On a cold December morning, pre-dawn, Project Vine met down in Vineyard Haven to catch an early ferry off the Island so we could tour Harvard University and chat about education with Harvard Professor Timothy McCarthy.
Ahead of this trip, I wasn’t sure there would be enough student interest. Some faculty had asked me why I would take a group of students up to Harvard who stood very little chance of going there. Honestly, most people stand very little chance of going there. But it was these students that asked me to go visit a college. So, I had asked them where they wanted to go, and Harvard came up a lot. It might be because I’m an alumni, or the general brand recognition, but it was their choice that drove this trip, and I’m all for honoring student voice.
And at 5:45 AM on Tuesday, December 4th, every single student who signed up to go was waiting for that ferry. Impressive!
We rode up, got stuck in traffic just outside the city, talked about the famous gas tanks by the expressway, watched the T ride by us, even stopped at the Burger King on 495...everything a trip to Boston used to be for me growing up on the Cape:)
I got the chance to show off Harvard to my students. The Yard, my old dorm, the statue of John Harvard, Out of Town News! It wasn’t the first time I played tour guide, but it was the best in terms of feeling like I was proud I went there, and I was proud of what I’m doing now with my education.
Professor Timothy McCarthy, who was my professor for a class on the History of Protest Literature in America (“From Tom Paine to Tupac Shakur”) hosted us in the Quincy House common room for a discussion about education, college and life in general. The room was extra Harvard: black and white class pictures, oil painted portraits, oak panelling and ornate carpet designs. Our students sat and listened, and asked great questions, and were part of Harvard for that hour. Looking around at them, I saw a few near snoozing, but I also saw a few looking like they just had the most amazing idea of their lives, sitting up straighter, focused eyes, talking to Professor McCarthy with not at all a sense that they were “alternative school students,” or whatever labels they often wear: they were supposed to be there, right then, and it was awesome
Maddie Youmans, ‘21, was particularly struck with Professor McCarthy’s discussion of how much money really does exist for people to attend college and how students with passion can often find a great education for themselves. She wrote, “This trip was an inspiration! It motivated those of us who didn’t think they could ever afford to go or could even get into college.”
Emily McKinney, ‘21, wrote that “most of the entirety of MVRHS won't get into Harvard either, but it was cool to see what a college looks like and to know a little more about all colleges in general.”
Silas Nelson, ‘19, wrote, “I got to talk to a professor and ask him his thoughts about going to college immediately after high school and I feel happier getting a different view besides our school’s. Tim (Professor McCarthy) felt regretful about going to college immediately, so I'm happy that we talked because in this society people make you feel like college is a must as soon as you graduate, which doesn't always work for everyone. And to hear a Harvard professor agree just made me feel like I had the choice.”
When asked about if it made sense to visit a place like Harvard, Silas added, “Well, it's for the experience of visiting a college. Everyone visits colleges. Some people visit colleges that they never plan to go to or they might not get in to. But they still go so... why shouldn’t we?”
Nate Sawyer, ‘21. Commented “One interesting thing I learned from Professor McCarthy was that he worked on Obama and the Clinton campaigns. I thought that was very cool to know someone who did. I think it made us look good because we actually do care about that stuff even though people don’t think we do.”
Levi Vanderhoop, ‘19, wrote that “The most interesting thing that I learned from Prof. McCarthy was that being yourself is the most important thing you can do. He used the phrase, ‘you are the writer of your own book so make it the best you can the first time.”
Eleanor Hyland, ‘21 wrote that “the most interesting thing I learned from Professor McCarthy was that being in all honors classes and having straight A’s aren’t the only things colleges are looking for. A lot of us are better at work and social skills, and we are not terrible at school, but we needed something different and that’s why we’re in Project Vine, but just because we are in Project Vine doesn't mean we will never get into a good school like Harvard.”
Colby Balboni, ‘19 reflected on the trip, “We were all asked what colleges we would want to visit and Harvard came up the most. Our English teacher went to Harvard so she gave us a tour and then we met and talked to her favorite professor. It was a lot of fun getting to walk around Harvard Square and it was very interesting talking to the professor. It was interesting learning about what he does other than teach also learning about his family history was cool. And even though we probably won’t go to Harvard it was still a really cool experience that we’ll remember and one most people will never have."
