Category Archives: Alumni

Alumni Spotlight: Maddie Hawk (SP ’10)

Maddie Hawk from the Spring 2010 Island School recently graduated from DePauw University with a double major in English (literature) and film studies. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Moarter Board and spent a semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark followed by a summer at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea as a research intern. She has also taught English and American culture skills to refugee immigrants in the Indianapolis area as an intern for Exodus Refugee Immigration.

Most notably however, Maddie has received word that she is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship and will spend the 2016-2017 academic year in South Korea teaching English. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and established in 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program competition aims to increase mutual understanding nations through educational and cultural exchange while serving as a catalyst for long-term leadership development.

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When asked to reflect on her time at The Island School, Maddie responded with:

“The Island School prepared me to immerse in any culture I might find myself in, which is imperative to being a cultural ambassador. Through community outreach programs, I knew how to engage with younger children and work with them in an extracurricular setting.  I remember Island School and my time there fondly. Just the other day, I was talking to my friends about SCUBA diving and reflecting on night diving and how amazing it was. I think that Island School prepared me for Fulbright in a number of ways. I’ve studied abroad three times, and Island School was the catalyst for it all. I never would have gone to South Korea or Denmark on my own without believing in myself. I can’t put into words how my time at Island School affected me, changed me. It prepared me to be an adult, taught me independence, self-sustainability, and gave me the confidence to tackle everything that is thrown at me. I don’t think I would have applied for a Fulbright without the Island School behind me. I approach the world differently, more openly. I remember one time, walking through the Eleuthera community, being completely un-phased by the many men carrying machetes. One family stopped a group of friends and me, offering to let us watch them skin a dead pig. I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I approached the situation openly, watching with rapt curiosity at a way of life so contrasting my own. The Island School granted me a confidence and security in myself, something that developed my comfort at approaching the world differently and seeing things through different perspectives. This mentality aligns perfectly with the mentality of a Fulbright scholar, someone who believes in the exchange of cultures and ideals with an open demeanor. Thank you always, Island School.”

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After her Fulbright experience, Maddie plans to continue her studies and pursue a Ph.D. in Film and Cultural Criticism. “My goal is to study how film interacts with culture, but also to explore the Korean film industry deeper as it is something that fascinates me. After my studies, I aspire to be a professor of film, and to begin a Korean cinema studies program at the university I teach.”

Congratulations Maddie! The Island School cannot wait to hear about your adventures in Seoul and beyond!

Alumni Spotlight: Ginny Laurita (F’15)


As an alum from the most recently completed Island School semester, Fall 2015, Ginny Laurita has already begun to make her mark in the wider world through service. For Ginny and others from her semester, the transition home is in many ways still ongoing. For many, the solution to transitioning back home is to keep busy. This is what Ginny has done and is continuing to do. When Ginny returned home, she “got my license, and threw myself into a school club I joined last year called Interact. Interact is the high school level of the Rotary Club, in which we do community service projects in the community. I began going to meetings, and volunteering for as many events I could participate in as possible.” In February, Ginny began to contemplate her future beyond high school. She “went on a college trip with my friend where we visited six different schools. The process of starting to look at colleges is exciting but also nerve wracking. Lately I have been going back and forth on the idea of doing a gap year. If I were to do one, I know that I would like to go with a purpose.” To fit her goal of working with a purpose, Ginny discovered an opportunity to go to Guatemala with her Interact group to work in Guatemala City for 10 days with a group called Safe Passage.

From the moment that Ginny discovered this opportunity with her club, she was hooked. She knew she had to go. Of course, there was a catch: “When I got back from Island School, the trip to Safe Passage was actually full. The sign up process had already happened, and the group had already begun to fundraise for their trip.” This meant that technically, Ginny was closed out from the opportunity for the year. However, after expressing her interest and dedication to the supervisor and other students on the trip, the group managed to open up a spot for her and she was set to go! The trip really resonated with Ginny because “after living on Eleuthera, I was able to experience the difference that education can bring to a place of poverty, and is part of the reason that going to Guatemala and participating in the efforts of Safe Passage spoke to me so strongly.” Safe Passage, the organization that Ginny’s Interact group would be working with, is located directly near the “Guatemala City dump, which is the largest dump in the area. A huge quarry that is filled with mounds and mounds of garbage, is the source of work for many Guatemalans. This dump used to also be where many lived, and found food, and clothes, until the law was put in place that no one was allowed in the dump during the night.” Naturally, the conditions of such a place are hazardous and unhealthy. Safe Passage serves to provide education, a safe place, and better opportunities for children and families who had formerly worked in the dump.

