Sophomore, Kallen Wank, plans to pursues her passions through the Island School this Spring

Kallen Wank, and aspiring marine biologists, plans on attending the island school this spring. (Courtesy of Kallen Wank)

Waves lap rhythmically against the sandy shores as the imprints of flippers form intertwining trails down the coast. The turquoise waters shimmer and students in scuba gear dive into the tropical Bahamas’ water. These high schoolers are at the forefront of making scientific discoveries as they investigate the Bahamas’ ecosystems as a part of the hands-on curriculum found at the Island School in Eleuthera, the Bahamas.

Sophomore Kallen Wank is passionate about science, marine biology and swimming, so she applied and was accepted to the Island School. Although the fall semester was canceled due to COVID-19, Wank still hopes to attend this upcoming spring in order to have a change of scenery and spend some time away from technology. 

“I just thought it would be a super cool experience to go outside and learn more about the environment,” Wank said. “I’m excited because they have a lot of expeditions. They have a kayaking trip, and [the school is] based on the outdoors, which I really love, and I’m excited to meet new people. Every day, there’s also a period of time where you just get to go explore the island on your own, which seems really fun.”

Charlotte DeForrest

Wank’s mom, Denise Pepp, thinks the school is perfect for her daughter and is excited for her to have the opportunity to learn in a new environment. Pepp hopes Wank will be able to explore a field that interests her in a hands-on setting, rather than a traditional classroom. 

“I think [the school is] unique in that it’s a perfect blend of leadership, marine biology, learning in an alternative environment and sports, swimming specifically, for [Wank]. It’s all the things that she loves wrapped up in one school,” Pepp said. 

According to Anna Becker, who works in the admissions department of the Island School, the ability for students to choose their own path and follow their passions is what makes the school special. For Wank, this means she will get the opportunity to learn more about marine biology, a topic she has always been interested in.

“I haven’t really done a lot of [marine biology] before, but in the future, I’m hoping to explore that more and become a marine biologist because it’s a really cool job,” Wank said. 

At the Island School, students take classes such as history of the Bahamas, land and environmental art, marine ecology, and research. They are also required to participate in daily morning exercise, where they either train for a four mile open water swim or a half marathon, and are given a designated period where they can explore the island on their own or with friends. 

“It really is a program where you’re fully immersing yourself in all of the different aspects of where we’re located,” Becker said. “We really push students to think outside the box, get outside of their comfort zone and take on this journey of discovering the type of leader that they are.”

Students conducting under water research become scuba certified at the Island School. (Courtesy of the Island School)

The Cape Eleuthera Foundation, which supports the Island School, also funds other educational programs that are open to students like Wank. These programs include the Center for Sustainable Development, which focuses on creating sustainable water, energy, and food, and the Cape Eleuthera Institute, a research center located within the school that focuses on understanding marine life present in the Bahamas. Becker believes that the ability to ask questions and then go outside and discover the answers, with the help of the Cape Eleuthera Institute, is what makes the Island School such a special experience. Wank is looking forward to participating in both of these programs which allow her to have a more interactive experience learning about the topics that interest her. 

“I hope [the Island School] teaches me to learn, to be myself, explore outside and to love the natural beauties of the world,” Wank said. 

As of Oct. 20, the school plans on opening in late February for a semester of exploring the natural environment and the Eleuthera community. Wank, who is ready to overcome the challenges that come with living away from home, is excited to pursue her passions in a unique way. 

“[One thing I am looking forward to] is definitely that I get to go explore and see new and really cool things that I haven’t before. [However], I’ll definitely be behind in math, and I won’t get to see my friends. But I’m really excited to just be there and be outside and make some new friends too,” Wank said.