Our Second-Annual Island Lore Storytelling Open-Mic Event is this coming Tuesday, October 30th from 6-8pm.
Last year, senior Jake Baird won the "Best-Told Tale" award with a reading of his story "A Ship Called Legacy," inspired by artifacts viewed on a field trip to the MV Museum.
This year, Project Vine students of all levels have prepared or selected some great stories to share with the crowd at this "Moth-Style" event. Please join us! We're hoping to raise funds to support community events like this, which are at the heart of Project Vine's mission, and to fund a memorial scholarship in Jake's honor. The Jake Sequoia Baird award will be given out for the first time this spring to a graduating Project Vine senior who most exemplifies the spirit of Project Vine the way that Jake saw it: a place to learn more from people and relationships, and to value each other, above all else.
Suggested donation is $5 per person at the door. A cash concession will be available featuring hot apple cider, coffee and a selection of baked goods.
The MV Museum will also have available a collection of artifacts found around the Island which seniors this year were encouraged to use as inspiration for their stories. You can browse these yourself and see if they inspire a story in you. Our thanks to Ann DuCharme and the MV Museum for working with Project Vine on this project for the second year!
All are welcome to tell your own spooky, zany, epic or otherwise "Island Lore" tale... or just listen and enjoy! All-ages welcome.
We hope to see you there!
On Thursday, September 27th, 13 students and 3 staff members caught a boat out from Tashmoo landing to Penikese Island for our overnight retreat. Participants spent 2 days and nights out at Penikese, with no electricity, no phones, little running water and only a wood stove to cook over. To some, it was heaven, and was one of the most important trips we’ve been on as a community. What follows are a collection of reflections from our students on the Penikese Retreat, in their own words.
Shavin Curtis, class of 2021: “The day we went to Penikese Island, I was very skeptical. I was expecting it to be creepy but it wasn't, it was more beautiful than scary--a very pleasant island with no predators. The beach was awesome. I'm known to have aquaphobia, but on Penikese I jumped off of the dock into high water and it turned out to be less terrifying than I thought. I’m not saying that I overcame my fear of water-- I’m still scared to death, but not as much as I would be if I didn’t jump. It was really fun. I also learned some songs from my playlist by using the guitar they have there at Penikese.”
Emily McKinney, class of 2021: “My favorite part was being able to explore the island: I loved seeing the ocean and the sunsets and I really liked seeing all the stars. There was not much light around so you could see them perfectly. It was also really fun to hear scary stories like this one about a man in yellow pants-- it was especially fun to scare some of the other students with this story.
I think the Penikese trip was a very important trip because we got to see all of our staff and kids’ behavior out of school. I feel like we got to know each other a lot better and I think now we all feel more comfortable around each other.”
Silas Nelson, class of 2019: “The entire trip was very interesting and important because we got to talk more with our classmates. We got to know them better and we became more of a family, in part because we were stuck in close proximity with each other for two and a half days. I think it was also important because it showed us what life is like without our phones, how much we rely on phones for everything and how little we actually use human interaction. I would do the trip again because it had a good impact on the people who went there.”
Zoe Ingargiola, class of 2021: “In Project Vine we go on field trips all the time. This time we went to Penikese Island. On the first night there, we went to a small part of the Island where past residents were buried from when Penikese was a Leper Colony. The man who was staying on the island with us to help us explained how when two or more people who were very close passed away, say like a mother and a child, they would be buried right next to each other. While everyone was talking, I picked some flowers and set a few on each grave I saw there, just because I thought it was a small, but nice thing to do.”
Colby Balboni, class of 2019: “I think it was really cool that we had some freedom during the trip. We had the ability to explore the entire island and got to learn for ourselves instead of just people showing us around. We got to explore the old buildings and walk along the beaches and the hills, and during the night there was little-to-no light pollution so you could see the stars.”
Levi Vanderhoop, Class of 2019: “The Penikese trip was a good experience. Being on a remote island and being away from technology for a little while was so peaceful. My favorite part was day two and spending it with a person I didn't usually talk to at all but I became good friends with at Penikese. That was something that was happening all trip. I made friends with everyone and became closer with the people I was already friends with. I got to know my teachers better and saw them as humans. I love them already but it was still good to see them outside of school.”
