Friendship can be found in the most unlikely places. One of the treasures of The Island School is the way in which students from all different backgrounds come together and build relationships and connections through learning, challenge, and community, departing their time in our programs with new friendships from all walks of life.

For the past several years, Founder Chris Maxey has been working alongside his friend and best-selling author Will Schwalbe on Will’s newest book titled We Should Not Be Friends. It is a wonderful story of triumph and challenge, tracing the history of Chris and Will’s friendship over forty years, and most importantly sharing a powerful insight: our most loyal and lasting friends are oftentimes people we do not connect with on first meeting.  

A trip to the Sandbar is a foundational experience taught at The Island School, often led by Founder Chris Maxey, where students learn how the islands were formed and connect to the landscape surrounding them.

As the story of Chris and Will’s friendship comes to light in Will’s book, so do some key elements of The Island School experience. Principles of relationship building, openness, curiosity and support from our founding years continue to be at the core of our circle today, especially in the inaugural Semester program. 

It begins on that first day at The Island School, moving into your bunk room and standing in the circle, where it seems clear already who your good friends will be and who you might just stand far away from. As smaller teams form for exercise and research and classes, orchestrated opportunities help students get to know people who don’t easily fit into their most comfortable inner circle.  

Throughout The Island School Semester and Summer Term, students participate in small group expeditions and activities including an 8-day kayak trip that help foster meaningful friendships.

An 8-day sea kayak expedition or a Down Island Trip offers yet another opportunity to form new and unexpected friendships as students come together in small groups to tackle new challenges. Chris recently joined a team of 13 students in the Fall 2022 Semester on their kayak expedition. He recounts, “They were all angry when the group was assigned, realizing that they were not going out with their besties and they were somehow placed in a group with classmates who they did not like or know as much. The kayak expedition is the pinnacle of mind, body and spirit challenges and you cannot help but lean into your pod mates. As this happens, carrying a heavy kayak above the tide, setting up a tent as the bugs are eating you alive, surviving a 48-hour solo, you cannot help but lean into the people around you. Sharing both moments of frustration and moments of awe paddling along the coastline and camping at the water’s edge build connections that strengthen day by day. On the last night of our trip sitting around a roaring fire, we all celebrated how close we had become and how good it is to realize that you should never judge a book by its cover.”

Chris Maxey and Will Schwalbe on one of Will’s more recent visits to Eleuthera.

“Chris Maxey changed my life in countless ways but so did my visits to the school and seeing for myself the truly awesome effect it has on the lives of young people. My absolute favorite thing in the whole book is a letter Maxey wrote me about the journey one young person took over the course of a semester. Especially in these times we need to make friends who are nothing like us and break down barriers; I saw for myself the way the Island School helps young people do this,” shares Schwalbe.

As Chris and Will exemplify in their friendship, and as we see in the community that emerges each semester, you never know where you might find your next dear friend. What readers take away from the adventures and connection in We Should Not Be Friends is also true to our student learning experience. Will’s book sheds light on The Island School today; it’s full of stories of The Island School history and brings the young Maxey to life as a character with real flaws and challenges. 

We Should Not Be Friends is available for pre-order now and will be released in February 2023. For every copy pre-ordered between now and February 20th, an anonymous donor will make a gift of $10 to The Island School, up to $25,000, supporting the community that continues to foster lifelong friendships.

Meet Author Will Schwalbe and Chris Maxey at a book launch event!

Barnes & Noble, Union Square, New York, NY
February 22, 7pm

Reads and Company, Phoenixville, PA
February 23, 7pm

Locust Valley Bookstore, Locust Valley, PA
February 25, 3pm

Books and Books at Coral Gables, Coral Gables, FL
February 26, 7pm