When a student attends The Island School, whether a Deep Creek Middle School Student, a young learner at the Elementary Learning Center, or a Semester student, they are beginning a lifelong connection to Eleuthera and The Island School. We especially love it when one of our students returns to campus for a job, internship, or even just to visit and share where their journey has taken them. 

One recent BESS scholar, Antonia Ferguson S21, brought her experience full circle by returning to work with The Island School as a Marine Intern at Cape Eleuthera Institute this past summer, after attending the Semester and interning with BREEF as a BESS participant.  

As a high school student in The Bahamas, Antonia developed a passion for marine biology during her senior year, despite having limited experience in the field. When she learned of the BESS programme, it felt like the perfect opportunity to dive deeper into the field before committing to pursuing a degree in the field. The morning of the first day of her semester, as she set out on a sunrise snorkel alongside her classmates, she knew she was headed on the right path. 

Antonia reflects, “That moment ignited a fire within me. Before The Island School, I was trapped within the four walls of a high school classroom, where marine life existed only in pictures during a single biology class. But there, in Eleuthera, I was liberated from those confines and immersed in a world I had only dreamed of. It dawned on me that I didn’t belong in an office or confined indoors. My true calling was out in the ocean, exploring its depths, absorbing every bit of knowledge it held, and then sharing that knowledge and passion with future marine biologists.”

Now a sophomore at the University of Central Florida majoring in Marine Biology, Antonia spent the summer conducting research with both the coral and shark research teams at CEI. She assisted the coral team in their work to help stop the spread of stony coral tissue loss disease. Alongside the shark team, she tested mercury levels in the blood of nurse sharks and black tip sharks to get an idea of what the sharks were feeding on. 

Antonia credits her time as a Semester student and BESS scholar with her decision to become a marine biologist and hopes to continue to return to the organization in various capacities as she sets her sights on a long-term goal of achieving her Ph.D. in Marine Biology. 

You can find Antonia educating fellow Bahamians and students of all ages around the world through her ‘Mermaid Tonia’ persona on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok