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Alumni Spotlight

Ellie Corbett, SP'15, Interns with Dr. Edith Widder

 Ellie Corbett's last jump off High Rock during Spring 2015.

Ellie Corbett's last jump off High Rock during Spring 2015.

Growing up on the coast, Ellie, SP ’15, knew she loved the ocean long before going to The Island School. Her IS experience only cemented her future in ocean conservation and field research. This fall Ellie started her college career at Eckerd College in St. Petersberg, Florida. For her six-week January break she interned at Ocean Research & Conservation Association. ORCA is a nonprofit dedicated to developing technologies to conserve and restore ocean ecosystems impacted by anthropological activities.

With the determination to get back into the field, Ellie began her search by looking at all ocean-based nonprofits in Florida. When she saw Dr. Edie Widder was the founder and CEO of ORCA she realized the Island School connection. Although Ellie was on the Sting Ray Team at IS she had heard about Dr. Widder’s work from the Deep Sea Team’s deployment of the Medusa; the camera that captured the first images of the giant squid and Dr. Widder’s most famous discovery.

 Dr. Widder speaking in the boathouse during the CEI Ten-Year Celebration.

Dr. Widder speaking in the boathouse during the CEI Ten-Year Celebration.

Ellie interned with the ORCA team on the Fast Assessment of Sediment Toxicity Program (FAST Program). The Fort Pierce area, where ORCA is based, has experienced extreme algae blooms in the last few years.  Through the sampling and analysis of the Indian River Lagoon, ORCA has made “pollution visible.” Using a state of the art water sampling system called Kilroy, and the results from FAST, ORCA has created a user-friendly map of nitrogen levels within the Indian River Lagoon. With this knowledge and tool the community and stakeholders can be empowered to resolve the problem.

With this experience, Ellie is well on her way to a career in marine conservation. Working with Dr. Widder and a team of passionate and driven scientists Ellie, although young, was challenged to work independently and trusted as a member of the FAST team. When asked what impacted her the most from her internship with ORCA she said, “Dr. Widder has never lost her inspiration and passion for the ocean, and that inspires me.”

Click on these links to learn more about ORCA, the FAST program, and Dr. Widder’s discovery of the giant squid.

This Holiday Season, Think Tiny

 Santa Clara's rEvolve House. 

Santa Clara's rEvolve House. 

George Giannos, Fall 2010 Alumnus, took what he learned at The Island School and built on it. This fall, with a team of engineering students at Santa Clara University, he won a Tiny House Competition.

All the universities and colleges in California were eligible to compete in a Tiny House Competition modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. Rather than building solar powered houses that generally cost upwards of $250,000, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District decided to host a competition to build smaller houses that could be financed under $50,000. Ten California schools accepted the challenge to design and build a tiny house. Convened in Sacramento, after up to two years of work, each tiny house was judged on four categories: Architecture, Energy Efficiency, Communications, and Home Life.

The Santa Clara University team took first place as best tiny house overall. Giannos served as construction manager for the fourteen engineering students that built the rEvolve House. This 238-square-foot, off the grid house not only rotates with the sun, has reclaimed maple cabinetry from the old Santa Clara basketball court, and a roof deck, it was built for an organization called Operation Freedom Paws. A non-profit that works with veterans and service dogs.

Since graduating from Lawrenceville, Giannos has returned to The Island School in many ways. He has traveled back to Eleuthera for many summers and internships at The Center for Sustainable Development. Last year, he joined the admissions team by reading applications for Fall, Spring, and Summer Term. Giannos read over 150 Island School applications during his spring semester of his junior year at Santa Clara.

To read more about the rEvolve House:

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/10/07/santa-clara-students-put-spin-on-solar-power-for-tiny-house-contest/

https://magazine.scu.edu/webonly.cfm?b=439&c=24003

http://www.curbed.com/2016/10/20/13338338/tiny-house-eco-friendly-solar-powered-competition-smud

Alumni Update: Ryan DeVos

We have a World Champion among us: Ryan DeVos (SP ’08) and his team are the 2016 Megles 32 World Champions! DevosWin

Ryan DeVos, along with his seven teammates, secured the title of World Champion in Newport, Rhode Island on October 2! As our first Island School alumnus to be awarded this high of an honor we are very excited to announce our congratulations and immense pride to have Ryan as part of our alumni community. After a full year of sailing with the same teammates, four of which have sailed together since 2010, the team came together to stand atop the highest podium at the 2016 Melges 32 World Championship. Competing in half a dozen regattas this year, including a first place finish at a series in Fort Lauderdale and taking 2nd at the National Championship, winning in Newport was the ultimate goal.

When asked about his experience at The Island School, Ryan spoke to how those 100 days gave him the confidence to do anything. He loved that his semester viewed every day as a day to explore. As an Island School student in Spring 2008, he, unfortunately, was not a part of the new sailing expeditions. When asked what he thought about sailing the Hurricane Island boats, a much slower sailboat than a Melges 32, he said, “it’s about the experience, not the speed in which you do it.”

