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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.

The Young Men’s Leadership Retreat: A Year-Long Pioneering Program a Year in the Making

This July, we welcomed a group of 15 young men (aged 10-18) to become future leaders and change makers. This 8 day program, lead by Chris Maxey (Island School Founder), Will Simmons (Space 2 Create Founder), Stan Burnside (Outreach Coordinator) and Nigel Sands (Educational Programs Apprentice), was designed to challenge all participants mentally, physically and emotionally. The aim of the program is to help build the future leaders of our immediate community. Early on the first morning of the program, the students set foot on the Base Camp, a place that would be their home for the next week. During the 3 months prior to this arrival, each participant was involved in the construction of this ground breaking new space, learning valuable skills and earning a small stipend in the process. The young men felt ownership over the space they helped to build even before they arrived. Through S.C.U.B.A., snorkeling and free diving they learned to explore the amazing world that has felt foreign even though it has been in their backyards all their lives. Through the next week, the young men would face run swims, water polo, survival skills and stingray research all while supporting and encouraging each other and learning the values of brotherhood in the process. What may have been most challenging for the young men was the emotional and social issues addressed during the course of the week. Amid all of the physical challenges, time was designated to address vital issues such as: drug abuse, healthy relationships, goal setting and violence. 

Morning exercise is one of the most important routines of the program

While this program was only 8 days long, it is the culmination of over a year of hard work and dedication. The idea that spurred this initiative for change was the blatant over-representation of young men in the areas of unemployment and academic under-achievement. The need was obvious but the solution was less clear. Getting the young men to our campus was a simple solution but would most likely not have had the lasting positive impact that is crucial for real change. To foster this change, the program is designed to kick off a year-long mentorship program for each participant. During the year to come, the participants are going to be mentored by various members of our organization. The members of the Center for Sustainable Development have been pivotal in the initial success of this endeavor, lending not only their expertise but also their guidance and advice to each of these young men. This continued relationship is what is going to make the lasting change.

The woodshop is part of the Center for Sustainable Development, which is one of the locations on campus where participants are mentored.

The 8 day program was just the first step towards a brighter future. There is a long road ahead but we are committed to making a difference.

Stan Burnside and Will Simmons at camp on the Island School's campus

Goggles or Sneakers? It's Track Time by Christian McIntosh

When people think of Island School they usually think of the sustainability, kayak trips and maybe even lightning position, but rarely do we think of the run and swim tracks that accompany our daily routine. The six o'clock wake up time may be brutal but once we are out the door the energy of the morning sun soon energizes the faces around morning circle. However, the real fun starts after circle when we go off into our chosen tracks to either run or swim.Christian1

Run starts off with a little warm up around the horseshoe: generally a light jog dotted with stretches for the running muscles. Then we often head off of campus for the two miles to High Rock across the Cape. The path is a snake of concrete road which has even more potholes than the average Bahamian road. The run can seem endless with a false sense of hope, encountering decoy turn-offs to High Rock around every corner. Almost as soon as we complete the journey there, we’ll then turn around for the two mile return trip back to campus where the flagpole finish line greets us with a familiar feeling of satisfaction.

Similar to run track, swim track starts off with some stretching before their early morning plunge into the ocean. Now that it’s the third week of tracks, our classmates are now up to a mile-long, “Pole Swim” from Boathouse Cut to the Marina pole, usually they are given twenty minutes to swim there and 20 minutes to swim back. Much of the time swimmers encounter a current that can either make you feel like Michael Phelps or like you are actually swimming backwards, depending on the tide.

Both tracks show great energy and focus for their respective goals--to run thirteen miles for run track or swim four miles for swim track. What may have seemed like an impossible task in the beginning is slowly becoming possible with hard work and dedication, just two of the many qualities The Island School will instill in each student over the course of the semester.