MEREDITH GRADUATED WITH THE CLASS OF 2011 AFTER ATTENDING BREAKWATER FOR NINE YEARS. WE ASKED HER TO TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HER LIFE “BEYOND THE BREAKWATER”....
High school? Yarmouth High School class of 2015
College? Sophomore at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. I am a Political Science and Classics double major on the Pre-Law track. Cheryl Hart(1) will be pleased to know I’m putting my negotiating skills to good use!
Any work experience? I worked at the Village Florist and Company in high school…and the LOFT in Freeport last summer (2016). Retail is so much harder than you would think. I was a paid coxswain (that's a person who sits in the front of the rowing shell and calls commands) for the Men’s and Women’s Masters crew teams for Yarmouth Rowing Club all throughout high school (Laura Haney was often in my boat! She’s the mother of Hannah Keohane ’07 and Liam Keohane ’10) I have babysat for a whopping 17 different families (yes—I counted) throughout high school and beyond (including Stephanie Hayward Davis’(2) three adorable kiddos!). I surprisingly did have friends that I hung out with on the weekends in high school despite what may seem like an over-commitment to taking care of other people’s children. (It probably was.)
Volunteer service? Summer 2016 I volunteered for the MS Foundation as an event assistant. During the 2015-16 school year I volunteered at the St. Mary’s Health Care Center. I had developed a relationship with a Sister of Mercy during weekly visits to the facility as part of my year-long freshman seminar at Holy Cross. In January of 2016 I did a Dance Marathon where I danced for 12 hours straight (8pm to 8am) to promote awareness and raise money for EGPAF (Pediatric Aids). My bum never touched the floor. For twelve hours. Summer 2014 I started Mission Ambition: Girls for Healthy Minds and Bodies. It’s a camp through Yarmouth Community Services that strives to promote healthy self-image through various activities like cooking, sports, arts, etc. for campers between the ages of 5th and 8th grade. The camp now runs autonomously by rising high school seniors. And! in the Summer 2014 I was a summer volunteer at Maine Medical Center.
How did your learning experience at Breakwater prepare you for your experiences after graduation? I credit my Breakwater experience for preparing me to navigate given circumstances with creativity and thoughtfulness. For example, I currently live in a 6-woman suite (3 bedrooms, one bathroom, one mudroom) with five of my best friends at Holy Cross. It’s great—most of the time. We’ve had to get creative with figuring out a shower schedule, sleeping/study habits, and overall cleanliness. It’s been challenging at times to not get angry at certain roommates—but I always draw on my Breakwater days when I navigated with just a handful of students in my classes, and I really learned how to appropriately deal with people’s individual worries and concerns while making sure my own were understood. (This was a trial and error, of course; Cheryl can once again attest.)
Breakwater prepared me to teach myself how to learn. I think I took one standardized test at school during the entire 9 years I was at the school, but I ended up scoring in the 99th percentile on my SATs when I was applying to college. (That’s absolutely a humble-brag. Actually no humble, just brag. But it’s true—without Breakwater, I probably wouldn’t have been able to problem solve my way through that thing.) Even though I didn’t grow up with the experience of taking standardized tests like many of my public school friends, Breakwater taught me how to think for and teach myself to learn in a way that works for me.
My time management skills would not exist without the comforting net and guidance of my teachers at Breakwater. Cheryl Hart, especially, taught me how to manage my time, avoid procrastination, and minimize homework-related anxiety. (Obviously, Cheryl really looked out for me.)
What do you remember most vividly about your time at Breakwater?
How much the teachers cared.
One summer, when I was 11 entering sixth grade, Stephanie called my parents and asked if I would be able to go to IKEA furniture store with her in Boston that afternoon. I got to pick out the furniture for my new classroom. How cool is that?
