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Beaver Island Lighthouse School creates a unique educational experience

Luke Richman is a student at Beaver Island Lighthouse School in Northern Michigan.

Students at Beaver Island Lighthouse School are exposed to a unique learning experience.

Beaver Island Lighthouse School is nestled on a small island in Northern Michigan.

Beaver Island Lighthouse School is nestled on a small island in Northern Michigan.

One of our most popular stories wasn't written by a journalist or teacher. It was a story written by a student, passionate about his very unique -- and stunning -- experience attending Beaver Island Lighthouse School, and learning the true meaning of a school community.

Nestled on a small island is a campus covered by trees and a view of the lake. Now throw some young adults into the picture and you have a beautiful school. It's about thirty minutes from the only town on the island and two and a half hours from the mainland by boat, but that's what makes this residential school so special.
If the school was to be somewhere else in a populated area would it work? Would the students who attended be able to feel the sense of community, learn integrity or be able to find themselves?
Some people believe not. This place, for this school, could not have been picked any more perfectly. This concealed little area of life that students learn and live in has just the right logistics. What are these essentials?
The first one is students living together, which opens doors of friendship to new levels. Students learn other people’s wounds and how to show empathy for them, and also how to take care of themselves and help others. They face the challenges of living in a cabin with other boys or girls and a staff member. With three cabins, two for the boys and one for the girls, students get to know and bond with cabin mates and cabin staff pretty quickly.
The second essential factor is the seclusion. Students are so far away from other towns that all that matters is what is in front of them. While at school, the only things to worry about are the problems that are present. It helps students live in the moment, which changes perspective on things. 

How might this change learning? It changes things by teaching students that in life all you have to worry about is the now, not even five minutes ahead. Students learn that first things are first and how to prioritize.
Isolation also plays a huge role for students. The simple fact that they cannot have your parents or friends come pick them up has a huge impact. This subtracts the negative temptation of leaving school. Students are away from home often feel like a new person. This allows students the opportunity to reinvent themselves, wipe the slate clean and be who they truly are.
The third, and probably one of the most important essentials for this school, is the community. One of the biggest lessons learned at this school is community. There are two types of community involved in this program. The first is the school community. Somewhere down the line in the semester all the students are comfortable and trusting with the other students, as they say, “Alone we merely survive but together we strive.” The second type of community is from the other inhabitants of the island. They display what a true community is and does. If students need a tree cut down, they are there. If the students are hosting a fundraiser, they are there to support. They have always been more than willing to welcome students into their churches, gym, and baseball fields with open arms. They do this not because they have to but because they want to. They are the true definition of community.
So to answer my original question, this residential school could not work anywhere else but on this island in this exact spot. Nor would it be anywhere near as effective as it could be. Without the combination of living together, seclusion, isolation and community, this school would more than likely deteriorate into an unexciting school. Also, the fact that not only do students learn normal school curricular teachings but  get to experience wondrous life lessons that some might not be able to learn until they are older or get to live in a community of their own. 
For more information and videos about the Beaver Island Lighthouse School, visit the website
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