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While working at Safe Passage, the main goal for Ginny’s Interact group was to be integrated into the daily routine. A lot of time was spent in their “English classes, helping the teachers with activities and games as they learned their numbers, colors, and basic phrases. We worked with children in grades 2 and 3, as well as in middle school.” Ginny was blown away by the “excitement in each child to learn, as well as the energy from each teacher as they made every activity fun and enjoyable for the children. When we came to the school for the first time, and then every time after that, we were all immediately welcomed with hugs, smiles, and laughter. When we would spend recess with them, the amount of energy that each of those tiny children had was both refreshing and exhausting. It was so incredible to see the joy on the faces of these children who have been through so much in their lives.” Ginny firmly believes that she and the other members of the trip had a mutual exchange of knowledge with the children they were working with and that she was absolutely “amazed by was the amount of resilience (Editor’s note: Italics in original)that each of these children had.” The Interact club brought a project of their own which was to make puppets and decorate them with the children. The puppets were well received and Ginny was happy to see that “the kids all loved them, and it brought us all so much joy to be able to bring this light into their lives that have so much dark.”

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                                            Ginny making puppets with two Guatemalan children

In addition to working with the children, Safe Passage also works with the adults in the community.  The program is called Creamos (creation) and culminates with the adults receiving a high school diploma. They are taught how to do accounting and learn English. One program for the mothers in particular, focuses on teaching them accounting alongside making jewelry that then goes into a store that these women are taught how to run. It was clear to Ginny how “hard working they all are, and how much they care for their families. These mothers were able to go to school, for the first time for some, and get an education that will open up a whole world of opportunities for both themselves and their children.” For all the good that Ginny and her Interact group were doing, they could not possibly help everyone who was living near that dump in Guatemala City. This was overwhelming at times because they were aware of the scale of help that was truly needed to benefit everyone, but, Ginny was greatly impressed by the resiliency demonstrated by everyone that she met in the city and thinks that, of all the people she met there, that they are “some of the strongest, most kind-hearted people I have ever met, and I believe that having the chance to meet them, and experience their lives, widened my worldview in a way I am still realizing even now.”

Looking ahead to the future, Ginny has quite a few plans and aspirations in mind. She has begun to tour colleges on the East Coast and plans to continue doing just that so she can get her bearings when it comes to what she wants in a school. She is thinking of doing a gap year and using that process to travel and get to know herself better. As a direct result of her travels to Guatemala, she has begun the process of partially sponsoring a child named Cristina in order to continue her connection with the program. Ginny has been bitten by the travel bug this year with her time at The Island School and in Guatemala and is looking forward to many more adventures in the future.

In closing, Ginny had a series of shout outs and thank yous that she wanted to send out to everyone:

I would like to thank everyone at The Island School who I met, and who made those the best 100 days of my life. I truly believe that each and every one there made my experience what it was, and I cannot thank The Island School enough for creating such a magical, challenging, environment where students can come to learn and thrive in the most amazing and supportive place. I’d especially like to make a shout out to S4 for one of my favorite experiences at The Island School, I think our group, and memories on that trip are ones I will remember my whole life. Also girl’s dorm, for being so supportive when I was going through all the medical challenges I faced, and for becoming a family that we will all have forever. I’d like to thank my advisory, for awesome advisory outings, and a big shout out to Kat for getting me through the challenges I faced over those 100 days. I want to thank everyone who makes The Island School possible, and for giving me and all other students an experience to try new things, to meet new people that both have pushed and excited me for what might come next.

Ginny, from all of us at The Island School, we wish you the best of luck and hope that one day your adventures might lead you back on our campus!

