This is an edited version of a column written by Margaret Bearse, the first graduate of The Prudence Island School. It’s being reprinted with permission from The Prudence Wave, the school’s student publication.
PRUDENCE ISLAND — I have been going to the Prudence Island School for nine years; that’s half of my life! For the beginning of my childhood education and the end I have been here.
When I first came to school here, Mrs. Flaherty was our teacher. She was the one who infused me with a love for reading and writing. She was a wonderful and enthusiastic woman, who loved us as much as she loved teaching. My earliest memories of this school are with her, Owen and Arden Morris, and my younger brother Matt.
I remember intense games of girls verses boys soccer. I remember Arden and I competing for the longest hair. I remember that I could always write the best, but Arden would beat me every time we had a math relay. I remember being crowned the coveted position of Show and Tell Queen when I brought in a monarch butterfly chrysalis, and we watched it hatch into a butterfly.
We grew up together, in this school.
After our little graduation ceremony from the fourth grade, I homeschooled with my mother for two years, and then spent seventh, eighth and ninth grades in the Portsmouth public school system.
In ninth grade, my grades were not their brightest. I had trouble doing my homework and refused to take responsibility for it. My report cards came home with comments like “doesn’t try her hardest” and “little to no effort applied.” I figured I already gave up 10 hours of my day and that would have to be enough because I didn’t care.
That year, the Prudence Island School Foundation had won the battle against closing the school. It was open to all grades, and Marina was enrolled to attend as well as Raya. My parents more or less left the decision up to me. After debating for a long time, I decided to try out the PISF. I haven’t regretted my decision for one second since.
It was not an easy road to take; I hadn’t expected it to be so intensive and difficult. Suddenly, instead of progress reports on an indifferent piece of paper, we had parent meetings, where we would sit around the table and discuss my strengths and my weaknesses.
My inability to get my work in on time still plagued me, but instead of a piece of paper telling me this, Jen would look me straight in the eye and tell me she knew I could do better, that I was hurting myself and others by not trying my hardest. It took a while for me to really understand this and apply it to my life, but I know it would never have happened without this school or Jen in my corner.
I’ve written in over 30 editions of The Prudence Wave, and completed a full-length novel. I wrote the scripts for two of our movies and acted in both. I was accepted to every college I applied to, and that’s a testament to this school and this community as much as to me.
It is my firm belief that you become who you are because of the people around you. If it hadn’t been for my teachers and friends here at PISF, as well as this community, I would not be the person I am today. I would never finish a project, or consider working in movie production, or have any work in on time. I wouldn’t know patience, generosity, neighborliness, or be able to see the beauty that is all around us.
Pat Rossi set the example of what a leader should be, and gave me the opportunity to be a leader in the PYO, as well as taught me how to use an epi-pen. Allison Newsome showed me what an artist can do in the community, how to be inspired by everything around me.
Joe and Donna Bains have demonstrated time and time again how generous they can be, and how good it feels for them and us when they give up their time and funds so our little school can thrive, we wouldn’t have nearly as much glitter without them. Linda Mosher hasn’t only taught me math and swimming, but been a glorious friend and encouraging force in my life. Glenn Young has been inspirational and exceedingly generous with his time and knowledge as our movie director and teacher; I would never have considered a career in the movie business without his example.
There are so many other people that have taught me and influenced me as I’ve grown up here: Cynthia Ives, Bob and Ann Marshall, Cheryl Jenness, Robin Weber, Kelly and Ryan January, Bob and Anne Lund, Ray Gaudreau, Frank Jurnak and the Benevides.
At school I have been given a leadership role among the kids, but more than that I have made lifelong friends. My classmates I regard as my sisters, and we have all grown together in so many ways. Marina has been my shoulder to nap on, as well as an example of how a loyal, kind friend should be; in many ways, she was my inspiration as a leader.
Clare has been my best friend in the world since we were infants; since we were kids playing Survivor in my yard eating onion grass and lemon clover, to now when so much around us and about us is changing. Julianna, with her remarkably quick wit and natural beauty, as well as her strength of character has shown me that it’s OK to laugh at ridiculous things, and that its OK to be a girly-girl every once and a while.
The little girls have astounded me every day with their ability to play together, laugh together, and grow together. They see the world as it should be, and understand things that go way over my head. They let me boss them around, and I learn from them as much as they do from me.
But most of all, Jen was the driving force behind me. She was hard on me when she knew I needed pushing, and gave me a break when I was feeling stressed. Both my teacher and friend, she has juggled four high school girls, raising a terrific daughter, being our education coordinator, all while waking up before 10 every morning! She is someone who I hold in the highest admiration, and regard as one of the biggest reasons that I now have this diploma on my wall.
I am nervous about going out into the world. College is certainly a nerve-wracking, yet exciting thing. I have no doubt that with all of this knowledge I have acquired from my friends, parents, and teachers on this island, lessons in kindness, fun, leadership, grace, and even tolerance. Armed with this knowledge, I have no doubt that I am ready to share it with the rest of the world. I hope that I get the chance to touch someone’s life as all of you have touched mine.