As her peers settle into their college dorms, Windsor School’s class of 2023 graduate, Maya Lindeman, has chosen a distinctive path. Instead of heading straight to college, Maya has embarked on a transformative gap year to gain practical experience – a decision she believes will significantly enhance her college journey.
She was one of two students to be named a Bahamas Environmental Stewards Scholar (BESS) program awardee. The year-long program is offered in partnership by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) and The Island School in Eleuthera.
Maya has her sights set on a degree in environmental policy and law and is confident that the hands-on experience gained during her gap year will provide her with an invaluable foundation for her ambitious academic pursuit.
The 18-year-old is spending two weeks working side by side with the educational and zoological teams at Blue Lagoon Island, learning about marine species, husbandry, which is the care of animals, animal training and the company’s sustainability practices.
BESS scholars spend a semester at the Island School and participate in a paid four-month internship with BREEF. As part of the internship, scholars spend two weeks working alongside organizations including Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, IDEA Relief and Blue Lagoon Island.
“I’ve always had a strong passion for the environment, and I know I want to work in the field. These weeks at Blue Lagoon Island have been amazing as it really pulls me into the physical aspect of what it is I’ve been studying all along,” Maya said of her immersion at Blue Lagoon Island.
The Blue Lagoon Island immersion is led by the company’s education supervisor Te-Shalla Clarke. She said the partnership with BREEF and The Island School is a natural one for the company.
“We all have the same mission – to educate and protect our natural marine environment. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by exposing our youth to the importance of taking care of our incredible marine habitat. At Blue Lagoon Island we have a strong internship program, so it is a natural link for us to host the BREEF BESS scholars, she said.
Clarke was particularly excited to work with Maya, given her academic and career goals.
“We are governed by environmental policy and law, our accreditations are based on all of that, so having a Bahamian focus on that would be incredible,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for Maya to have this sort of practical experience as she works towards her career goals.”
BESS Scholars spend a day working with each of the different types of animals and their trainers as well as a day with the veterinary team at Blue Lagoon Island during their first week, and the second week they work closely with Clarke to decide which aspect of the business they would like to focus on.
Maya was excited to spend time getting a better understanding of the company’s sustainability initiatives after spending a week learning about the company’s dolphins, sea lions, stingrays and nurse sharks, getting tips on how to tell the dolphins apart, assisting with meal prep in the fish kitchen and participating in program training sessions with some of the young dolphins.
“Living in The Bahamas you can see right in front of you what you’re fighting for, and the impact hurricanes and climate change have on our islands, so it’s such a great opportunity for me to see first-hand what a company like Blue Lagoon is doing to help protect our environment and operate in a sustainable way,” said Maya.