Alumni Spotlight: Max Porter (F’14)

                                   Max (center) with his parents just after becoming an Eagle Scout

Max Porter of the Fall 2014 semester has been busy since returning home. He has joined a well-known and successful robotics team as the all-important operator of the robot and also earned his Eagle Scout award. Unfortunately, when Max arrived home, it was not to the perfect homecoming that some Alumni might hope for. Upon returning, he had to cope with the fact that his best friend since lower school had passed away while he was at the Island School. Eventually Max was able to work past that and move on to new pursuits. To start this process, he jumped into his Eagle Scout project. Before coming to The Island School, Max had already completed all of the necessary merit badges and paperwork so all that was left was for Max to do his final project. Max’s idea was to build a shed to store his town’s fold up hockey rink that was brought out every winter but had no place to be stored resulting in damage from exposure each year. Max himself designed the structure for this shed and then, with a team of fellow scouts, successfully built the shed for his town. After the completion of Max’s Eagle Scout project, he took a job at the Thayer School of Engineering as a machine shop assistant and TA. This position laid the groundwork for Max to become inspired to join his current robotics team. That same winter that Max joined robotics, he also joined a swim team and ended up qualifying for States. Recently, Max took a trip to Costa Rica with 20 other students to study the “local ecology and how it affects the economy in Costa Rica.” The group stayed with host families in a town called Monte Verde which is located near the rain forests. Together they learned all about coffee plantations and the food exports that the country produces. While in Costa Rica, Max received an e-mail notifying him of his acceptance into the Colorado School of Mines. Max has “decided to go there and will spend the next four years of my life in Golden Colorado.” Max plans on majoring in either aeronautical or automotive mechanical engineering during his time there.

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Max got started in the Scouting program at a young age as a Cub Scout. He loved all of the building activities that were part of the program. In particular, Max enjoyed building pinewood derby cars, rockets, and planes that he and his troop would race. Every year, Max was proud to say that his Pinewood Derby car earned a spot on the victory podium at the end of the event. After getting his start in the Cub Scouts, Max moved up the ranks and found that he enjoyed camping and learning survival skills. The Scouts taught Max to “be just as comfortable sleeping in the woods as I would be sleeping in my bed.” Carrying forward his love of building things, Max got into robotics while he was in 8th grade. He was having a bit of trouble finding an extra-curricular niche that felt ideal to him but decided that since he was into RC cars at the time that robotics might be a good fit. Originally, Max was a bit skeptical of the joining the robotics team because he “figured it would be a group of people with huge glasses staring intently at computers.” As it turns out, things could not have been further from that impression. Max describes his experience with robotics as a “50/50 mix of 25-35-year-old coaches and high school kids blasting rock music in a large shop. The adults were acting like kids and the kids were acting like adults. It was perfect.” 2012 was the year that Max joined up with robotics and the very next year in 2013 the team qualified for the world championship completion held in St. Louis. A little known fact is that more countries participate in this world championship than do in some Olympic games so this was a big deal for Max. In 2015, Max became the driver for his team’s robots and, again, they qualified for the world championship but unfortunately could not raise the necessary amount of funding to attend. That year however, Max’s team won a prestigious award because of the excellent design of their robot.

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Max learned a few things while he attended The Island School, but he credits one thing as one of the more important lessons. He says that the “main thing that I learned at the Island School was how to take something I learned in one class and apply it to another. This taught me to apply skills from Boy Scouts to robotics and taught me to take what I learned in robotics and apply it to math class.” It made him a better learner overall and allowed him to make stronger connections throughout his coursework. This will serve him well when he transitions to the Colorado School of Mines. Once there, Max plans to join their robotics and Formula SAE teams. This will allow Max to combine his enthusiasm for robotics with a passion for cars. In the future, Max sees a bright future in engineering and is looking forward to any possibilities that come with that.

In closing, Max had a few shout outs that he wanted to share:

“I want to give a shout out to the “Harkness Crew” and in particular Jack Kimball. He was my fellow Boy Scout at the Island School and shared my passion for designing and engineering. He has a booklet of all of his ideas for life-changing inventions.”

Max, good luck in Colorado! We here at The Island School are excited to hear what you do or build next.

Congratulations Cristin McDermott!



Cristin McDermott of the Spring 2002 Island School semester completed the Pittsburgh half marathon Sunday, May 1st alongside Ed, her father! Cristin credits The Island School for sparking her passion for running and her completion of today’s race saying “It started with you!”

 Cristin returned to Eleuthera after her semester to help run a teacher conference and interned as an Island School teacher before enrolling in medical school in Pittsburgh. She plans to complete her residency in pediatrics, adult psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry in June of 2017.

From all of us at The Island School, keep it up Cristin!! To all other Alumni, we would love to hear and share your stories of running, swimming, triathlons and other competitions and triumphs!

