Winter’s crossing

Charter School student Winter Muric is an inspiration.


With early morning sunlight glinting off the chop in Vineyard Haven Harbor, Winter Muric descends the ramp from the ferry and rushes to catch the bus that will take her up-Island.

Every weekday she makes the crossing from Falmouth, where she lives, to attend the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury as a part of school choice. The mission of the school requires students chart their own path, and seeks to inspire students to be independent learners.

It is very clear that Winter has embraced the mission, is most definitely charting her own path, and is indeed a self-starter. To refer to this 10th grader as busy would be an understatement.

“I get up at 5:30 am to catch the 7 am ferry,” Winter said. “I get home at like 4:45 pm. Then I have homework and daily chores. I don’t have a lot of time outside of school. I go to bed at 8:30 to 9:30 pm, which is pretty early for my age.”

It is indeed early for her age, but it is also fitting as Winter is seemingly older and wiser than her 16 years. “I think people don’t realize all that teenagers can accomplish. They just see them as rude or figuring out their lives, but many famous teenagers have produced their own music, won Nobel peace prizes, and written their own books,” Winter said.

From the mouths of babes. Lest we forget: Inspired by a high school relationship that didn’t work out, musician Todd Rundgren wrote his first, and some would say most popular, song, “Hello It’s Me,” a year after graduating from high school. In 1429, a 17-year-old peasant girl named Joan of Arc helped turn things around for her country, and at a mere 8 years old, a boy named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his first symphony.

Winter is what could be referred to as a Renaissance woman. She has many interests, and is motivated, energetic, and inspired by almost everything. “I love the arts. I love being creative, and I love writing,” Winter said. “I really like writing fantasy and dystopia. Every Thursday, my English teacher, Mathea Morais, puts three prompts on the board, and for the first 10 minutes of class, we write nonstop. Then for the next half-hour, we can continue the prompt, or write something else — but it has to be creative. It’s such a great way to engage in our creativity.”

Couldn’t Winter do creative writing in a Falmouth school? Sure, but when she visited the Charter School, she just knew it was the right fit. There is a lottery to get into the Charter School. “Though my name was in the lottery, I didn’t get in the first time around,” Winter recounted, which was when she was heading into kindergarten. “But right before sixth grade, I got in. I went over to see the school, and I could just tell that it was a massive family. Everyone knew each other. Also, the Charter School uses project-based learning opportunities, and offers a lot of opportunities to be outdoors. So I decided to go there.”

Writing isn’t Winter’s only interest, and she appears to be one of those people who are artistic but also thrive at more linear-focused subjects, like math. “I’ve always loved the arts. I was in many art camps growing up. Although I really love just learning everything,” she said. ”I love every subject I’m in. And I do well in all of them. I love doing math. I’m in honors math. I also love my science teacher, Emily Smith, who is amazing. I don’t think I’ll go into science, though. My mother is a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, so I saw fish being dissected and jars of … things … since I was little. I don’t think I’m going in that direction, but I still really like it.”

Winter also enjoys music and visual arts. “When I was in traditional schools, I loved pottery,” she said. “We don’t have a kiln at the Charter School, but we do have a darkroom that Melissa Knowles is starting up. I did photography once, and I’d really like to start that up again.”

If that weren’t enough, Winter is in a play right now that will open in April. “It’s hard to be in the Charter School and not get roped into acting,” she laughed. “Heather Capece, the drama teacher, will find you and rope you in. What I love about the Charter School is that it’s a tight-knit community. But the theater department is even more closely knit. I was in my first play in seventh grade, and this is my third. I never did any acting before coming to the Charter School, but I like it a lot.”

Perhaps the one thing Winter isn’t currently active in is sports, but not because she lacks the interest, talent, or skill. “Sports are harder to do because so much happens during the week, which is hard since I don’t live on the Island. When I was in Falmouth schools, I used to be a bit sporty. I did horseback riding, and played soccer and field hockey. I’d like to get back to doing more sports at some point,” she said.

As one might imagine, Winter’s parents are pretty proud of her. “They say they don’t have a lot of worries for me. The only worry they have is that I tend to reach too far sometimes. I can get very burned out,” Winter said. When asked what she does to help alleviate stress and anxiety, Winter seems to have collected a solid set of tools to rely on in her self-help toolbox: “I usually write or listen to music. Seems to do the trick.”

The last two years of high school will fly by for Winter, but she seems to be taking things in stride. ”I think I will probably go to college somewhere in New England, because I love the cold. Growing up in New England, you learn to tolerate the cold, and I just love it. And my name implies … well, cold. I was born in the winter, and my parents met in Antarctica,” Winter smiled. “I definitely think I’m going to be in English literature when I’m older. I’ve been leaning toward becoming an editor or journalist, but I’m more interested in editing than I am in journalism.”

When asked if there was anything she would like to try or focus on more, Winter said something tech-related: “I think it would be interesting to learn computer programming. Maybe take a coding class.”

Although COVID did a number on many of us, it hopefully taught us a thing or two as well: Listen to your gut, spend time with people you like, do the things you love to do, find joy where you can, take care of yourself, and be proud of who you are.

Winter seems to have grasped these concepts early on: “I am most proud of being a commuter to a school. It’s a harder journey than many would think, and I am glad I stuck with it when I was only 11 years old. I’m proud of the community I have built for myself by commuting, and the people I have met.”

Talking with Winter gave me a sense of hope, and after we hopped off Zoom, I felt more at ease. If our future is in the hands of young people like Winter, we’re going to be OK. She’s got this.