Being a student in the Harbor School means you have to step up. People on the subway will see our logo and ask about our school. Still fumbling with your headphones and taken aback, you have to give them a comprehensive view of your job as an ambassador of the Billion Oyster Project. Our representation is the students, going home to all five boroughs. You are held to a standard that no other school offers. My Vessel Operations class, which focus on different kinds of boats, currents, physics, navigation and other maritime subjects, is more demanding that your typical elective. In this school, it’s more like a major, with higher expectations and larger time commitments than any regular class.
When I was a freshman, not a month into school, I was sent to talk to potential donors at the school’s annual Regatta. I stumbled through a few conversations before settling into a more comfortable flow. Throughout the years of being tossed into those kinds of situations, I’ve learned to quickly articulate the mission of the school and create a connection with whoever I’m talking to. A little kid wants to talk about the boats you go on everyday while a sponsor wants to organize an event or find an intern. I’m currently working with Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) to organize a forum at the school. I’m creating video interviews of prominent figures in the maritime industry for North American Marine Environmental Protection Agency (NAMEPA). I’m the senior Vessel Operations Representative in the Harbor Core, which is a group of the students in our school that works with the Billion Oyster Project.
The teachers at my school don’t treat you as teenagers that need to be controlled, but instead as partners with a common goal. I’ve been left alone for hours with nothing but a radio and a hot knife and vague instructions to create dock lines. They didn’t even check my splices before using the lines to tether the boat.
My Vessel Operations teachers will CC me on an email to the head of an organization and expect me to take over the thread. Emails used to scare me. I was intimidated by the formality and permanence of the correspondence. I'd write one, hit send, hit undo, edit a few words, send again, undo again, and repeat. Sometimes I wouldn't open it for a couple hours because I knew I'd have to respond. Over the years, the dread has gradually decreased. I still get anxiety right before hitting send, but every meeting, interview, potluck, and event I organize over email makes it easier.
In class, I do my work. I often finish before others and I try to help out where I can. I can tie a bowline, triangulate a point, chart a course, and balance while Virginia is going 30 knots. But that’s not what I contribute to the community. That's the basic knowledge necessary. The editing I do for our class blog, the networking I do and the standard that I hold myself to when you can see the Harbor logo on me--that’s important.