Alumni Spotlight: Devin Gilmartin (F’14)

                                    Devin wearing the 2020 vision tee he created with Recover Brands

Recently, The Island School had the chance to catch up with Devin Gilmartin of the Fall 2014 semester. We discussed a range of topics from his time on island to his current project with Recover Brands where he developed a t-shirt made from 100% recycled materials in honor of the recent Paris Agreement, a revolutionary document crafted by the nations of the world at the United Nation’s COP 21 meeting in Paris last year which was signed by 177 countries on Earth day this year. Devin will be attending the London College of Fashion this fall with the goal of transforming the fashion industry into a paragon of sustainability. Below is a transcript of our interview that was simply too powerful to cut up into a standard article. 

Q:  Could you give an update on yourself and what you have been up to since returning home from your semester?

A:  Returning from The Island School was perhaps the only thing more surreal than the experience itself. It was a spark of energy that will last my lifetime. When you spend 100 days so emerged in every aspect of a place, it’s a lesson on how you should treat everything in life. No aspect of living at The Island School goes unconsidered. That’s been my approach since. Just trying to soak up as much as possible from every experience. It’s the best way to live, appreciating everything for what it is and why it is. I think that’s what happens when you’re pushed to what you think are limits in the 100 days there. There’s a system in place that allows you to thrive. The people and the resources are there and it’s up to you to decide how to use them.

I tried to really push my limits physically at The Island School. Taking on both the super swim and the half marathon and taking the forty-eight-hour solo experience to fast and feel what it would be like to live only on water for two days, I learned it’s mind over matter. You learn that very quickly on Eleuthera.

Carrying that over to post Island School life, it was running the Brooklyn Half Marathon in the spring of 2015 and then, in November, running the New York City Marathon.

Having had the opportunity to graduate high school a semester early, I am spending the second semester of my senior year of high school working at Milk Studios as a social media content curator. It’s an amazing job that I would say consists of what I would have been doing in math class anyway. It’s about curating images and inspiration and creatively presenting that in the most beautiful way possible to an audience.

The Island School was about realizing the potential people have to do things that can make a difference. The 100 days you spend there are about developing that realization within yourself, that you are capable of being that type of person. When the 101st day comes and you leave the island, that’s when the real Island School journey begins. The opportunity to apply what you learned to your life and have it make an impact on others. model

Q:  How did you get involved with Recover Brands and what inspired you to create the 2020 Vision t-shirt?

A:  A collaboration with Recover had been on my mind since I first heard about it. Having always been interested in fashion, it stuck out immediately to me as a brand to learn more about. I of course had this really intense relationship with the product before Chris even introduced me to Bill Johnston (President of Recover Brands). Wearing it every day from sun up until sun down, I learned how it felt, how the fabric performed and how it looked. It was our uniform and for everyone to feel like they were part of The Island School down to even what they were wearing, that it carried the same message of sustainability and mindfulness, it was powerful. I think that’s what really made this collaboration so natural.

When Bill and I first started speaking about a collaboration, it was a general conversation about how we could approach a partnership that would appeal to an audience that was currently outside of Recover’s reach. I felt like I had something to offer in that regard and so we bounced ideas around. That was early in the year. It was really a few weeks ago that the idea for 2020 Vision came into fruition. I follow climate change and environmental issues closely so the opportunity to release a collaboration on Earth Day and the day in which the Paris Agreement, the first ever universal climate agreement, was going to be signed, it was perfect. I proposed the idea to Bill and Chris, they approved immediately, and the designing began. The name 2020 Vision comes from the idea of a vision of the future coming to life with the Paris Agreement in place. It’s up to us to bring it into existence.

For the graphics, I collaborated with a very good friend of mine, Luis Lizarraga. He has a multidisciplinary approach to design and his Paris based studio, Studio LGLR, had the perfect aesthetic for what we were going for. With the time difference between New York and Paris, it was hundreds of emails and texts between the two of us in the past few weeks, just going over getting everything from the font to the colors right, that lead to the final decisions on the graphics.

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The front of the shirt features eight recycling symbols, representing the eight plastic bottles it takes to make one Recover shirt as well as text reading 2020 Vision. The back of the shirt pays homage to the island of Eleuthera.

What really made 2020 Vision go from a simple t-shirt to what really became an art project, was the message behind the photoshoot we did. My good friend and photographer Davon Chandler photographed the shirts on Charlotte S. McKee who did a great job portraying the attitude of the collaboration.

