After Eighteen

Erin Sullivan, flanked by some of his characters. — Photo by Eli Dagostino

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year. This week’s dispatch is the third from Erin Sullivan, who stayed on the Vineyard this year to work on a video game he created.

The past month has been a pretty big disappointment overall, but at the same time, it’s a little exciting to divert from what was planned. Due to complications, my family has to move, and find a new source of income.

I’m fairly used to this, and it’s what I and my parents, and I’m sure a few other locals call ‘The Island shuffle’. We’ve been moving and having to relocate since early 2008 when we moved off-Island to the Cape and I took the boat every day to the charter school. In 2009, we moved back to the Island, and began switching houses every 8 to 18 months after our leases were done and all that technical jib-jab. Fortunately, we think we’ve found a place on the Island to accommodate us, so I’ll still be able to see all my friends and people I love here.

The other unfortunate news is that I was declined for both majors (BFA in Digital Art and Animation and BA in Game Design) at my first choice college, so, in a way it was a pretty big slap to my face…I’ve been game deving and designing for the past 2 years, so having a school tell me I wasn’t ready was a bit demeaning, but at the end of the day, I think things work out the way they’re supposed to. Everything happens for a reason, so I must have bigger and greater things ahead of me than being a student at that school. (Or maybe I’m meant to become a hobo — destiny works in mysterious ways…)

At the end of the day, it just makes me want to work harder toward completing my goals. I now have my eyes set on Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and if possible, more motivation to improve at the games I play.

Driftwood is coming along nicely and we’ve continued to work at a consistent rate. The last few weeks have been fairly stressful for me and I’ve spent a lot less time writing than I should, but I think in due time once I settle down into a new house, find a job for the summer, and get situated with my schooling and college situation, I’ll be able to write much more freely and without other concerns lingering in my subconscious.

Recently, I was re-reading some of the stuff I wrote for Driftwood nearly a year ago, and I see the small errors I’ve made, but, I see how strong my writing has gotten and how much I’ve developed as an artist over the past few months. Sadly, I’m not willing to go back and polish the old stuff. Because I’m constantly growing, my work is getting better and better each year, so if I am constantly re-writing, I’ll never be able to finish. It’d be a never ending cycle of improving and revamping old content to match my skill now.

All I can do is hope that people enjoy what I’ve written.

As always, if you have any questions regarding Driftwood, or anything regarding the article or myself, you’re welcome to leave a question at my email.

Wakagana16@gmail.com

Sarah-Thompson-protraitAfter 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year. This week’s dispatch is from Sara Thompson, who writes from Portland, Oregon, where she is attending the Oregon College of Art and Craft.

Hello again,

Art and science, this is what I like. At the end of last semester, I wanted to combine my love of science and metalwork. My final project for my metals class had to incorporate at least three techniques aside from soldering that we had learned, and involve the idea of connectivity. Usually I do jewelry work, so for this project I thought I’d branch out and try to make a sculptural piece.

Immediately, I knew what I wanted to create. I want my work to engage viewers while incorporating educational scientific realms; essentially having viewers learn about science by experiencing art through multiple senses. I envisioned creating an atom of an element of metal out of that metal. I want to show that even though atoms are tiny, they still exist and they’re all around us. We’re even made out of them! Yet, most of us don’t even realize that we’re all made out of atoms — nevertheless that they are the building blocks of everything around us. Anything in the universe, aside from energy, is made out of matter. Matter, elements in particular, can be broken down into smaller and smaller bits until you reach the atomic structure, since atoms are the basic building blocks of matter. The atom is a collection of protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up the smallest form of matter of a particular element. In the center of the atom is the atomic nucleus which is made out of protons and neutrons. The number of protons identify what element the atom is. The electrons whip around the nucleus, encasing it in a sphere of constant movement. I was determined to make an atomic structure that viewers could see and touch.

Silver is my go-to metal. However, given that this project was going to be a sculpture and the atom was going to be roughly seven inches in diameter, silver was going to be way over my budget. I pondered: what metals did I have access to and which atomic structure was I able to create. Gold, oh no; copper, I’m not too crazy about copper, especially since I was using silver solder; brass, I had access to but it isn’t an element. That left me with nickel. Nickel is darker than silver and I had easy access to it. I bought two sheets of nickel at 20 and 22 gauge and wire at 12 and 22 gauge. (The higher the gauge, the thinner the metal.)