A group of five students including myself, Bridge(3) and Mr. J(4), and a parent chaperone got trapped in Costa Rica in the spring of 2011 for three additional days. (Mr. J would be disappointed that I am using the word “got” but I feel like it’s appropriate in this situation. You got to know the rules to break the rules, right, Kelly [McConnell(5)]?) Those three days are some of my most memorable of my time at Breakwater. I truly learned how to handle adversity—being completely unaware, out of control, frightened—in a safe environment. I bonded with my other classmates. I wore some of my clothes twice—three times? I ate food I had never heard of, I stayed in places we weren’t expecting to—and everything turned out okay because I trusted the wonderful teachers who really cared for all of us. It did help that one of the places we stayed was a complementary five-star resort where, as a fourteen-year-old, I had my own room.
What are experiences or lessons learned at Breakwater have served you well in your life? I think learning to be flexible, creative, conscious, and kind has really benefited me in life.
Tell us a story…. So, when I was in seventh grade, it was one of the first years of the middle school and we were, needless to say, still ~figuring things out~ within the program. I say “we” because the way that the middle school was structured, the teachers and administration really valued the input of the students—something I continue to be very grateful for. One of the things I loved about Breakwater was that we always had a very integrated curriculum; we would have a theme for our units like “Maine Fisheries,” “the Civil War,” “the Industrial Revolution,” “Sustainability,” etc.
Instead of having English class or Social Studies, we would integrate our education by writing reports about Civil War soldiers or making iMovie presentations about fisheries. I learned so much about each of these things through this learning style.
Anywhoozle, so we did the Fisheries unit when I was in eighth grade. Now, I love Bridge and Sari(6). Bridge is like the cool dad who has stories from when he hiked the Appalachian Trail and tons of tattoos he tries to cover and hilarious stories. Sari is one of the most insightful people I know, and her creativity has always astounded me. Both of these beautiful souls gave us little middle schoolers perhaps too much freedom, but we rolled with it. About six of us, ranging from all middle school grades, were let loose on the streets of Portland, and we were told to knock on the doors of fish processing plants to try to interview the people who ran them.
Crazy, I know. We were, like 11, 12, 13 year olds just roaming the streets of Portland (this is how it felt to us. In retrospect, I am positive that Bridge was stalking us throughout the whole time to make sure we were okay. Like I said—cool dad). A group of six of us came to one of the fish processing plants, and we decided to march right in and ask if we could interview them for our project. Just. March. Right. In. Were we crazy?
We were this motley crew of scraggly preteens—harmless, curious, adorable (or either really wretched and they simply felt bad for us…jury is still out on that one). Of course the people at the fishing plant said yes to having us do a little interview project on them. It couldn’t have been a big deal for them, maybe 15 minutes of their time to explain what they do, but to us, we thought we had struck the jackpot.
Breakwater students are some of the most confident people I have come across in my 19-soon-to-be-20 years on this planet. Of course the right thing to do was walk in there and ask for what we wanted… what’s the worst that could happen: we get turned down? I will never forget this experience for teaching me so finitely the “Want it? So do something about it!” lesson that Breakwater instills in its students and community.
The enthusiasm we had about interviewing some old guys at a fishing processing plant just proves how passionate Breakwater students are. Instead of reading from a textbook about fishing, we experienced things first hand and had an active role in our education.
Breakwater was always there to harbor us from the world, but allow us to get out and discover things for ourselves that a traditional school would simply just instruct. Thank you, Breakwater, for teaching me that if I want something badly enough, it’s my responsibility to do something about it.
(1) Cheryl Hart: Currently in her 33rd year at Breakwater and teaching our 5th and 6th graders.
(2) Stephanie Hayward Davis: former music essentialist, now returning to us in the 2017/18 school year to teach our preschoolers.
(3) Peter "Mr. Bridge" Bridgford: former middle school and academic adventure teacher, and tinkering essentialist. Now a published author.
(4) Alex "Mr. J" Johnston: In his 27th year at Breakwater, Alex is currently teaching Spanish language to our kindergarten through middle school students.
(5) Kelly McConnell: Before collaborating on the design of the Maine College of Art's MAT program, Kelly taught and designed Breakwater’s innovative visual arts curriculum.
(6) Sari Lindaur: In her 33rd year at Breakwater, Sari proposed and developed our first middle school program. Currently, Sari continues to teach integrated science and instructs in the kindergarten-four tinkering program.