I also added a few textile pieces I wove using Saori, a Japanese weaving technique. The three pieces feature recycled fabric scraps and even cut up metrocards as an ode to a place I get so much inspiration from, that being the subway and the people I see on it.

The set of the photo shoot really put the finishing touches on the project. It was a juxtaposition of nature and pollution, using recycled water bottles as vases for flowers. It’s a subtle detail but perfect for pushing the idea of reintroducing one thing as something completely different, presenting up-cycling as a lifestyle.
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Q:  How long have you been interested in what the UN is attempting to do in the fight against climate change? 

A:  Climate change has become this topic that people enjoy debating but at this point, it’s no longer a debate. Its time to come to terms with the fact we are facing a potential disaster in our lifetime. It’s no longer a situation we can just ignore and say “That won’t happen for a while”.

In the fashion industry, that ignorance is also a marketing scheme. The idea that every season needs to be represented with more and more clothing and pre collections that end up sitting on shelves, it’s become a real problem. I think it’s unfair to place the blame on consumers at this point. The world is set in its ways because the people in power don’t want to risk their positions to try to initiate change. For that same reason, the fashion industry has suffered tremendously from a lack of awareness. The old guards of fashion need to be overthrown simply because it’s unrealistic to continue as an industry in such a manner. It sits only behind the oil industry as the most polluting industry in the world. The “Eco-friendly” marketing schemes of companies like H&M should make consumers angry. It’s a play on the nature of buying goods for pleasure. Conspicuous consumption is easier to stomach when you feel like the product is made responsibly. The truth is, though, it’s not the case. The people making the clothing are in unimaginable conditions and these huge companies ignore that. That’s the reality.

Q:  Did the Island School play a role in furthering your interests in the environment and humanities role in it? Was this something you have always found interesting? 

A:  The Island School made me realize there was an opportunity to merge my passions to help the world. It was through being provoked to consider fashion through this lens that made me realize the amount of opportunity that lies within the subject of sustainable fashion. It’s an issue that needs immediate attention, attention that can only be brought by this generation.

Q:  What is next for you? Do you see yourself doing another t-shirt in the future or something entirely different.

A:  This t-shirt is the smallest check mark I plan to check off. It’s my way of saying its “our” time. When I say “our”, I’m speaking for all of the other kids that know how important this issue is and are ready to tackle it with their creativity and talent. The future of our planet is in the hands of this generation. A t-shirt cannot save the world. Great ideas can. This is step one of a much larger plan for making “sustainable fashion” become “fashion”. In other words, the need to say “sustainable” will be unnecessary because it will simply be the way it is.

The problem has been identified. It’s up to us to solve it and I look forward to being a part of the solution.
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Devin, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. We look forward to hearing about the changes you bring about in the industry. You can check out the 2020 Vision tee here.  When purchased 20.20% of the profits from the tee go back to The Island School itself.



Alumni Spotlight: Nick Pibl & Caroline McClatchy (Su’14)


Neither Nick Pibl nor Caroline McClatchy were part of the Aquaponics research group during their Summer 2014 semester, but both had an interest in sustainable technology. When they returned home, they thought long and hard about how to apply that interest in a productive manner at their school, Princeton High School. Recalling the tank just outside the dining hall on the Island School campus that had fish and mint growing in it inspired them to bring aquaponics to their high school. They “realized that aquaponics is a realistic way for people to implement greener and more sustainable food sources.” When looking around for how to get their project off the ground, the pair discovered HATponics, a company that had previously worked with a local middle school and had developed aquaponics systems all over Georgia and Tennessee. Once Nick and Caroline made the initial connection with HATponics, they struck an agreement where HATponics would build the aquaponics system under the specifications and parameters laid out by Nick and Caroline.


Since space was an issue at the high school, the equipment was installed at John Witherspoon Middle School (JW). Eventually high school students will work together with middle schoolers currently taking a new food science class at the middle school. Both Caroline and Nick have referenced their aquaponics work in a class that they are currently taking at Princeton which has allowed them to demonstrate that school learning does not necessarily have to always be based out of a textbook. Currently, HATponics has stocked the aquaponics tank at the middle school with White Nile Tilapia and has provided organic fish food to feed them. Caroline and Nick are growing kale, arugula, parsley and chamomile in the grow beds.

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Both Nick and Caroline are seniors at Princeton High School and the environmental wet lab they have created will be passed on next year to two incoming sophomores which will allow the school to build on their predecessors’ knowledge as the research is continued into the future.