I was going to take the 20 gauge nickel and cut two circles out of the same size. Each circle was going to be hammered into a hemisphere and then the hemispheres were going to be soldered together to create a sphere. I took the thinner piece of metal and used a disk cutter to punch out small circles 12 millimeters in diameter. I placed each circle in a steel “dapping” block that has different size hemispheres carved out. These are used to hammer the circle into, resulting in a hemisphere shape. These smaller hemispheres were going to be used to create the nucleus. Since the nucleus of nickel is a collective 59 spheres (28 protons and 31 neutrons), I was going to solder 59 hemispheres to the large sphere to create the illusion of this ball of spheres condensed together. It was terrifying to solder 59 things one after another, close together because sometimes soldering closed pieces without a way for the air to escape from the inside creates issues with air pressure — possible explosions — if the piece is big enough and it’s heated more than once. Luckily, my work was small enough, so in the end, I had little fear, although it was my first time soldering closed forms. After successfully soldering all hemispheres to the sphere, I had to clean up my excess solder.

"I decided to make 28 handmade beads to represent the electrons."
“I decided to make 28 handmade beads to represent the electrons.”

My next hurdle was to figure out how to make the electrons. The electrons fly around the nucleus like a cloud. However, there are electron orbitals that limit how many electrons can be in each orbital. Think of them like vehicles. Certain vehicles only have a certain amount of seats. The first orbital or automobile, has 2, then 8, 16, etc… So nickel has 28 electrons and 4 orbitals. I decided to make 28 handmade beads to represent the electrons. Using the same technique for hemispheres, I made even smaller hemispheres and soldered them together. I drilled holes to fit the 12 gauge wire. To make the orbitals, I beaded the beads onto the wire and soldered the wire closed and the beads proportionally apart for the four orbitals. The orbitals gradually increased in size so that one could fit inside another and orbit around the nucleus.

Now, how the hell to make this thing be mechanical and move, at 11 o’clock at night the night before it’s due? I sat at my bench, nickel dust all over my face, and stared at my contraption. Then, I just went for it, no sketching, no planning. I could see exactly what I needed to do in my mind. I started to make handmade chain with the 22 gauge wire. I soldered a half loop to the nucleus to create two firm attachments and then continued to individually solder each loop, alternating small and large ones. To attach the orbitals, I would create a loop and slip the orbitals into the large loop and solder the loop closed, but I made sure not to have the orbitals touching. Since the orbitals weren’t touching the loops, they could move freely and spin around the nucleus mimicking actual electrons. After attaching the orbitals, I made even large loops to hand make four feet of chain to suspend the atom from the ceiling.

"I was determined to make an atomic structure that viewers could see and touch."
“I was determined to make an atomic structure that viewers could see and touch.”

With the atom suspended, the atom hangs roughly lower than eye level. My sculpture behaves like a mobile: once it has a little bit of energy to rotate, it rotates in one direction, then back in another, and back again until it slows down eventually, looking like it’s still until more energy comes to set it in motion again. Viewers can see the electrons hovering around in their orbitals but never touching the nucleus. The orbitals can be adjusted at different angles to highlight how the position of an electron is ever changing. The nucleus ridges of the protons and neutrons can be touched and rubbed over.

It’s an atom of nickel made out of nickel.

Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish. — courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year.This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communications major with a minor in Spanish. Jacob, 19, grew up in West Tisbury and is 2013 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

It’s finally over. College kids all over the country are returning to school because the seemingly endless winter break is finally over; and the general consensus, at least for the freshman, is “thank goodness!”

My break started off really great with a trip to the mountains with my uncle and little cousins to break in the brand new snowboard I bought over the fall. Unfortunately, that was more or less the high point. Don’t get me wrong — it was great to see my parents and some of my friends and share some of my experiences from my first semester away from home with all of them. Not to mention the quality and amount of sleep I received was great. It’s amazing how well you can sleep when your mind isn’t racing thinking about the three papers that are due on the same day or when there aren’t a bunch of kids running up and down your hallway screaming at three in the morning — on a Tuesday!

