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Growing Up on a Lake Michigan Island: A Unique Island Life Experience

DOOR COUNTY (NBC 26) — Several students share insights on growing up on Washington Island.

  • A video showcases students at the Washington Island School.
  • Despite the small student body of 57, ample opportunities exist for students to explore new endeavors.
  • The students, though closely-knit, view their school as an extension of their families.

Attending a school with only 57 students ensures familiarity with everyone. I’m Katlyn Holt, your Door County neighborhood reporter. Among these students, 19 are in high school, presenting a unique lifestyle compared to mainland students.

As “island” kids, they often face misconceptions.

“People tend to underestimate the size of the island,” mentioned Jocelyn Mann.

“We’ve even been asked if we swim across to get here,” added Lindgren.

“There’s a belief that we’re disconnected from reality,” shared Mann.

For juniors Jaxin Lindgren and Jocelyn Mann, their island upbringing poses challenges, but unity helps them overcome.

“It’s definitely a different experience from what most are accustomed to,” Lindgren chuckled.

At Washington Island School, they constitute two of the 19 high schoolers.

“You know everyone here, sometimes better than yourself,” Lindgren remarked.

Sports and extracurricular activities play a significant role in their lives, requiring near-universal participation.

“When we have games, the entire school shows up,” mentioned Kirsten Purinton.

Kirsten Purinton coaches the sole co-ed soccer team.

“Many mainland schools are surprised by our ability to field an 11-person team,” Purinton noted.

Apart from assembling teams, logistical challenges persist. Sarah Gibson coaches girls’ basketball.

“Our schedules revolve around the ferry, a constant in our island lives,” Gibson explained.

The ferry serves as the primary mode of transportation on and off the island, with limited departures during winter.

Jocelyn participates in girls’ basketball and acknowledges the eye-opening nature of off-island visits.

“It was a realization of how vast things are beyond our school,” Mann reflected.

The school now offers more activities to engage students on the island.

“I aim to provide programs that benefit students presently and in the future,” Kayla Mann shared.

Kayla Mann, a teacher, facilitated a musical and established a forensics club.

“It’s a new avenue. While sports have been prominent, the addition of arts is enriching,” Kayla Mann elaborated.

Through collaboration, students navigate challenges and explore their aspirations.

Jaxin contemplates a future in the Coast Guard, while Jocelyn eyes Cosmetology school.

Regardless of where life takes them, the island remains their anchor, with a potential return not discounted.

“It’s an unparalleled experience, filled with a strong sense of community,” Jocelyn expressed.

“You can reach out to anyone, and they’ll support you. We’re like one big family,” Jaxin added.

The Washington Island community and faculty strive to ensure students have equal opportunities, despite the obstacles they face.