Category Archives: Alumni

This Holiday Season, Think Tiny

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.

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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:


New England Road Trip: The Island School Admissions Team is in Full Swing of Travel Season

Last week our admissions team, Taylor Hoffman (SP‘06), Maggie Nichols (F‘09), and Glenn Hartman-Mattson (Faculty‘14-15), visited high schools and colleges throughout New England! We spoke with prospective students and caught up with alumni throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.


We went to Burr and Burton Academy and their Mountain Campus where we found a faculty alumnus from some of the first semesters on Eleuthera. Ben Freeman is now the Director of BBA’s Mountain Campus, a semester program focused on environmental education and sustainable living.

Ben Freeman and Taylor
Ben Freeman and Taylor


We then found a couple alums to have lunch with at Middlebury College!

Harrison Rohrer (F '13), Glenn, and Will Cembalest (SP '14)
Harrison Rohrer (F ’13), Glenn, and Will Cembalest (SP ’14)


For dinner we found Libby Schwab (F ‘14), Emily Peters (F ‘11), and Kyle Titsworth (SP ‘12) in Burlington, VT. All students at UVM, we loved talking with them so much that we didn’t have time to get a photo!


Onto to New Hampshire! We visited Hanover High School, Thetford Academy, and Kimball Union Academy during the day.

Thetford Academy:  Clara Hoffman (F ‘15), Taylor, and Kia O'Connor (F’15)
Thetford Academy:  Clara Hoffman (F ‘15), Taylor, and Kai O’Connor (F’15)

We had dinner at Molly’s in Hanover with some of our alums at Dartmouth and living in Hanover!

Starting from the left back row: Amelia Lubrano (SU ‘ 15), Ruby Spitz (SP’ 16), Maggie, Maisie MacMillen (F ‘15), Avery Vanacore (SP’14), Noelle Henderson (SP ‘15), Taylor, and Glenn
Starting from the left back row: Amelia Lubrano (SU ‘ 15), Ruby Spitz (SP’ 16), Maggie, Maisie MacMillen (F ‘15), Avery Vanacore (SP’14), Noelle Henderson (SP ‘15), Taylor, and Glenn



A visit to The Mountain School! We met up with Kareen Obydol-Alexandre, a teacher who attended the Summer 2016 Teachers Conference.

Kareen Obydol-Alexandre and Taylor
Kareen Obydol-Alexandre and Taylor 


Taylor and Glenn made some new lady friends
Taylor and Glenn made some new lady friends


That night we met up with a couple of our alums at Bates College!

Glenn, Sam Hastings (F’12), Jake Atwood (SP’14), and Taylor (Sam’s Advisor while at IS)
Glenn, Sam Hastings (F’12), Jake Atwood (SP’14), and Taylor (Sam’s Advisor while at IS)



Taylor drove up to Camden Hills High School and visited our partners at Hurricane Island Outward Bound. Glenn visited Freeport High School and Yarmouth High School. That night we had a small gathering of prospective students and alumni families in Falmouth, ME!

Glenn and her advisee, Jessie Gray (SP’15), in Falmouth!
Glenn and her advisee, Jessie Gray (SP’15), in Falmouth!



We drove up to Colby College for a cup of coffee with our last group of alumni!

Chase Goldston (SU ‘13), Hannah Piersiak (SP ‘12), Melinda Edie (F ‘14), Glenn, Taylor, Eleonor Bauwens (SU ‘15)
Chase Goldston (SU ‘13), Hannah Piersiak (SP ‘12), Melinda Edie (F ‘14), Glenn, Taylor, Eleonor Bauwens (SU ‘15)


Overall the admissions team connected with amazing alumni and prospective students all of New England and the trip was a giant success. But the highlight of the week was Maggie Nichols finding a camel in the middle of Vermont!! Even camels can try to live better in a (foreign) place.

Maggie and the leading expert camel in maple syrup production
Maggie and the leading expert camel in maple syrup production








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!


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!

Maxey in New England

Alumni at the Robinson's home (Fall 2012 Alumni Family) in Middlebury, VT
Alumni at the Robinson’s home (Fall 2012 Alumni Family) in Middlebury, VT

Chris Maxey and Cape Eleuthera Foundation Chairman, Ernie Parizeau, traveled to Hanover, New Hampshire and Middlebury, Vermont earlier this week. Alumni and families gathered to share stories and reminisce about their time on Eleuthera. The events were filled with pizza, laughter, and memories of the cape. Chris and Ernie are now headed to Boston for a board meeting and an Admissions Reception this weekend!

Alumni at Everything But Anchovies in Hanover, NH
Alumni at Everything But Anchovies in Hanover, NH

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
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.
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
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.

Island School alumni become Shark Explorers

Shark Explorers is a Cape Town based diving company that focus on changing people’s perspectives on the oceans’ top predators. Each year we bring in four Island School alumni to become part of our team. We continue to build on the love for ocean life, that was gained while in The Bahamas.  The internship program is based on the idea of “Education Through Experience.” The core values and tools that the Island School gives young people to thrive in Eleuthera, are the same values that allow for our interns to openly welcome the adventure and experience of the Shark Explorers Internship Program in Africa.  The 21 day program, held in August is full of scuba diving in and around the kelp forest and working as a crew member on the Great White Shark cage diving boat. We organize multiple excursions all over Cape Town to take in the sights and sounds of this amazing corner of the globe. For example, one day is spent on a game drive to see the big five land based animals of Africa.  The program also includes getting involved with ongoing research as well as supporting some of the top shark scientists and NGOs. The Shark Explorers Internship strives to be the next stepping stone for those of you that have been inspired by what the Island school has to offer and are enthusiastic to learn more about the ocean. It’s has been nothing short of a pleasure to host our 2016 interns and we can’t wait to take on four more alumni for our 2017 program.  