Nate Sawyer, class of 2021: “Penikese was great! I had an amazing time. I definitely can't wait for next year. I think the trip was a very important learning experience for everyone. We got to live in a house, eat together, sleep together, hang out together, play together: like a family. I enjoyed playing pool with my fellow peers and fishing with Joel. I wish we did more night hikes! One thing I have to do next year if we go again is visit the other part of the island. I think this was a great experience and really hope we're doing it next year."
Tristan Blair, class of 2021: “The moment I really enjoyed from our retreat was on the final night: all of the members of the program were all in the living room and we were all in the dark and we just talked. People were all saying great things about our program and how we are a family. I really enjoyed going on the trip and getting to know the faces we see everyday. I liked eating meals with our classmates and getting to know the teachers out of school. It’s a really different experience and I would go to Penikese again.”
Nick Lytle, class of 2021: “One thing I liked about Penikese was when we were allowed to choose what we wanted to do and we could go explore the island. I liked looking for sea glass for one hour and I found a lot. I also liked when we cooked. We had to use a very old oven. We had to put a lot of wood in the fire to keep it going. I wish we could have stayed for a few more days.”
Maddie Youmans, class of 2021: “The ride back from Penikese was bittersweet. As we all loaded onto the boat, people talked of the good experiences they had and also how ready they were to go home. I tried to take it all in one last time: the dorms, the beaches, and the moments I shared with my Project Vine family. It was a hard transition for me. I was given my phone back but wanted nothing to do with it. I saw others grab it fast and turn it on automatically and I didn’t understand. I had an amazing time with no technology, trying to find things to make yourself happy or entertained. In the end, you really find that other people are the most important things.”
It is a lucky thing to be so busy that you forget how hard it was to get through the winter.
This was an awful winter, and not only because of the weather and the seemingly unending storms, ferry problems and crippling cold, but because Project Vine lost a member of our family, and it is hard to take “Keep Growing!” as a motto to heart when there is a branch that won’t grow any farther.
But spring started somewhere along the way and we got busy growing…yet we shouldn’t be so busy that we don’t reflect on the shared experiences that make our program what it is, and so this is a bit of a “catching up” post on our part…and there’s been so much in that regard!
At the end of March, we held our long-awaited re-scheduled “Chopped for Charity” Event, originally planned by our senior class for January, and it was great! Students and staff members competed and judges from the high school and larger community judged dishes prepared out of commonly donated food items. Project Vine generated hundreds of dollars in donations of both food and money to support the Island Food Pantry. Our family had a chance to work together, contribute positively to our Island and have an awesome shared experience. Take a look through our gallery of pictures below!
In April, students from our Junior class along with some students from our Enrichment block held a “What’s Good in Gaming?” Summit in partnership with Alex’s Place at the YMCA. This event had student “coaches” explain some major video games to parents and community members, who could then try out some popular games with our students as guides and teachers. We also held a screening that night of Junior Levi Vanderhoop’s documentary “What’s Good About Gaming?” in which he sought to abolish the stereotypes that persist around video games and players. Our students were interviewed by and featured in a story in the High School View section of the MVTimes. Check it out!
Project Vine then held student-led conferences in the evenings the week of April 23rd. Students had the opportunity to explain their own progress in school, their goals and their struggles, to all four of their Project Vine teachers, alongside their parents or guardians. While we know for some this was perhaps the scariest thing we could ask of our students, it was also some of the most gratifying things we as a staff could see, as students took ownership of explaining who we are, who they are, and what it is we try to do here. It is not easy to ask teachers to stay until late in the evening three extra nights in a row, nor is it easy to have students show back up to school hours after the last bells have rung, but it is the commitment to doing those extra things, both from students and staff, that make the Project Vine family keep growing.
And then… students and staff worked to build and paint five new sets of cornhole boards which were auctioned off at our annual Cornhole Tournament last Friday evening. It was a great event with students from all grade levels, community members, program staff and families all eating some cookout, playing some cornhole and raising money that goes to supporting all this crazy stuff we do down here in Project Vine.
