Windsor School graduate Maya Lindeman and Christopher Clarke, a student from Loganville High School in Georgia, are the 2023-2024 Bahamian Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS).
Maya and Christopher will receive hands-on research and in-person learning through the BESS program. Fully funded by The Island School, Maya and Christian will participate in an experiential semester on the Island School’s Eleuthera campus and a four-month paid internship with Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation (BREEF).
While interning at BREEF Maya and Christopher will participate in work experience with organizations including Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization, IDEA Relief and Blue Lagoon.
Maya said the BESS Scholars program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any student to be exposed to the magic of the Bahamian environment. She said she was grateful to be blessed with the opportunity.
“I have always harbored a deep passion and appreciation for the natural environment and the bountiful beauty it graces us with. Currently, we are facing a potential environmental collapse; therefore, I have made it a priority and a personal goal to help people alter their perspective on the protection of our natural habitats,” said Maya.
“It is so often that we take nature’s plentiful resources for granted, hence I think that it is vital to have conversations around our impact on the Earth and bring awareness towards the impending climate crisis, an issue many are not aware of. Right now, I am able to look out of my window and see my beautiful Bahama land. I love these islands, and I want future generations to be able to look out of their windows 50 years from today and enjoy the same pristine waters and lush greenery that we enjoy now. I want to be a voice of change in this space,” she said.
“I’ve been in a professional workplace before, but never have been given the opportunity to work in a space I am passionate about … until now. My internship with BREEF, which also includes a semester at The Island School, allows me to be immersed in the environmental field from two different angles, one from a work environment and another in a school and living habitat. This is experiential learning at its best and it’s the perfect real-world experience to prepare me for what I do in the years to come.”
Maya said she believes the opportunities are endless in the space.
“There is no cut-off to what I could do to contribute to the environment and sustainability of The Bahamas,” she said.
As she looks ahead to pursuing a degree in environmental policy/law, she said she moves with an outlook of the deficiencies in the country and how she can mold her skills to fill the void. “Whether it is using my acquired knowledge of marine biology after spending a semester at The Island School to combat environmental plagues or establishing platforms for youth to lead, innovate and recreate what we know about our natural world, I can see myself expanding the ways in which we look at, interact and respond to the environment.”
Christopher who has a strong passion for the environment, said for him the environment is a captivating and intricate system that never ceases to amaze him.
“Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the environment is its interconnectivity – everything within it is intertwined in some way. For example, plants and animals depend on each other for survival, and any modifications to a single component of the environment can trigger a chain reaction that echoes throughout the entire ecosystem.”
Maya and Christopher emerged atop the field of applicants for the coveted spots in the gap year program offered in partnership by BREEF and The Island School.
Recognizing the growing need to problem solve in a rapidly changing world, BREEF and The Island School mentor the independent students through solutions-based learning and scientific research internships. Upon completion of the program, each scholar they say is well-equipped to lead The Bahamas into a more sustainable future.
Since 2008, 61 Bahamians have benefitted from the educational experience, with most scholars going on to pursue related tertiary studies or employed in the environmental field.