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Island Life: What is growing up on an island in Lake Michigan like?

Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 07, 2024

DOOR COUNTY (NBC 26) — Some students are talking to us about what it is like to grow up on Washington Island.

  • Video shows students that at the Washington Island School.
  • With only 57 students, the school is not short of opportunities for students top try new things
  • Although the students are well connected, they say it's like having an extension to their families

Attending a school with 57 students, you’re bound to know everyone. I'm your Door County neighborhood reporter Katlyn Holt and with only 19 of those 57 being in high school, life looks a little different for these students compared to those on the mainland.
Growing up as the "island" kids, people have their misconceptions about you.

"A lot of people think the island is actually smaller than it is," said Jocelyn Mann.

"We've been asked if we swim across the island to the island," said Lindgren.

"They think we're, like out of touch with the real world," said Mann.

For juniors Jaxin Lindgren and Jocelyn Mann, life is different and has challenges, but none they can't overcome by working together.

“It's definitely something way different than most people are probably used to,” laughed Lindgren.

At the Washington Island School, they're two of just 19 high schoolers.

“You know everyone, way too well. Better than you know yourself,” said Lindgren.

Sports and extracurriculars are a big part of their lives but to put a team on the field almost everyone has to be willing to play.

“When we go for games, we empty out the whole school,” said Kirsten Purinton.

Kirsten Purinton coaches soccer. There's just one co-ed team.

Wow. You guys have enough kids for an 11-person team? That's really good,” Purinton says is the reaction from schools on the mainland, thatc are surprised they can pull that many together.

Schools on the mainland are often surprised they can pull that many together.

Fielding a team isn't the only struggle. Sarah Gibson coaches [girls] basketball.

“We do have to base everything on the ferry that is the one constant about our lives up here on the island,” explained Gibson.

The ferry, outside of an occasional flight, the main way on and off the island.

It's not uncommon for students to miss a day of school to visit the doctor on the mainland. During the winter the ferry only leaves the island twice a day.

Jocelyn plays girls basketball

She says those visits, while tough for schedules, have been eye-opening.

“Yeah, i was just like, whoa, like, this so much bigger than our school!” said Mann about one of her visits off-island.

These days the school is offering more opportunities to keep students occupied on the island.

"When I think I always try to think of things that benefit them both in the now of a program but things that benefit them later on as well," explained Kayla Mann.

Teacher Kayla Mann has helped students put on a musical and create a forensics club.

“It's a different outlet. We've had sports here for a long time, and they've had other extracurriculars come and go, but it's nice to have the arts," explained Kayla Mann.

And they are finding themselves by working together amid the challenges.

Jaxin is considering a future in the Coast Guard and Jocelyn, Cosmetology school.

They say the island will always be home and if they leave, they're not ruling out a return to island life.

“It's just an experience in itself, honestly, like, your just you're filled with the community,” said Jocelyn.

“You can almost call anyone or talk to anyone, and they'll come help you. We are all like family,” said Jaxin.

The community and staff of Washington Island try to make sure the same opportunities are available to students, despite having to hurdle these obstacles.