Take a look at what they had to say about the program:

“Even though this internship’s three short weeks are dwarfed by the incredible three months students were given at The Island School, we interns have enjoyed days jam-packed with just as much adventure as you’d expect from a day in the Bahamas. The Cape Peninsula and Cape Eleuthera may not have many similarities that are readily apparent, but working here at Shark Explorers has felt like a perfect extension of our semesters thousands of miles  away. We’re living right by the ocean, in a small town on a peninsula, as part of a close-knit community of people who are incredibly excited about what they’re doing down here. Sound familiar? Brocq Maxey and the rest of the Shark Explorers team have made this a fantastic three weeks, and we’re excited to share what we’ve been up to with everyone!”

– Harrison Rohrer  (F ’13)

“After doing our open water certification in 28 ˚ C water at the Island School, it was a difficult adjustment to dive in 14 ˚ C water. We encountered a few species of sharks endemic to this region while diving: the Pyjama shark, the Catshark, the Dark shyshark, and the Puffadder shyshark. My favorite dive was a shore dive off the off of Simons Town and in just a few meters of crystal clear water through the kelp forest. Another awesome dive we did was at the pinnacles and we gained experience dealing with surface currents, poor visibility and depth. We also did a few dives with Cape fur seals, which were a lot of fun, and on the last night we did a night dive.”

– Dana Biddle (SP ’13)


For me, the most exciting part about working with Shark Explorers was serving as a crew member on the White Shark cage diving boat and helping out with research done by the Shark Spotters organization.  Everyday, Shark Explorers runs a morning trip and an afternoon trip for tourists who want to see great whites in action.  The morning trip would leave the dock around 6:30 AM so we would be able to watch sharks feed on seals in the early morning light.  By watching the tactics these sharks used to hunt seals, it is easy to see how truly spectacular these animals are.

– George Crawford (SP  ’13)

While we were blessed to have great weather on most days we did have a few days where we could not go out on the water. One of these bad weather days we spent driving 3 hours away to go on a game drive. We saw hippos, elephants, giraffes, lions, chetahs, alligators, rhino and my favorite, zebras! This was a very unique experience because it allowed us to see not only another part of South Africa but it gave us the opportunity to learn more about the animals’ roles in African society.

– Olivia Wigon (SP ’14)



Please contact Brocq Maxey for more info at:


Instagram: @brocqmaxey @shark_explorers 


Lily Bermel, S’16, awarded Prestigious Congressional Award!

Lily picks up trash during a beach clean-up on Eleuthera
Lily picks up trash during a beach clean-up on Eleuthera
Lily Bermel, from Brookline, Massachusetts, was awarded the highest national award any teenager could receive, the Congressional Award. The award is given to less than 300 teenagers who have achieved over 1,000 volunteer hours. She set her focus areas in Volunteer Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness and Expedition/Exploration.  Lily continues The Island School’s mentality of leadership affecting change by joining her town’s Climate Action Committee as a student representative.
Congratulations, Lily! We are so proud to have you in our alumni community!
For more about Lily’s award, please click here

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


First Island School Alumni Wedding! Congratulations to Cameron and Wes Mize!

Back in the Summer of 2007, Cameron Powel, Fall 2004, and Wes Mize, Spring 2006, both decided to return to a place they love as summer interns. Before Island School internships revolved around specific research fields, Cameron and Wes spent most of their summer building reef balls. As coral blossomed on their newly constructed homes, a love blossomed between Cameron and Wes. Though Cameron headed to Bates College and Wes to Virginia Tech, the two maintained their relationship until they were joined back together in Boston, MA, where the couple lives now.

Cam and  Wes as interns in 2007


Cameron and Wes wed on June 18, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. With the sound of steel drums and Kalik bottles opening, the couple brought every detail of the wedding back to Eleuthera, including having the island stitched on the groomsmen’s ties! As our first marriage between two alumni, Cameron and Wes were joined by many Island School friends.
We wish Cameron and Wes Mize a lifetime of happiness and love, full of sun, sand and sea!
Kirtland Country Club wedding photography with Cameron and Wes
Kirtland Country Club wedding photography with Cameron and Wes
Kirtland Country Club wedding photography with Cameron and Wes

You completed us!

5 years ago, we set out with an eye on July 1, 2016. We dreamed big. You believed in us. The Sharing Solutions fundraising campaign was launched with a Big, Audacious Goal and a belief that a small dedicated group of people can change the world. You did it!

What did you accomplish in the last 5 years? Since July 2011 Island School turned 15 years old, graduated its 1,500th leader, and Deep Creek Middle School graduated its 150th. You helped us finish building our science research campus and Cape Eleuthera Institute turned 10 years old. We’ve hosted thousands of students on short courses and internships – some of whom kept coming back up to 10 different times! You helped us save for a rainy day. You made sure that a third of families in each semester had the financial aid support to make their experience possible. You helped us start an Early Learning Center on campus and our engineering and communications teachers got a home and space to do their work. You helped us upgrade our boat and van fleet. You more than tripled our endowment to $6 million. You helped us invest in people and businesses here in South Eleuthera, and launch teachers and staff off into new careers. You met the overall goal of $15 million to make all of this possible – and surpassed it by over 30% through commitments in place for the next 5 years. Many of you through Sharing Solutions have invested and pledged to secure 10 full years of financial aid, professional development, and great educational experiences – over more than half of the life of our young endeavor.

Each gift helped – over 5,000 different times you made a choice in the last 5 years to make sure we thrive and grow and achieve all that you believed we could do.

Your legacy is profound. We are honored and tremendously grateful. Please come see what you’ve done – and help us celebrate in the coming year!

From Chris and Pam and the extended Island School family,
Thank you!