Again, The Island School congratulates Ryan on the World Championship win and is wishing him good luck at his new job with the Orlando Magic!

http://www.mysailing.com.au/latest/ryan-devos-crowned-2016-melges-32-world-champion

Alumni Spotlight: Carter Brown (Sp '09)

Our bus came up a short hill, rounded the last corner and before us was a sign marking the entrance. The Island School! As we crunched and bounced down the pockmarked driveway lined with hundreds of conch shells, all 48 heads on board were swiveling from one side to the other and back again. To the left was a fleet of boats, to the right a huge wind turbine and straight ahead a cluster of buildings with blue roofs. The bus came to a halt halfway around a circle with a tall flag pole in the middle, flanked by two thatch-roofed gazebos. A moment of silence descended on the group and then was broken by a loud voice crying out from the entrance of what we soon learned was Boys Dorm. “TODAY IS THE GREATEST DAY OF YOUR LIVES!!!!!” yelled the man we came to know as David Miller as he ran, beaming, towards the bus. A chorus of nervous giggles was the response inside the bus. We learned later that night from Chris Maxey, “you are here to save the world.” This was the beginning of the Spring 2009 semester at The Island School. David Miller preps Spring ’09 to snorkel the wreck

While at The Island School I learned that I could swim 4 miles in the open ocean, ooids can be studied for math class, how to drive a boat, use a sextant, conduct interviews with locals, and connect with people and places in ways I had not known was possible. I learned that Fritter is both a food item and an adored animal. That was the better part of seven years ago. The best part is even though it felt like a devastating ending when day 100 came and we had to leave the Island, it turned out to be just the beginning. For me, it turned out that the day I arrived on The Island School campus really may have been the greatest day of my life because I would not be where I am now without those first harrowing moments stepping off the bus into a new way of life. I know many alumni feel the same.

After leaving, The Island School became as essential to me as my own heart. I received no greater reminder of that than during the summer of 2010. I woke up to the sound of feet clomping up the stairs outside my bedroom. As per usual, I rolled over and pretended to be asleep, hoping that my parents would have mercy on my laziness. My door clicked open and I heard a deep inhale of breath followed by a loud, drawn out note. This was a note which I had previously associated with only one place in the world. It had to be a dream I told myself, but I had to look just to see. I rolled over again and standing in the doorway to my room was Chris Maxey himself, brandishing a conch horn and preparing for another blast! I doubt I have ever leapt out of bed faster as Maxey hurried me down the stairs and out the door for a run-swim and yoga session along the Jersey Shore. That morning, Maxey taught me that I could leave The Island School, but that The Island School would never leave me.

Maxey and Carter after the surprise run-swim.

The Island School showed me that there was a life to create in my greatest interest. From the moment I left I knew I was going to be an environmental scientist. I came home convinced that I was going to change the world, that I had all the tools I would need to do it, and that I could start that very day. Needless to say, I set myself up for immediate failure and frustration. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to change someone else’s opinion. Why couldn’t my friends recycle? Why couldn’t my town have a community compost? Separated from my friends and teachers I had made at the Island School, I felt lost. But slowly I learned to pace myself, to take success and progress in smaller chunks. Others in my semester had similar arcs of progress, and we encouraged each other to keep going.

Eventually, everyone in my semester graduated into college. We had spread out across the country, but we were still Island Schoolers. We sought each other out at events like the 15th anniversary reunion in Boston or bumped into each other in chance encounters on a street. I attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges. I signed up for all of the environmental and biology classes I could during my first semester. My fervor and eagerness to continue my path to becoming an environmental scientist was, at the time, seemingly impeded by having to take a class called Storytelling, with a professor named Charlie Temple, along with my bio classes freshman year. Little did I know that one class would have a profound effect on me, to the point where I altered my double major in Environmental Studies and Biology to accommodate an English minor. I excelled when I could communicate with people instead of attempting to communicate with a microscope. This realization was a critical struggle that I wrestled with throughout college because I was so thoroughly convinced that I needed to save the world, as Maxey had told my semester years before, and that science was the only way I could do that.

Fellow Sp‘09ers Eduardo Lopez and Walcott Miller return to campus for 2015’s Reunion

I finally found my answer only months ago. After graduating from HWS, I accepted a position as The Island School’s Alumni Educator which planted me for a full year back on Eleuthera. I was put in touch with all of the Class Agents from all semesters, while also being an advisor to a group of students. In many ways, it felt like I was completing a cycle and returning home. I coached swimming and freediving, helped lead community service and co-led a Down Island Trip. I spoke weekly with alumni from all over and turned their stories into blog posts. I even had a hand in the 2015 CONCHtribution and 2016 1-for-100 campaigns. To top it off, I had two advisories of my own filled with the most incredible students.

At the end of both the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters I received a letter from an advisee that brought me to tears because of the writing’s elegance and simple beauty. Those letters showed me that I had made a tangible difference in at least two lives. My advisees taught me that there are an infinite number of ways to change the world. Freed from the burden of a destiny I had shackled myself to, I am now a fundraiser at a medium-sized environmental charity in Philadelphia. Professor Temple from my Storytelling class five years ago might be proud to know I tell stories for a living. And each day I get out of bed as if Maxey were in my doorway, with a conch horn, telling me to do my part in making this world a better place.