Nick and Caroline, congratulations to you on founding a new initiative in your school! Everyone at The Island School is looking forward to hearing what you do next!

Welcome directors!

Departing faculty members Emma Alexander and Peter Zdrojewski  standing with 10 year veterans Merlene Munnings, Chris Maxey, Elidieu Joseph, and Christian Henry
Departing faculty members Emma Alexander and Peter Zdrojewski standing with 10 year veterans Merlene Munnings, Chris Maxey, Elidieu Joseph, and Christian Henry

Our board of directors leadership team gathered on Eleuthera this weekend to see the programs in action, and honor the contributions of faculty, board members, and alumni. Thank you to all of the directors who help us stay on track and growing – our shared success and future rests with you! Congratulations to all of the award recipients – we are honored to display your names in Hallig House.  

Alum Peter Meijer recently was awarded the Maxey Cacique Alumni Award, joining fellow board members Greg Henkes and Francesca Forrestal
Alum Peter Meijer recently was awarded the Maxey Cacique Alumni Award, joining fellow board members Greg Henkes and Francesca Forrestal

Congratulations Nat Davenport! (Sp’15)

Nat Davenport (left) with teammate Grace Ali
                                              Nat Davenport (right) with teammate Grace Ali

Nathaniel (Nat) Davenport from the Spring 2015 semester has been having a killer swimming season. Earlier this month Nat won two Division 2 state titles and was on a relay team that captured a third title for his Duxbury high school swim team. Nat’s state titles were in the 50 free and the 100 free with times of 21.14 and 46.34 respectively. The third title was from a 200 free relay with an impressive overall time of 1:28.42. Nat has been an integral part of his school’s swimming success this season which has allowed his team to remain undefeated. Congratulations Nat! We hope to hear more of your successes soon!

Alumni Spotlight: Noelle Anderson (Sp’13)


“When a piece of art has to be more than interesting, has to be more than beautiful, the challenge really increases. When art has to stand for something, aiming to captivate people to take action or make small positive changes within their community, then it becomes Art Advocacy.” -Noelle Anderson

This statement was the basis for the artistic work produced by Noelle Anderson from the Spring 2013 Island School semester while she spent time in Napier, New Zealand this winter with PangeaSeed painting a mural for their Sea Walls project. Since returning from The Island School three years ago, Noelle has been busy. While still in high school, she founded a “Positivity Club” with fellow Sp ’13 classmate Greta O’Marah. The goal behind this club “was to make our community a less stressed one, and to get fellow students to focus on what is truly meaningful and important to them through positive thinking techniques.” Both Noelle and Greta agree that their inspirations for this club came to them entirely through their experiences at The Island School. Additionally, Noelle participated at the Varsity level in skiing and tennis as well as pursuing her interests in “the intersections of sustainability, social justice, and art by focusing on ‘EcoFeminism’ for my AP photography series.” Noelle has since been attending Dartmouth where she studies Geography and Studio Art as well as participating in the Dartmouth Ski Patrol which allows her to get out on the hill and put her Outdoor Emergency Care certification to good use.

Noelle initially became connected with PangeaSeed after discovering them on Instagram. She describes the app as being “a really incredible way for artists interested in similar initiatives to get connected through anything from hashtag use to following the same kinds of pages — pretty neat.” The “seed” in PangeaSeed is an anagram that stands for Sustainability, Education, Ecology and Design which are all considered by PangeaSeed to be its cornerstones. Once Noelle had found PangeaSeed’s Instagram page, she became “mesmerized by the work they and the artists they’re connected with do.”

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PangeaSeed likes to describe many of the artists involved as “ARTivists.” Prominently displayed on their website is a definition for ARTivism as “An explosion of creativity, a marrying of art and activism.” Noelle feels that she can partially identify as an ARTivist. She explains that “when I was in high school and decided to focus on ‘EcoFeminsim’ for my AP Photography final series I think I was pushing the idea of using my art as a tool for activism, as a creative means of making a statement I felt more powerful than words.” PangeaSeed opened the door for Noelle to truly express her ARTivism on a larger scale than the canvases she was used to working with. Her project turned into a full-blown mural that commented on shark conservation. Of course, not everything Noelle creates is for the purpose of activism. Everyone needs to take a break and “simply reflect parts of me that love the beauty of a landscape or total abstraction.” This is because, for Noelle, “creating art and the very existence of it will always be a reflection of the artist.” Meaning that all aspects of Noelle’s work reflect back upon different aspects of herself. She loves “having the term ARTivisim in my toolbox, and empowering myself to own that side of my artistic self when it is right to do so.”