This week, we’re headed over to Nantucket to meet their Alternative School students and staff, get a tour of their Island and learn about each other a little bit in the hopes that next year we can have them come over here and give them a tour of what makes our piece of the world so special. We’ll let you know how it goes!
Happy Spring, everyone!
Our annual Cornhole Tournament Cookout & Silent Auction is coming up next Friday, May 4th. Register to play alone and be paired with a player ($20) or register as a team ($40). Winners get a hand-made, student designed and painted corn hole set of their own (and bragging rights!). Other boards used in the tournament are available for purchase through silent auction. Thank you for playing! Tell your fans to show up and pay $10 for a slammin' plate of food cooked (in part) by our "Chopped for Charity" winners Jason Rivers and Henry Warner.
Story Frame by Madeline Youmans, ‘21
Monday, February 12th was Project Vine Work Day: the day where the Project Vine family—students and staff together—did a few things to make our space more welcoming and comfortable.
According to Jonathan Chivers, ’21, “A couple of weeks in advance, to get ready for work day, we had a meeting. We talked about what we would do and we collected the items we needed to complete our projects.”
Right before the day actually started, everyone met and discussed the plans for the day. As Shavin Curtis, ’21, noted, “Miss Fletcher gave us a speech of motivation, getting us to be a part of the Project Vine family and treating the space as our home.”
The groups and jobs were presented, and people decided which job they preferred. A group of people went and got a table and a few chairs from Dani’s van. We traced the Project Vine logo on the table to wood burn it in. Some people were in the hallway tracing and painting vines to spread out through our community. Others were creating a billboard to showcase the calendar days.
Josh Dix, ’21, said the following about Work Day: “On work day, when I got to class and walked in people were painting and burning the table. There was food and chips and drinks. Someone brought a big dog. People were cleaning up and organizing. There was a speech that I sadly missed but I heard that it was a great speech.”
Josh Brown, ’21, said that “we as a class painted the Project Vine sign at the main door. We painted leaves with a bunch of different colors, like purple, green, and yellow.”
“During the work day, many people did many different things. Some painted the walls whilst others put new stickers on the Chromebooks. Others took down the memorial [to the late Jake Baird, ‘18] because it was beginning to get hard to see and getting torn up via the rain,” said Robert Goodale, ’21.
Nate Sawyer, ’21, commented that “importantly, we took down the temporary memorial for Jake and discussed what we were put there." The group did work together to clear the temporary memorial, which was difficult but was part of growing and moving forward. Nate also noted that "we also had a fun pizza party with chips and lemonade. It was also an adventure to get the wood burners so we could burn the emblem into the table.…all around it was a fun time.”
Students were asked after the work day why they thought we have this as an annual tradition in the program. Lohanna De Oliveira, ’21 said, “we are making Project Vine our own, since we call the Project Vine Suite our home for the 6 hours 5 times a week that we are here.” Josh Brown, ’21 commented “I think Project Vine has an annual work day to make the place look better.” His classmate, Tristan Blair, ’21, said “The point of work day was to really clean up our area. The point was to really improve our work space and personalize it. Also, the point was to collaborate on making our workplace better and improved.”
Nick Lytle, ’21 summed up the value of the work day, saying “Project Vine does this every year so we can become a family and know that the way the Project Vine hall looks is because of us.”
Reflecting on the space and the work day afterward, Madeline Youmans, ’21, commented “It feels more at home now. It’s a comfortable place to learn.”
*A note from the Project Vine staff: Thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s work day wonderful! Work Day is a chance for students to personalize and show ownership over their space in a way not always afforded in public spaces, and we believe it’s a big part of how our community keeps growing.
Please feel free to come by and check out the improvements to our space!
**This article, like much of our blog content, was written by many program members, compiled by English teacher Dani Charbonneau Fletcher, and uses a story frame provided by a student, in this case our own superstar freshmen, Madeline Youmans. Freshmen were asked as a writing assignment to describe the events of our Work Day in the form of a blog post. Their own words from that assignment are edited together here to form this story. This type of authentic reflection on our program and on what we learn is at the heart of Project Vine.
In Project Vine, we started a tradition last year that we’re very proud of, though we probably didn’t know just how significant it would feel this past week.