Nevertheless, my break turned really boring really quickly when I realized that I did not have all of the resources at home that I have at school to occupy my time: no hockey or basketball games at the Mullins Center, no malls or fast food restaurants to go and hangout at with your newfound friends, no newfound friends in general, and in my opinion the worst part of all: no basketball courts to play at. Obviously I don’t share the same experience with other students home on break, but for me it felt like I did nothing but watch TV, play video games, and try to make plans with friends, which ended up falling through because either they were sleeping and being lazy or I was sleeping and being lazy. Also ask any college kid who has ever gone to a party: once you have experienced your first college party, there is no going back to high school parties. How I made it six weeks I will never know.

When I got back to school, it was great. I got to see all of the friends I had made last semester, we shared the traditional stories about our break and our holidays and we were as close as ever. When I asked them about how it felt to be home again, they all echoed my same thoughts: it was fun for a couple weeks and great to see family and friends, but it got old really quick. A couple days later I was in my dorm room napping on my bed when I came to realize why I felt so bored, and tired and a little “out of my element” while I was at home. While a lot of it was because I had a whopping six weeks off, I can’t stress that enough, it was also because college is much more than a physical move out of your childhood home, it’s an emotional one as well. At college I have started to think of things on a more global scale; not just how my actions and those of others will affect me, but how they affect everyone around me as well. I have the resources here to accomplish whatever action I feel needs to take place. At home, I didn’t have even half of the resources I have here. I was “trapped,” which is ironic seeing how my room at home is a whole lot bigger than the half of a room I have at college.

I am about four weeks into the second semester here at UMASS, but unlike my first semester, I hit the ground running. The fraternity I am pledging started right up the first week of school and shortly after everything else fell into place and my other clubs from last semester started up as did my classes and unfortunately, like last semester around this time, I am up to my neck in homework, reading, and research essays. I guess some things never change.

Bella Bennett with Argent Alija and other students on a hiking trip in Dorset, VT. — Photo courtesy of Megan Macomber

After 18 is an ongoing series about four graduates from the class of 2013. This week’s dispatch is the second from Bella Bennett, who attends Skidmore College and just completed her first semester in London. Bella has just started her second semester at the Skidmore’s main campus in Saratoga Springs, NY.

While Bella Bennet 2013spending your first semester of college abroad is in no way traditional, it is probably the best way to spend that awkward transition period. In fact, (don’t tell Skidmore) but half the reason I picked this school was for the opportunity to spend my first semester in London. And honestly, I grew more than I can probably comprehend. During my semester, I kept a travel journal, detailing all of my highs, lows, successes, stresses, self-deprecations and self-realizations, expressed through poetry, prose and doodles. It also contains leaves from all over Europe, pictures from various brochures of castles and other historic sites that I visited, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs from the Rugby World Cup Semifinals and the musicals “Once” and “The Lion King,” and a hoard of other precious scraps. While I’d love to continue on with this, there simply isn’t as much to do in a traditional college setting.

Thus, in my new journal I decided to instead write a few lines every day, beginning with “College is…” detailing what defines my college experience each day. Looking back over the past few weeks is already entertaining. While I won’t condemn you to all of my momentary and often dramatic thoughts on college life, a few of my favorites are:

BellaBennett-happy-in-hat
Photo courtesy of Megan Macomber

“College is…”

“Still not knowing how to spell January,” (I only got it right this time because of spell check.)

“Growing mushrooms..” (During a field trip to Radix sustainability center in Albany, we were given bags of saturated straw, shown how to add mycelium, and instructed on how to grow Oyster Mushrooms inside of our dorms. If I don’t get in trouble with campus safety because this probably looks really bad, I promise to give an update on their success!)

“A halfway house to real life.”

“A place where stoplights exist!” (Probably the most jarring of all adjustments.)

“Incredible peers.”

“Roasting apples over the open fire.” (I borrowed a few apples from our gracious dining hall and joined the outing club on an incredible hike into the backwoods of Vermont, where a quarry exists within a cave. At this time of year the quarry is frozen, thus creating a private indoor skating area. For those of us who haven’t yet mastered the art of balancing on two blades and looking graceful, there was also a bonfire, upon which we roasted everything within our backpacks. I recommend roasted apples; they’re like apple pie without the pie!

“Falafel-less.” (If you’ve been to London, you may know that spoiled feeling of a) being in London, and b) being surrounded by falafel bars and Indian restaurants.)

“A heated indoor riding ring!” (Horseback riding in a t-shirt when you know that its actually negative five degrees outside is a beautiful privilege.)

“Choosing red or blue.” (No, this does not have any gang association; artsy kids simply tend to settle on the red side of our spaceship-shaped dining hall, while sportsters overwhelm the blue side. Apparently it’s always been this way, and being the indecisive person that I am, I enjoy switching back and forth between the two sides and checking out the general characteristics of both sides. On the red side, you’re far more likely to have a conversation with a stranger, while on the blue side you’ll get a head nod or a smile. Everyone is kind regardless of which side of D-hall (the affectionate and somewhat provocative nickname for the dining hall) they chose, yet the blue side is more team oriented and awash with Skidmore apparel while the red side is full of color, creative clashing and flannel. What really says something though, is that it is only my third week here and I already feel completely at home. The community is spectacular, no matter the divisions over dinner.

Basically, my college experience is redefined everyday by the people I encounter, experiences that I have, and the constant influx of knowledge imparted by truly wise professors. Together, these forces obliterate my perceptions of right, wrong, policy, power, etc. almost daily. The knowledge on campus is endless, so what you get out of college is really what you put in. This means that I cannot maintain an informed opinion for even a day without becoming aware that I am again uninformed, and because every day presents moments that can be approached as challenges or opportunities.

For me, college is perspective. I’m glad to report: the glass is spilling-over full with optimism.

Read Bella’s first post from London and Sicily.

Still image from Driftwood — Illustration by Izu and Alexis

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year. This week’s dispatch is the second from Erin Sullivan, who is working on a video game and contemplating his next move.

The past few months have been excessively hectic compared to my usual life, and it’s been pretty taxing. It’s not often I don’t work on my writing for extended periods of time, but with applying to college, trying to increase my art skills, managing the development of the team for “Driftwood” (the computer game I am developing), and taking a small break in November to check up on an old friend in Canada who was suicidal, it was difficult getting motivated to write.

Erin Sullivan in Canada with an unnamed friend
Erin Sullivan in Canada with an unnamed friend

Before I say anything more, I want to express myself a bit on the Canada part. If you have a friend, or a family member who is suicidal or has tried committing suicide, don’t wait for others to step into their lives and help them. DO IT YOURSELF. There are some restrictions, yes, but make an effort to reach out to them. Call them, text them, or be crazy like me, pay $700 and hop on a plane to go visit them and help them sort out a few of their problems. Memories of relationships are forever. Money comes and goes. Don’t take people for granted, or anything for that matter. But now let’s move on.

I’ve applied to Digipen Institute of Technology; a university in Washington State designed to push graduates towards the gaming industry. I’ve applied for a BA in Game Design and a BFA in Digital art and Animation. I’m awaiting the results, but depending on them, my life is going to change drastically. If I get accepted, I’ll be moving across the country and deciding which path I want to fully follow, but if I’m not accepted, I’ll be dropping everything, aside from Driftwood, and trying my best to get myself into a semi-pro league. Semi-pro leagues are like a college football team, you don’t get paid to play, and in some cases only win when you win certain tournaments, but if you do well enough, you can raise the attention of teams that play competitively in an online circuit for money, similar to how players are brought into the NFL.

In short, if I don’t get accepted, I’d be pursuing a career as someone who plays a video game so well that they get sponsors and are paid to perform, quite similar to regular sport athletes. (Yes, this is actually a thing.) But the bigger picture is what happens if I do get accepted. I’d be moving across the country and living on my own for the first time in my life, going to school and possibly having a part time job to help pay for tuition and food.

I’m not entirely sure if I’m ready for that kind of lifestyle, but I’m certainly excited to try it. I’ve lived away from home numerous times, the longest being an entire summer with family friends while I was interning at their software company, Gearbox. But moving away entirely, and not returning home for long periods of time, would be a huge change. Aside from my roommate, I’d be on my own.

On the Driftwood-side of things, we’ve been more productive as a team during the past few weeks than the entirety of 2013. Things are really starting to look up. I still can’t express my gratitude to those who pledged on the kickstarter page, which managed to accumulate 8,000 dollars towards the project. I’m content to say that within the next few months, a completed, playable version of Act 1 will be available online if we continue at the rate we’ve been progressing recently.

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about the project, visit http://tinyurl.com/facebookdriftwood

You’re always welcome to send me questions or comments there, or at my personal email. Wakagana16@gmail.com

Sara Thompson and (inset) her creation "Foam Flame." — courtesy Sara Thompson

Hello there,

I’m Sara Thompson and I graduated from MVRHS in May 2013. Though that’s a simple sentence, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. I graduated from the high school when I was 16 and moved across the country a few days after I turned 17, to a place where I didn’t have friends or family, to pursue my passion for metalsmithing.

Yes — hammering, forging, soldering, melting, and manipulating metal to craft pieces of wearable art, jewelry, and small sculptures. That’s what I do and have been doing on my Friday nights. It’s what I want to study and do for the rest of my life — crafting metal — learning the way metal behaves.

My affinity for metal started when I was 11. I had recently moved from Connecticut to Oak Bluffs and received an apprenticeship with a silversmith, Amy Kirkpatrick, that lasted five years. I learned how to handcraft settings; drill and set pieces (primarily sea glass); polish metal to a high shine; and solder, while observing how Amy ran her own business. After that, I went on to apprentice for a metalsmith, Kenneth Pillsworth, where I worked with an array of metals in his home studio.

Meanwhile during my sophomore year, I was exploring the realms of a glass on metal technique called enameling. After a short lowdown on how to do this from Brendan Coogan, the crafts teacher at the high school, I gave it a try. There were hundreds of packets of powdered glass — enamel — labeled with different numbers. I took a torch in my left hand, and a steel rod in my right, as if it was a paint brush, and heated up the glass enamel on top of small pieces of copper, from the underside, until it was molten. While the glass was molten, I manipulated the glass with the steel rod as if it were paint. As I repeated this process over and over again, I began to decode the packets. It was captivating, seeing and manipulating variables of the glass, layers of glass, different metals and gauges, duration, placement, and different gasses of the torch. I began to understand how these different variables would affect the piece and how I’d be able to use them to create what I envisioned.

Combining the glass and metal resonated for me. When we first see glass, it’s a solid, but flows like a liquid with the influence of gravity while molten. Being a science geek, I wanted to know what are these molecules doing? What is going on this level? I wanted to learn.

I started painting with molten enamel on copper. As I explored, I created abstract glass paintings on copper and combined it with my metalsmithing knowledge. I treated the enameled pieces as if they were stones and set the into handmade settings for rings, cuffs, and pendants. Then I started my jewelry business while toying with the idea of graduating high school a year early to pursue a career in metalsmithing. I wanted to learn more and that meant getting off the giant pile of sand.

I spent that summer looking at colleges, working and apprenticing full time, and working on my business and online shop. Though I had one thing up my sleeve — I knew I wanted to do metalsmithing and I was going to do metalsmithing. I believe 50 or so colleges offer metals/jewelry as a major, so that was a big help.

The next year in my junior/senior (take your pick) year, I tried to apply to college without a GPA, rank, or an SAT score. (Honestly, it’s art school where SAT scores tend to be optional.) I only wanted to apply to two schools. One of them was California College of Art, where  hopefully I could double major in metalsmithing and glass blowing (I hoped to have the opportunity to try three dimensional glass work and continue to learn how glass behaves) if the money panned out. And I applied to Oregon College of Art and Craft, which does not have glass blowing, but does have a small — roughly 150 people — and incredible community of talented artists dedicated to not just art, but craft — the skill of making. From the first time I wandered onto their website, I felt that this is where I would feel at home and be able to explore my deeper connection to the artistic expression and hone my craft.

This is my new home, in Portland.

A place of cozy drizzly days in the studios and in cafes reading about science.

Really, you can go to a coffee shop (grocery stores included) and not know anyone.

Where being a vegan is a norm,

where the science sections in book stores get cases upon cases of every branch,

where the post office is open past five,

where pumping your own gas is actually illegal,

and where escalators still make me feel uncomfortable.

Where now, I do art all day, throughout the day, one studio to the next, to another one, to the house (OCAC doesn’t have stereotypical dorms; we have houses) to do art for homework, and pushing myself into areas I would not have gone otherwise. I get wrapped up in the quietness of my mind for hours in the studio wandering the depths and length of mastering new techniques and understandings with the occasional fix of a science related jigsaw puzzle, books, and weekly science magazines.

See a video of Sara making jewelry here.

Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish. — courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year.This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communications major with a minor in Spanish.

Jacob Lawrence, 19, grew up in West Tisbury and is 2013 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Off to college

You’ve done it. You’re a college boy. All that hard work in high school has officially paid off. You said goodbye to your friends and family, packed up the car, drove to school and unpacked into your dorm room, which in my case was a 15×15 room with nothing in it but two beds that would leave my 11-year-old cousin’s feet hanging off the edge, one window, and cinderblock walls painted white. It would have reminded me of a jail cell if it weren’t for the two desks and closets.

Your mom leaves and suddenly you are alone in your new space. You look out the window at the beautiful mountains and think of all the great times ahead.

Three months later

I am still asking myself the same question that I asked myself the minute I watched my parents drive away one family member short: What do I do now? What do I do with the rest of my day? What do I do with my future? And probably the most pressing matter on my mind: What do I do for my next meal?

Jacob-Lawrence_Kim-Lucas_David-Lawrence.jpg
Jacob Lawrence with his parents, Kim Lucas and David Lawrence, at his graduation from MVRHS in June, 2013.

I would have to say that the second biggest difference between high school and college, second only to being completely on your own, is that you are given an unbelievable amount of free time. Even though I was told, by literally everybody, that I will have more time than I’ll know what to do with, I realize now that I was definitely not prepared for this amount of free time. I believe that in the first month or so of school I was feeling the same way that newly retired people feel during their first month of freedom.

A college school week turned my daily routines and sleep schedule upside down. I would wake up, shower, go to Spanish, get food, go to music class, go to the gym and then be back at my dorm; all before my friends in high school finished lunch! And on the days where I had late classes (my Tuesdays and Thursdays I only had one class, at 4 pm), I wouldn’t even wake up until about two o’clock. The amount of free time actually scared me a little bit. I had so much free time that I actually ran out of fun things to do.

The school week is great, but there is nothing like a weekend in college. The college school week may have turned my schedule upside down, but the weekend threw that schedule out the window.

It all starts on Friday. I would get back to the dorm anywhere between noon and three o’clock and from there I would look at my clock and time out the rest of my night. Alright, I have about three or four hours to take a nap and shower before heading to the hockey/basketball game, then I’ll come back to the dorm and get ready to go out to a party at around 10 or 11.

However, a major problem that I had in the beginning of school was that I had zero idea of where I was going at 10 or 11. In the beginning, I barely knew the kids in my dorm, let alone the upperclassmen who lived off campus and threw parties. At the beginning of the year getting into upperclassmen parties was an ordeal. Maybe a friend, whose rugby teammate’s older brother’s friend lived in the house, could let us in, or maybe we attempted to lie. (The lying happened far more often and nine times out of ten it didn’t work.) Then one day I got sick of the lies and I just approached the dude at the door and told him the truth: “I’m a freshman just trying to have a good time.” Not only did he let me in, but he gave me his cell phone number and to this day whenever he has a party he sends me an invite!

Also, I would like to go on record as saying that doing laundry in a dorm which houses over 400 people is the worst experience of my life! I have to walk down to the basement, sit down there and wait for an hour for the person’s clothes which are in the washer to finish, then wait another hour (per load of laundry I need to wash) for my clothes to wash, then another 45 minutes for a free dryer, then wait another 45 minutes per load for my clothes to finish then fold them up and bring everything back upstairs to my room. If I have done my math correctly two loads of laundry which should take maybe 90-100 minutes at the most, takes me up to three hours. And my clothes are still never fully dry! And don’t even get me started on having to pay for laundry!

Nevertheless here I am, a full semester of higher education under my belt. And as I sit in my room at home on winter break, recollecting my first semester at college, all I can think about is how awesome it was. Sure there were some things I would change or wish that I did differently, but I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences for the world.

Second semester, at least for me, is going to be an even bigger adventure as I hope to join the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club, start to plan for the spring concerts with the University’s Programming Council (UPC) and even hope to rush a fraternity! But for now I am home. And it’s time to sleep late, visit teachers, catch-up with high school friends, and, the hardest thing of all, try not to kill the next person who asks me “How is college/school?”

To all my parents/siblings/relatives reading this: obviously no two people are the same and my experiences could be completely different from other kids, however the common denominator we all share is that we have all been through a lot in the last 4-6 months. You should be very proud of us. We have worked very hard to create and keep a social life, join some clubs and, most importantly, make the grade. So let us sleep a little later than we used to in high school. Your child/relative/sibling will thank you. And above all else: avoid asking about school unless we bring it up. You will get the college stories, GPA report, and other information you are looking for. But you’ll get it when we are ready to talk about it and/or finish hiding the evidence of bad grades.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from Jacob and other 2013 graduates.

Erin Sullivan, a 2013 graduate of the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, has turned a lifelong love of video games into a career. Now he's headed to college in the fall. — Photo by Eli Dagostino

I’m Erin Sullivan, a 2013 graduate from The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. I’ve been playing video games since I was only a year old — I love creative writing, e-sports, and visual media.

Since graduation, I’ve been living in Vineyard Haven and working continuously on a fictional Bishoujo Visual Novel — which is, in short, a text-based dating simulation game — called “Driftwood.” I’m the lead developer and writer.

What started off as a senior project has grown into a multinational effort to create a small game worth remembering. Being the lead developer of such an ambitious project has required me to recruit people from across the globe, all with different and unique talents that fill each aspect of the game, including visuals, audio and music, and the game’s overall design. Members of the Driftwood developer team live all over the world — in places like South Africa, England, California, and even South Korea.

Driftwood is about a teenage boy from Boston named Marcus, whom after a tragic event is forced to take his schooling to a fictional boarding school on Martha’s Vineyard for his own safety. As he starts his next year of high school at the new boarding school, Marcus is greeted with a variety of cultures and personalities.
The story and game focus primarily on five main female characters that can affect Marcus’s life positively or negatively, based on the player’s choices when prompted. Each character is designed to teach Marcus a profound life lesson which helps him better understand his world and assists him in the difficult process of becoming an adult.

So, now that we know what Driftwood is, the question to ask is. Why?

Well, ‘Why?’ is never an easy question to answer, but I’ll try my best by explaining why all of this means so much to me.

It started in the fall of 2011. I returned to school with the idea of making the year better than the last, just like everyone always does. That awful lie you tell yourself at the start of each year — “yeah, I’ll try to get better grades. I’ll actually do my math homework!” This of course didn’t last, because soon after, my life was swept in a different direction.

I started dating a girl and ended up spending more time with her, but kept my overall interest in video games. This did very little to help with my academics.

Things were good, because even with me doing no homework, I managed to keep decent grades, and I was happy.

But as time waned, my personal life began to deteriorate. I spaced myself from my friends and family as I mulled over simple but very delicate choices in my life, which only led to me being less and less pleased with where I was heading.

There was nothing interesting or cool to do, which is the case on the Island for most teenagers, and the games I was playing no longer made me happy. My escape mechanism was no longer helping me escape.

Things got worse and worse: I was unmotivated, angsty, a genuine pitiful mess. Then, I discovered something that caught my attention. A game called Katawa Shoujo, which in translation means “Cripple Girls.”

So, of course, seeing a title of a game called that, I was disgusted. The thought of a dating simulator based around crippled women made me figure that it must’ve been made for people with sick, gross fetishes.

I downloaded it with the intention of maybe having a good laugh or two at the concept. Because, hey, how could anyone take the idea of that seriously at first? This intention was quickly ushered away and I was greeted with a heart-touching storyline and a wide variety of relatable characters.

I was hooked. From nearly 4 am when the game was finished downloading, to 8 pm, I read and read, and read. I related more and more with each character; laughed and smirked at the cleverness of the writers; smiled at the adorable art and hummed along with the beautiful music that accompanied all of it.

It was a strange feeling, but from the depths of my depressed unmotivated self, I slowly found the light I needed to lead me back into the world with a happier outlook.

I didn’t even have to finish the entire game to revitalize myself, and after only finishing two of the five characters’ stories, I was on my way to a better, happier me. Months later, after my junior portfolio had passed and summer vacation was slowly looming closer, I was left with the question of what I wanted to do for my senior portfolio.

I happened to accidently click on the game’s icon on my desktop, which I had nearly forgotten about. I smiled at seeing it, and for a time let myself dip back into the story that had managed to give me hope once again. By the time the class I was in had ended, I had come to the realization of how much this simple game had helped me overcome my troubles and how meaningful it all actually was to me.

That small flicker of emotion sparked the fire that now motivates me to continue with Driftwood, in the hopes that one day, my creations will make others happy, perhaps inspiring them to follow in the footsteps of other artists, with an aspiration to make the world a better place.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from Erin and other 2013 graduates.