Noelle’s journey to New Zealand this winter began when PangeaSeed itself reached out to her. They asked her if she would like to join their Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans in Napier, New Zealand which is located on the North Island of New Zealand. In disbelief, Noelle spent the winter creating her initial sketch, and moving her final projects and exams at Dartmouth to an earlier time so that she could leave campus accordingly. When Noelle got to New Zealand, there were 30 other artists joining various other painting projects. Noelle was initially intimidated because many of these other artists were “internationally acclaimed professional street artists, and I am just a student who has never painted a mural before” but, once Noelle began work on her mural, she fell into her routines she had developed for her other projects and that allowed her to settle in and be confident in her progress as the mural took shape around her. As Noelle worked, the wall in front of her became “my canvas and the street was my studio!” There were certainly challenges to the process that included: “sketching out my shark figures without a projector, being rained out two of the 6 painting days and feeling the pressure of time, and lastly balancing answering passerby’s questions in an engaging manner while still trying to stay focused.” For Noelle, the process of creating this mural was extremely rewarding and she attributes this to feeling more physically connected to the work – “more so than any piece I have created at home or at the studio at Dartmouth, due to the way I had to move my body through space in order to apply paint onto my wall.

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Noelle comes from a family with a fairly intense artistic background. Nearly everyone in her immediate nuclear family interacts with the arts on some level. Her “mother is a painter, a poet, a documentary film maker. My father is a drawer, a musician. My sister is a singer, a water-colorer. My family has always, always stressed the importance of creative outlets.” With that background, Noelle found that she jived with the art program at The Island School and gained much from it. Noelle says, “before attending The Island School I created art, but it was The Island School that taught me, that pushed me, to really make the art matter”. Part of the reasoning for Noelle’s shark conservation related mural stems from the fact that “The Island School also lead me to choose the environment, the earth, vulnerable ecosystems and species as a specific focus.”

So, what comes next for Noelle now that she is officially an international artist? Noelle begins by saying, “I would love to continue my involvement with PangeaSeed! They are an inspiring organization and I truly respect their initiative. As I have a passion for both art and the ocean, I would be really thankful to work with them again. That being said, I am still a student.” Noelle wants to take the experiences and knowledge she gathered by working with PangeaSeed and turn all of it into beneficial experience for her work at Dartmouth. She is already stepping into action by volunteering to help Dartmouth’s Sustainability Office paint a mural for Earth Week. Noelle’s goal for the future is to attempt to “identify places I want to make change in my various communities, and using the influence and power of art to inspire others to help make those changes.”

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The completed mural above stands as a testament to and reflection of Noelle’s thoughts on sharks in our current global mindset. She sent along her complete artist statement which gives a clear picture of the meaning that drove each brush stroke along the wall:

“Sharks are depicted and presented to us, above all else, as dangerous – a personal threat to our safety. Yet the reality is: (1) Humans are the ones threatening sharks, killing nearly 100 million each year, (2) the removal of these apex predators will lead to total marine ecosystem structural collapse, and (3) we need to transform the way in which sharks are seen to make these matters most salient for the public. To help tackle that last reality, I hope my mural illuminates these misunderstood creatures in the beautiful, positive, esteemed light they absolutely deserve.”

In closing, Noelle reflected back on her time as a student at The Island School and wrote a thoughtful summary of her semester:

“I still reminisce upon and cherish the time I spent at The Island School — choosing a single favorite memory is nearly impossible. Yet when people ask me about my experience studying abroad there, I am always asked about the marine research, the food, the run, the solo, the kayak, The Bahamas… Rarely do people realize that The Island School is a hugely academic experience. While the classroom differs from a typical high school, the learning experience is all the more meaningful. Projects such as interviewing local Bahamians for Histories class, creating my own research project for human ecology (we focused on substituting scallops for conch on local menus), or helping to curate the student art show are some of my fondest memories. And of course, all of the people. Never in my life have I met people, whether these were my friends, members of CEI, teachers, staff – everyone, who have cared so deeply about building a community that cares for one another and the environment supporting us all.”

Noelle, best of luck to you from all of us at The Island School! We hope that Earth Week was a blast and that your work continues to be an inspiration for all who see it!