Seniors in the program are asked to select a book and write a dedication from them to all students in the program, present and future, who might benefit from reading their legacy book. After they write their dedications, staff talks about what each senior’s real “legacy” is to our little family, and we write another paragraph after theirs about what we feel their real gifts to the program were. These dedication panels go right in the front of the books they pick out, and they ceremoniously place them on our “Legacy Bookshelf,” the one with the Christmas lights you might have seen if you’ve walked by the Vine Suite.
It was pure happenstance that this year’s ceremony took place last Thursday, instead of in the spring, as in the past. Many of our seniors were moving on early: graduating or going into work study, and it didn’t seem right to not have the Senior Awards Brunch for them, too. So, we did.
Each senior left us with a book, their words about it, and some description of them meant to last long after they walked out of our doors, meant to keep a memory of them alive here in our space when they wouldn’t wander in from the main hallway anymore, meant to preserve some part of themselves so we could use their spirit for years to come when we try to inspire others who feel like they once did.
We also gave each senior an award to commemorate something special about them which they excelled at—some talent or passion which highlighted their contributions to this program and to their world.
What follows is the text of all 6 dedication panels left by our senior class, as well as the title of the award they received. They were printed and read at our senior brunch on Thursday, January 11th, on what would turn out to be the last day of senior Jake Baird’s young life.
The books that he and his class dedicated are on our Legacy Tree, and the award certificate that he received was still in his pocket when he passed away.
We are stunned and saddened by the loss of Jake, and so strangely grateful that these were our last memories together.
The Project Vine Class of 2018 Book Dedications
Nauamy Alves, winner of the Diplomat and Activist Award for Speaking Up and Reaching Out
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
“I want to leave behind something that shows the meaning of loyalty and honesty, which to me, mean everything.
The book I leave for all of you is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
This book not only teaches, but demonstrates what it truly means to be a part of a family through thick and thin. Family is not measured by the blood we share but by the loyalty dedicated to one another in desperate times, and in good ones, too. To truly be in sync with this book, I’d suggest listening to some light ‘50s Greaser music. All in all, this book is a representation of Project Vine as a community. Like the characters in this book, we as individuals of all shapes and all sizes have come together through a bond to form a family for many more years to come.”
This book was dedicated by Nauamy Alves, class of 2018, who will be remembered as a passionate voice in our program, an emissary of sorts, whose gifts in life are not just her ability to speak to literally everyone, but her desire to actually do so. Nauamy’s appearance in our program documentary in 2017 highlighted the importance of the hands-on aspect of what we do here, and her voice will serve to inform and recruit future Project Vine students for years to come, in both English and Portuguese. Her scholarly work was thoughtful, compelling and inclusive in voice. Yet, along with those academic accomplishments, her willingness to be both silly when the time was right, and serious as needed, and her desire to hold her fellow students and staff as close as family are her legacy to this program.
Shammai Thompson, Winner of the Information Technology Specialist Award for Pursuing Knowledge of His Own Interests and Teaching Others
Reality Boy by A. S. King
“I chose this book to be on the Legacy Tree because it is one of the only books I’ve read being in high school that I really enjoyed. It’s about a kid who has to get over being on a reality tv show when he was younger and how he struggles with that. It’s an interesting read and even though I finished it pretty fast, it gave me a view into someone else's life and made me appreciate the way I grew up. What my teenage life turned into was in part because of what I read in this book.”
This book was dedicated by Shammai Thompson, class of 2018, who from his first days in Project Vine, brought humor and a smile to our space, and was there to constantly remind us how important it is to have fun with what we do. Shammai pushed himself to do work that needed to be done, even when it was clear he did not want to it. But his ability to work through what was necessary to do is not his greatest contribution to Project Vine. Though he might have sworn otherwise, Shammai could be counted on to be generous, inclusive and kind to his fellow students here, and that will be his legacy to this program.