Dana Jacobs and Bella Bennett, both 2013 graduates of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, traveling in Sicily. — Photo courtesy of Bella Bennett

This is the first in a series of dispatches from four Martha’s Vineyard graduates of the class of 2013.

Bella Bennett, a 2013 graduate form MVRHS, grew up in Chilmark and attended the Charter School through eighth grade. She currently attends Skidmore College and chose to do her first semester abroad in England. She recently wrote us from Sicily.

I am currently on vacation from my semester abroad in London, studying with Skidmore College. This vacation, following midterms, took me to Sicily (Italy), where my parents recently bought a house sight unseen. They’re brave. The house, which has yet to resemble a home, is quite a project. Yesterday for example, I enjoyed the glorious Sicilian sunshine through the small attic window, under which I scrubbed an unknown substance, affectionately nicknamed “the dead animal,” off of the sun-stained tiles.

After donning one of the many quaint, floral aprons abandoned within the countless drawers and cabinets of the house, beginning to refer to myself as cinder-Bella, and mopping the room floor-to-ceiling until the bleach fumes made me woozy, I had a realization. It was nap time.

College has taught me to nap in a way that nothing else could, and, especially following the 48-hour midterm grind in which I probably managed six hours total, I was exhausted. This sleep deprivation was furthered by the fact that I flew out of London Stansted Airport at six am on the Friday after midterms. This meant that I had to leave Nido, (student housing) at 2 am, catch a night bus (as seen in Harry Potter) to Liverpool street station, and catch a coach (essentially the same thing, except without the second floor) to Stansted, to arrive at 4:30 am, just in time to make it through security and whatnot and get on my plane.

This would have all been fine and dandy if I’d been able to sleep a bit before heading out, but instead I went to see the show “Once.” The struggle is real. However, “Once” was beyond terrific. I’d recommend flying to London just to see it. I’ll even go with you, and silently sprinkle gloppy tears all over you when they play Falling Slowly at the end.

So that Wednesday through Friday [before leaving] was therefore essentially one coffee-fueled day, from which I am still recovering. Luckily, napping is encouraged in Sicily, as they have some form of siesta here, so I’m just blending in with the culture every time I pass out half way through the day.

When I’m not mopping or napping, I’ve been trying to hone my so-called Sicilian skills, including brining olives, harvesting pomegranates and almonds, picking wild asparagus and of course speaking Sicilian. The olives are going great, Dana Jacobs (a fellow Vineyarder who graduated with me and also happens to be studying abroad in London for her first semester at Northeastern University) and I picked a bunch of plump ripe olives and crushed them. They’ve been sitting in salty water ever since, and slowly seem to be turning edible! The pomegranate picking was going really well too, until Dana noticed a giant spider on the tree, and we both fled the grove.

The almond picking was especially intriguing for me because I’ve been studying 14th century London in great depth, and these practices are very similar to what we’ve been studying. I love how Sicilian culture has stayed so in touch with its roots. One of our neighbors, a sheep herder, invited us over to his house and served us fresh ricotta that his wife mad in a big bowl with homemade bread. It was delicious, and watching her make it was like watching an age-old process. Our experience of harvesting almonds also felt pretty 14th century, which I loved. We first used a scythe to chop down reeds growing on the new property, then marched up the hill into the cluster of almond trees, where we proceeded to awkwardly whack at the laden branches. The almonds, however, were much clingier than we’d expected, and when the first one finally came bouncing down through the branches, we practically jumped for joy. We collected a bag of almonds, still dressed in their shriveled fuzzy sweaters and woody shells, and hiked back through the thistly meadow toward the house, where we cracked the shells and relished our work. It was glorious.

Our culture has run so far away from this type of lifestyle, with the attachment to nature and home-grown living. I don’t understand it. Even the current generation of Sicilians is doing the same; moving from their beautiful farmhouses in the countryside into cramped condos in the growing cities scattered about the island. I on the other hand, would like to stay in Sicily and harvest snacks off the land and live this simple and beautiful life for months on end. It’s such a welcome change from the fantastic, yet fast-paced, city lifestyle that London offers.

I’m loving Sicily and I’ll love going back to London. Life is good. Coming home to Martha’s Vineyard for a month over break will be lovely as well, mostly because I really miss my dogs!

[Interactive Class of 2013 map]