albans Academy and Mississippi Valley Union High School. Colleagues and students said the program – the Michael Keane Foundation for Experiential Learning was exactly what Keane wanted.

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“He’s built such a good relationship with the kids,” said Jimmy Stei, a field studies teacher at Missiskoye Valley Union High School. Marie. “He gave them tough love…and would never give up on a child. He was always willing to take on any student. He had a big heart.”

Fellow MVU mentor Nate Poore said emotion permeated everything Kane did.

“I am not sure that the field studies (program) would have been successful without him,” he said.

Jeff Binai, Director of Indian Education at MVSD, said the aim of the scholarship is to award students who choose to invest in a community-oriented position rather than taking the traditional route to college after graduating from high school.

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“We are only looking at someone who cannot take the mainstream path through education,” Binay told the Messenger last week. “Scholarships are always for kids who go to college. For Mike scholarship, it has to be something different. We hope we will have the opportunity to offer this every year. It is a way to keep his memory alive.”

The first scholarship will be awarded upon graduation in 2022. Binay said the amount of the scholarship has yet to be determined, as it is being funded by donations that are already coming in.


The Michael Caine Foundation for Experiential Learning was established this fall by a board of directors in honor of their colleague and friend who passed away last year. Board members include BFA teacher Paul Brown, Beth Hemmingway, director of the Alburgh Community Education Center, Cain’s companion Joanne Wells and Cain’s brother Bill Cain and Benay.

The board’s goal is to keep Cain’s memory and legacy alive at two schools where Cain has spent most of his career: BFA St Albans and MVUMHS. Two graduating seniors – one from each school – who have followed an unconventional path through education will receive a financial scholarship toward a community-based career. A career can include anything from setting up a local business to working for the community in some way.

The application includes an introduction to a resume, a summary of high school goals reflecting a career in a community career, a high school transcript with proof of diploma and three non-relative letters of recommendation. Applications are due before March 1, 2022 to the MVSD at 100 Robin Hood Drive in Swanton with attention to Jeff Benay.

Cain’s work

The Field Studies program at MVU began with extensive advice from Cain, an enthusiastic and retired outside educator with a background in practical program planning.

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He was known for his ability to reach even the most inaccessible students.

“He was incredibly creative and connected to just about anyone,” Burr said. “Kids who had never been successful in school found success with him. He used a strength-based approach before there was anything called strength-based.”

Cain helped teachers develop the now popular Field Studies program at MVU six years ago, which identified students who might not graduate on time. Then, students had the option to earn course credits through the Field Studies Program, a workable alternative that brought students outside and taught activities like hiking, building, and how to dress for trout.

The program began with the same 15 open slots it offers to high school students today. After six years of success and pleasure in the program, however, St. Mary said the pool has grown to 40 applicants and requires interested students to be interviewed and accepted.

The program effectively combines Cain’s well-known love of the outdoors with his belief that every student has the ability to excel. They just needed more options, more sympathy, and getting out.

both st. Mary and Burr said the program has worked wonders for some of the students, the same students Kane inspired to complete their education in their own way.

“I think he (Cain) will be happy to find out that these kids are getting a scholarship that conflicts with most scholarships,” Burr said. “Most scholarships reward a well-behaved academic child. I love the idea that this money would go to kids who gave teachers a chance to get their money back…He had a heart for the underdog.”


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