By: ATHENA FOSLER-BRAZIL
Carmel High School senior Jack Johnston is renowned in Carmel, frequently seen wearing a wetsuit and lugging bags of golf balls out of the water off Carmel Point for part of a project called Plastic Pickup for which he and close friend Alex Weber received well-deserved press last year.
This summer, however, Johnston returned from an experience that took him to drastically different shores than those of Northern California, spending the second semester of junior year at the Island School on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
Johnston became aware of the school through Weber, who noticed it in a Facebook posting and suggested they apply. Passionate about the environment and specifically marine life since childhood, the Island School’s philosophy of sustainable living, connection to one’s environment and gaining global perspective was a perfect fit for Johnston, who jumped upon the opportunity after being accepted.
The senior recognized this would be a fantastic chance to expand his knowledge of marine science and ways he could make a greater environmental impact, as well as allowing him to experience a different part of the world.
“We should get the education about how marine life functions,” Johnston says of his motivation to attend. “This is just a well-rounded, awesome thing to do.”
Johnston is well-loved around campus, and teachers admire him for his dedication and strength of character, appreciating that he values above his test scores and GPA.
“For Jack, his actions speak louder than words,” says CHS science teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin, who taught Johnston last year and admired his initiative, dedication and recognized the rarity of his drive and dedication.
The Island School challenged the senior academically, physically and mentally, and Johnston recounts his daily routines, including morning stretches, a two-mile ocean swim and chores, all before classes began. One of Johnston’s classes was research, where his focus was pyrolysis, the science of recycling plastics into fossil fuels to be used again, as well as marine ecology and local history.
Johnston also enjoyed the unique social environment of a semester abroad and the friends he made internationally.
“It definitely made me want to do more things like that instead of this ‘typical’ learning, like high school then college,” said Johnston, who plans on taking a gap year and traveling to Australia, South Africa and Iceland, all places he said he would never have thought of going had it not been for his experience abroad.
Johnston and Weber have received grants for Plastic Pickup and been invited to speak at a microplastics convention in Utila, Honduras, next year to educate the youth on sustainability and pyrolysis. Johnston expresses excitement regarding the future of Plastic Pickup and his gap year that will be spent cultivating a global perspective that began taking shape during his time in the Bahamas.