Alumni Spotlight: Christopher Teufel (F’13)


What do aquaponics and type-2 diabetes research have in common? Curiously enough it turns out that The Island School is the common link! Christopher Teufel attended The Island School in the Fall 2013 semester after learning of the program from Bart (F’04) and Jake Cerf (F’05) who lived nearby in Chris’s neighborhood. Chris was close to Bart and Jake because they were “the only male babysitters I had and also the only people who would have pillow fights with me and let me stay up and eat ice cream on a school night.” When Chris entered high school it was the mother of Bart and Jake, Beppy, who dropped a hint to Chris’s parents reminding them of the program. It certainly helped in Chris’s case that “all my life I had been interested in marine science and the environment.” From there, the rest is history. Chris applied and attended The Island School saying that “my semester at IS did more for me than I could have ever imagined. I not only became more confident with my interpersonal relationships but also realized that I really am interested in scientific research and that this career path could very likely be the one for me.” Speaking of scientific research, Chris is currently pursuing two projects. One is a homegrown aquaponics study on cichlid fish conducted in Chris’s basement and the other is type-2 diabetes research at Jackson Laboratories (JAX) in Bar Harbor, Maine.

It is fairly unusual to hear of modern day mad scientists conducting half-baked experiments around smoking beakers in their own homes. Fortunately, Chris is not counted among that number, although his parents may have initially disagreed. Christ learned all about aquaculture and aquaponics during his time at The Island School but did not develop that interest until he returned home and “happened to be doing a lab in my AP biology class at the time that examined animal behavior and so as a result I decided why not conduct some research of my own.” Chris’s parents “were certainly a little hesitant at first and more than a few times inquired why the fish tanks had to be kept at our house and not the school or really anywhere else” but eventually, they became used to the new normal of having the basement re-purposed as a combination aquarium and laboratory and allowed Chris to work. Chris credits his research project with Sustainable Fisheries and Conservation for inspiring him to work in the field and demonstrating what “sustainable systems, such as aquaponics, could do for the future of Earth’s ocean ecosystems.”

Two fish from Chris's basement lab
                                                  Two fish from Chris’s basement lab

When Chris first entered high school, he retained his interest in all things environmental but broadened that interest further to include biology. The result was the discovery that Chris was interested in medicine, specifically research revolving around genetics. Last summer, Chris received an “email from one of the STEM coordinators at my school regarding the opportunity to participate in a class outside of school conducting graduate level research in conjunction with Jackson Labs and three other schools around the nation.” These other schools were: Maine School of Science and Mathematics, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology. Chris jumped in with two other students from his school and “began this class with minimal programming technology and a relatively limited knowledge of computational genomics. Needless to say the learning curve was steep and we have certainly struggled but in the past month or two are definitely proud of the results we obtained and the knowledge gained from this experience.” This type of research never truly ends so if Chris’s interest continues, he could have all the experience he ever wants in this field.

Chris has, despite the relative differences between his two fields of study, been finding common ground between the two. His research on fish focuses on reactions to external environmental stimuli and his diabetes research involves the effects of genetic predispositions. In other words, his two projects create the classic nature vs. nurture debate that many scientists worldwide are studying. In the future, Chris is interested in examining the dispute of nature vs. nurture “in a variety of biological situations from levels of aggression in fish to a diabetic precursor in humans.” Chris hopes to return to his work at JAX in the future to further the study but has to put his work with cichlid fish on hold for his undergraduate years.  He is, however, open to the possibility of more aquaculture research in the future.


When asked if he wanted to give any shout-outs to people who influenced his time at The Island School, Chris had quite a few:

“This is a tough one. I would definitely like to give shout outs to Emma, my advisor and histories teacher who I was recently informed will be departing Island School soon, Peter Z for fanning the flames of my interest in marine ecology, John Schatz for being my running buddy and making sure we stayed relatively well-behaved, Catherine Klem for being a great math teacher and phenomenal kayak trip leader (let me know if you’re up at Sugarloaf anytime soon!) Ron and Karen Knight for your friendship and guidance throughout my semester, Will Strathmann for furthering my photographic knowledge and saving my camera gear on that fateful first day of our kayak trip, and the many other characters who contributed to my phenomenal experience. Of course, shout out to Fall 2013 for being some of the greatest friends I’ve ever encountered.

Best of luck to you, Chris, with your next steps in college and beyond! All of us at The Island School look forward to hearing more from you in the future.