EAMONN BEGAN HIS BREAKWATER CAREER IN 2002 AS A STUDENT IN PRESCHOOL, AT THAT TIME KNOWN AS OUR "BEGINNERS" PROGRAM. AFTER ATTENDING BREAKWATER FOR TEN YEARS, HE GRADUATED IN OUR 8TH GRADE CLASS OF 2012. WE ASKED HIM TO TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HIS MEMORIES OF OUR SCHOOL AND HIS LIFE “BEYOND THE BREAKWATER”....
High School? Portland High School, Portland, Maine. College? Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.
Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now: I am going into my junior year as a Public Policy major, Business Administration minor at Syracuse University, in Syracuse, New York. Additionally, I am at Breakwater for the summer helping out on a variety of development projects.
Any work experience? In high school all of my work had a very political focus, starting with serving as a fellow on President Obama’s 2012 Campaign. After that I continued to work on a myriad of local and statewide campaigns before being nominated by U.S. Senator Susan Collins to serve as a Senate Page in Washington D.C. for my junior year of high school. Working on the floor of the Senate assisting our nation’s leaders everyday around the clock, while roaming the halls of Congress and taking a full menu of high school courses was a unique and thrilling experience, but I was happy to return back to a more regular pace of life in Maine. For my last year of high school I served as an intern in U.S. Senator Angus King’s Scarborough office where I worked on constituent services.
In Syracuse I am currently working with the chair of our Public Policy Department to develop a political forecasting group that will assess the likelihood of certain policies to pass on the local and regional level. In the fall I will continue with that, and assume an intern position at the Syracuse Housing Authority, reviewing development proposals for an urban renewal project in the post-industrial neighborhoods of Syracuse.
Volunteer service? I have been very involved in the Maine Youth Court, where I was a founding member (along with Cooper Bramble ‘12) and board member. Maine Youth Court is a diversion program for non-violent, first time juvenile offenders that uses a restorative justice approach to reintegrate young offenders with their communities to get them out of the traditional juvenile justice system. This work gave me a front row seat to a lot of the public policy issues that schools and local communities face in their tremendous job of ensuring children do not fall through the cracks into permanent poverty and confrontation with the justice system.
In Syracuse I run a tutoring program in the city’s Boys and Girls Clubs. Managing a small platoon of committed tutors and actually tutoring kids myself has been a great way to get me off the campus and into the community, a skill that I credit very much to Breakwater’s commitment to getting students out into the world around them in order to be the best learners possible. There is a tremendous payoff from interacting with those from entirely different socio-economic, racial and geographic backgrounds.
Did your experience at Breakwater prepare you for life “beyond the breakwater”? The one word that immediately comes to mind when I reflect on my time at Breakwater is independence. Whether it be the confidence to chart a bold and independent thought process, or the independence to pursue my interests and take risks, knowing I have a strong set of analytical and critical thinking skills to fall back on (also thanks to Breakwater), the gift of knowing that you are fully in control of your learning and interactions with your community have been hugely determinative as I have set out in life.
Additionally, the thirst for lifelong learning is another area where Breakwater set me up well. Breakwater’s educational philosophy not only encourages this pursuit of knowledge, it provides great practice in taking that knowledge out of an often esoteric academic setting, and into real world application that is helpful in breaking down tricky concepts. As a public policy major I am constantly distilling abstract political science theories into tenable solutions that improve people’s lives, a skill that I see as closely related to the projects and ideas that Breakwater teachers focus on every day.
What do you remember most vividly about your time at Breakwater? What I remember most vividly about Breakwater is how engaged all of the students were in their learning. There exists a growing listlessness in students today, that I noticed in both high school and college, that contributes to a paucity of intelligent exchange and engagement in classroom activities, but that simply wasn’t present at Breakwater. Students at Breakwater are more than prepared to think about issues and elegantly articulate their thinking with their classmates. This kind of learning is essential, and our Breakwater community is in luck because it's exactly the type of learning encouraged by all of Breakwater’s faculty.
From my personal experience, by not making grades and test results the goal of education, Breakwater students are actually more prepared to do well by those metrics. Instilling students with the idea that traditional measures of education success are not the ultimate goal of the educational journey allows those amazing grade and test scores beyond the Breakwater to simply be by-products of a larger quest for knowledge. For me, Breakwater functioned as a great incubator for learning habits that contribute to a deeper, broader understanding of content and a greater appreciation for the interconnected nature of our modern world.
Tell us a story: So, this isn’t actually a story about me, but I think that it is illustrative of the nature of Breakwater students.
It was right around the Boston Red Sox’s 2004 history making World Series, we had been a Breakwater family for roughly three years, and my dad was a new member of the Board of Trustees. Somehow, Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield agreed to appear for a Breakwater fundraiser and my parents attended. My dad had an item that he wanted Wakefield to sign, yet he was vocally nervous about walking up to a player from the team he idolized since he was a kid. Noticing my dad’s trepidation, a Breakwater student at the time walked up to my dad, took the item he wanted to get signed, and went right over to Wakefield, introducing himself and asking for the signature. My parents were stunned.
To me, this little vignette is a perfect example of the tenacity, eagerness, and confidence that Breakwater builds in its students every day.