Walter Greene, winner of the Transcendental Philosopher Award for Inspiring Thought About Being and Knowledge
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
“Leaves of Grass is a collection of Walt Whitman’s most notable work: all of the poems in it are loosely connected by his thoughts, feelings and perspectives. These poems were always a staple of my life. Growing up, hardly a dinner party passed where my dad didn't bring this book out and read a few poems from it. I always took it for granted but later, I realized that not that many people actually read poetry and even fewer share it openly. Life is about growing and what better way than to expose yourself to as many thoughts as you can? If something rings true, then explore that deeper. That's my hope in leaving this book for you: to listen to him and maybe take away a thought or perspective of his and apply it to your life... or don't— he won't know and neither will I. Anyways, it’s pretty good and worth taking a look at.”
This book was dedicated by Walter Greene, class of 2018. Walter was, during his time in our program, an effortless leader in part because he is incapable of being a follower. No stature, rank or authority of any kind earns more respect from Walt than he affords any other human being, meaning he both teaches and learns from pretty much everyone he encounters. The very definition of an open mind and the student who most distinctly heard the fabled own drummer of H.D. Thoreau’s words, Walt will be remembered for his art, his words, and his work, but it his attitude, his willingness to be present and learn from experience in every form that is his legacy to this program.
Annie Bettencourt, Winner of the Recipe Author Award for Observing and Anticipating Needs Nutritionally and Interpersonally
Better Homes & Gardens Baking
“I left this book to Project Vine because I planned many food-related events here, and this is most relevant. It was gifted to me as my first baking book and I would like to do the same. This book drove me to love what I will do for the rest of my life. The cake recipes within here have become staples in my repertoire. The variety in here can interest any level and go from easy to complicated. I hope to be remembered by some of the events I have planned like the Project Vine Lunch, the food at the Haunted Histories Storytelling Night and our Chopped for Charity Event. Bon appetite!”
This book was dedicated by Annie Bettencourt, Class of 2018. Though quiet and reserved to those who might not know her well, Annie has a joy for the important things in life, and a deep understanding of the people and events around her that those who got to know her well were lucky enough to enjoy in her time here. Annie will most certainly be remembered for her love of preparing food for us and for all to enjoy, but that’s not all. It was her willingness to give voice to and life to her ideas, even if preferably to just one person at a time, that is Annie’s legacy to this program.
Jake Hairston, Winner of the Improvised Musician Award for Pursuing Knowledge of His Own Interests and Teaching Others
The Rifle by Gary Paulsen
“I picked this book because it is a very entertaining read. It teaches a valuable lesson that just because you have reached the end of the path doesn't mean your journey is over and that anything could happen at any moment, so stay humble. I think that those lessons are good things to leave to the kids of this program.”
This book was dedicated by Jake Hairston, Class of 2018, who gladly fills the world with music when given the right instrument and opportunity. While it may have seemed that he often forgot behind him a wake of papers, bookbags, jackets and even shoes, he was secretly always aware of where to find those things when he needed them next. Jake was in his element performing, whether singing, playing instruments, telling a story or exquisitely playing King Lear in our live Lear Feast in 2017. Jake’s legacy to this program is the idea that every student takes a different path...some with a better soundtrack than others.
Jake Baird, Winner of the Renaissance Man Award for being Skilled Mechanic with Cars, Words and Numbers
The Giver by Lois Lowry
“I'm leaving this book with Project Vine in hopes that people realize sharing is more valuable than keeping— money, thoughts, food, feelings. In my time in Project Vine, I was sort of a lonely person in the beginning. I had friends, relationships and family but I shut everyone out and was sort of mean. Over time I realized that in life, you get what you give. This book helped me see that by sharing, you can accomplish more with other people than keeping to yourself. I hope that this book helps you realize that giving is better than receiving.”
This book was dedicated by Jake Baird, class of 2018. Like many students before and after him, Jake struggled to find meaning and purpose in his world, and was willing to discuss and debate things at length in an earnest quest to find just those things. A gifted writer who stole the show at the Haunted Histories Live Storytelling Event in 2017, Jake brushed aside compliments of his written work and continued to value the real-world work of mechanics and engineering. More importantly than that, though, always an ear or a shoulder ready for a friend who might need it, Jake’s legacy to this program is his deep desire that we value each other more than we value anything else.
To all of our seniors: Stay gold. Don't forget us, don't forget what you learned here, and don't forget each other. Not any of you will be soon forgotten.
Above: follow Project Vine on Instagram @projectvinemvrhs