Alumni Spotlight: Devin Gilmartin (F’14) and Tegan Maxey

image1 If you have been following this blog for a while, you may remember back in May when we published a piece about Fall 2014 alum Devin Gilmartin and his 2020 Vision t-shirts that were designed to echo the importance of the work done at the UN’s COP 21 meeting. Now Devin is back and has teamed up with Tegan Maxey for a new project. Together, they are creating a sustainable fashion company with a name that will be instantly recognizable to many in the broader Island School community and, soon, to many beyond: Querencia Studio. The Island School recently had a chance to catch up with both Devin and Tegan to hear about how they came to be a team and where they see their new project heading.

Tegan is not herself an alum of the Island School but she attended and graduated from both DCMS and Lawrenceville and has grown up on the Island School campus with an uncounted number of Island School students. Since graduating from Lawrenceville, Tegan set out to see the world and started in Singapore when she spent 3 months on a 112ft schooner followed by 3 months sailing through South-East Asia and then the Indian Ocean across to Cape Town, South Africa. This experience was followed by nearly a year cruising around the Mediterranean as a deckhand on super yachts. This might sound like an appealing lifestyle to many people but for someone with as close a connection to the core experiences of the Island School lifestyle, her reaction was just the opposite. She discovered that yachting is “an industry of excess in every possible way, which continuously conflicted with my upbringing, referring to trash as ‘resources.’ I left yachting, at a loss for where to go next having always pictured myself making a career on the ocean, before I took my dad’s offer to try and improve the Island School uniform. It was from this opportunity that I ended up on a call with Devin and once again found my footing in building Querencia.” Devin has been busy since we last heard from him in May. He completed an internship with Milk Studios where he had been working with artist Laolu on his “Brooklyn Dreamscape” project.

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Just as Devin was finishing up his internship and work with 2020 Vision, and Tegan was being tasked to work on the Island School uniform, the two were introduced over a phone call. Devin and Tegan brainstormed with Island School’s Chris Maxey and Bill Johnston of Recover Brands on how their ideas could be taken to the next level, beyond the world of fashion. The result of that call was Querencia Studio. Devin and Tegan settled on that name for largely the same reasons. For Devin, the word Querencia “describes a safe place, a haven in which one feels at home. The Island School was certainly that for me.” For Tegan, she agreed with Querencia Studio as the name because she truly wants “it to be a safe haven for artists, scientist, and revolutionaries to plan, build, and create a more sustainable future for all of us.” Since then, Tegan and Devin have been hard at work creating an expanding range of products that currently includes long sleeve and short sleeve shirts as well as hoodies. The entire first collection is being done in collaboration with Recover Brands.

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Devin and Tegan both have goals for the future of Querencia Studio. Both of them want Querencia Studio to become a model platform of sustainability in the world of fashion and beyond.  As Devin states, clothing is just “our first pursuit, and will certainly be a constant in our product output, but we are really taking on a multidisciplinary strategy. We want to explore any project that might provide us with an opportunity to innovate sustainably.” Tegan was inspired by her time in Europe, "where you have to pay for a plastic bag when you get your groceries, I was baffled that the US has not implemented such a system. It is disturbingly hard to get a to-go drink not served in plastic with a plastic straw”. She wants to see Querencia Studio take on “all aspects of conservation and the sustainable revolution, from the implementation of law to limit the amount of plastic waste in the world, to the hands on of getting out there and picking up trash from the streets and beaches”. With the current rate of implementation of their ideas, the Island School has no doubt that the Tegan and Devin will accomplish their goals.

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Both Devin and Tegan were inspired by the Island School when creating this project. That much is obvious from the name Querencia alone, but for both of them, it runs much deeper than that. Tegan grew up on the Island School campus with the result that the school is “so much a part of my identity as a person that I owe it credit, to some degree, for every decision I’ve ever made, and Querencia is no exception”. For Devin “The Island School is at the heart of what we are doing. The Island School teaches you what a full day looks like. You're up early and you're moving, you're constantly soaking in information. That’s now our day to day attitude with Querencia.” The next step is to begin to bring about change in the fashion industry.

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Devin and Tegan have recognized and seized what they see as a unique opportunity in the fashion world. What they are creating is going to go beyond the “in the moment” trend of Green Fashion that many companies are focusing on right now. Querencia Studio is instead designed to cater to, as Devin says, “people who are willing to have a full understanding of a product before they invest in it. We are telling a story with each project we do. We feel the next wave of consumers will all demand the type of story we are telling, the story that explains where the garment is made, who makes it and what it’s made of.” The end goal is to set an entirely new, raised standard in both what a product is and what it stands for.

Devin and Tegan, all of us at The Island School are in your corner. We wish you the best of luck and cannot wait to hear about the successes of Querencia Studio! To checkout Devin and Tegan’s work, check out their website and Instagram page.

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