Every year, The Island School is proud to present the Maxey Cacique Alumni Award to honor one alum who has lived our mission to make a difference in the world. Our alumni community includes over 1,500 individuals who have achieved outstanding accomplishments since transitioning back home from The Island School.
This year, we honor Peter Meijer from the Spring 2005 Island School semester. Peter was chosen by his peers and the faculty to be the final class Cacique in celebration of his leadership and commitment to the community. Peter was always looking out for that individual who might feel left out; he would reach out and bring them into the circle, Maxey remembers. After returning home from his semester at The Island School, Peter graduated from East Grand Rapids High School and received an appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point. He later transferred to Columbia University and continued to serve his country enlisting in the US Army Reserves. Peter deployed to serve on Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011. He spent his time in Iraq embedded with the Iraqi Army as a combat advisor at Joint Security Stations in the Baghdad area. Upon returning home from his tour of duty, Peter rejoined the student body at Columbia and graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Political Science. Currently, Peter is studying for his MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business where he is scheduled to graduate in 2017.
Peter’s transition back from the military to civilian/college life led him to join the Student Veterans of America (SVA) organization where he was recently appointed Vice -Chair of the Board. The mission of SVA is to provide veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and beyond. As a leader at SVA, Peter helps other young veterans by serving as a mentor as they return to civilian life. The organization also helps with the social and emotional issues many veterans have when returning home.
Peter also volunteers for Team Rubicon, a nonprofit disaster response and humanitarian aid organization that organizes military veterans to respond to crises. With Team Rubicon, Peter was part of front line volunteer disaster response team providing critically needed aid in South Sudan, the Philippines, Moore, Oklahoma and in New York City following Hurricane Sandy. Peter sums up his main mission at Team Rubicon as to help people — restore a sense of normalcy, he says, but there’s this beautiful silver lining. It also helps the vets, who often struggle with suicide, mental health issues, PTSD, issues of unemployment, how to integrate. All these difficult issues. When you try to work on them directly, you don’t make much progress. But when you’re working with other vets at a disaster, all those really difficult emotional bridges to get across fall away on their own. It’s the most gratifying thing.
Much of Peter’s inspiration for his volunteerism and willingness to help people came from his late Grandfather Fred Meijer. Fred was known for short quotes or “Fredisms” that Peter has carried with him always. One that immediately comes to mind as inspiring to Peter is: “No matter where you are and what position you have; you can always try to do good.” Peter took his Grandfather’s wisdom to heart and is living it every single day. For that reason, we at The Island School are honored to recognize Peter Meijer as the 2016 Maxey Cacique Alumni Award recipient.
Congratulations, Peter, from all of us here at The Island School! We cannot wait to hear more about the good work that you do out in the world.