The New York Harbor School (NYHS) is a public high school located on Governors Island off the southern tip of Manhattan. Founder, Murray Fisher, connected with The Island School over 8 years ago during NYHS’s inception as a resource on how to develop a non-traditional education organization in a traditional setting. Over the years NYHS has sent numerous faculty members to The Island School’s annual Teacher Conference and has sent even more students to Eleuthera for semester, summer and SCUBA programs. Every winter, NYHS flies south to Eleuthera to complete SCUBA certification for its students. These kids use the skill to help do research back home. One of the major projects is the restoration of oyster beds in the Hudson–read more here! This February we hosted another great group and wanted to share one student’s personal reflection on the trip–it really highlights the value of our partnership and why we continue to find ways to help it grow.
“Here I am at the edge of our dive boat ready to make my first descent into the open water. Secluded on an island in the Bahamas with several other minority students, we are far from the low income urban environment in which we are used to living. I sit on the edge of the boat with my back against the wind while the cool Bahamian breeze sneaks under my ears and over my shoulders. I am so eager to get into the ocean and explore. It looks like a giant, sprawling pool. As the warm bright sun beams on my tight dive suit hugging my skin, a twenty pound air tank on my back, and my hair brushed into a tight ponytail, I think to myself how did I get here? Before this trip I never had the opportunity to venture outside of the U.S. It felt like a dream, an illusion. White sand, clear blue water, and tall spiky palm trees stood in stark contrast to the abandoned buildings covered in graffiti, old dilapidated bodegas, and chewed gum carved into the concrete, that fills my everyday life. Sitting in the precinct cuffed to a hard chair with heavy silver cuffs bruising my wrists, I feel dizzy and frightened knowing this is not who I really am. I felt like I had a point to prove to my friends but I look around and see a room filled with people who I do not want to emulate. SPLASH! I fall back and signal to my buddy as my tank breaks the warm blue waves and I begin my descent. Already twenty feet into my dive, I can hear myself breathing and I’m keeping a steady rhythm. I am so impressed with the beautiful aquatic life, sting rays, sea turtles, and amazing plant life, opening my eyes to how beautiful life is. Diving gives me freedom, leisure, and embraces my soul. I feel like I’ve been trapped in Brooklyn all my life and for the first time I have been given a chance, an opportunity to explore. Flapping my fins, staring down at the loose white sand at the bottom of the ocean helps me overcome my fears and indecisive thoughts. I want to be more than just a Brooklyn girl who grew up with a single mother surrounded by poverty. I want more than just an environment where violence, commotion, and chaos have taken its toll. I have dreams of being more than a statistic, and rising above my circumstances. Staring down at my gauge, I can see my reflection. I look into my eyes hidden behind my bright pink goggles glued to my face. I see a girl who’s finally in the light, a girl who was trapped in a dark hole. I see a girl who had been flawed, following the wrong crowd, conflicting with her inner self. A strong current hits against my side moving me to remember who I am today. Now I see a girl filled with ambition and optimism and it’s hard to find traces of the girl I used to be. She doesn’t live here anymore. I’ve transformed into a young woman who is engaged in school, who has gained respect for herself as well as others, a girl who is driven to continue growing and leaving behind my past mistakes. I am not proud of the girl I used to be but my mistakes have helped me find myself. As I climb back into the dive boat low on air, while the ocean water crawls down into my eyes and sneaks down my face from my messy matted ponytail, I think to myself how thankful I am for the school that I attend It has not only opened my eyes to many opportunities but the Harbor School has illustrated in many ways that my resources are not limited. In addition to attending Harbor School along with maturing into a young adult, my views on life have helped me grow from my mistakes. Gaining the opportunity to travel out of the U.S made me want to adapt to a new environment, learn a new language, and continue exploring. This trip helped me realize my own potential and see a world of possibility.”