The Whole Child: McKenna Turner, Beaver Island Community School senior

Posted on November 2nd, 2021

During the Nov. 1, 2021, Area-Wide Professional Learning Day, Char-Em staff prepared a special video to share with regional educators demonstrating their impact on students and families. Each of the speakers represented one of the five tenets of the Whole Child philosophy: Safe, Healthy, Engaged, Challenged, and Supported. Parts of the speakers’ stories were compiled for the video.

This is the full story provided by McKenna Turner, representing the Challenged tenet.

Hi! My name is McKenna Turner, and I’m a senior at Beaver Island Community School. And yes, attending public school on an island in the middle of Lake Michigan can be a challenge! Summer is short, winter is long, and isolation is real. However, there is one area where I have enjoyed the challenges presented – and that’s at school. I’ve been challenged to find my way to my passion by my teachers and administrators, and I’m excited about my future!

As you might imagine, a school as small as Beaver Island can’t offer every subject to meet every student’s interest. But where we might lack in some resources, our tiny island school makes up for in ingenuity and creativity.

I moved to Beaver Island with my parents just before 7th grade. My grandpa and dad had been coming to the island for decades to visit. On one visit about six years ago, my dad was offered a job as the island’s only electrician. He said yes, and we moved northwest from Waterford. 

In 7th and 8th grade, I worked on the yearbook staff and really enjoyed it. It first sparked my interest in graphic-design type of work. In 9th grade, my grandparents were undertaking a house demolition and rebuilding project, and my grandpa encouraged me to look at the plans and layouts while I helped them with the project. At that point, those two interests collided – home construction and graphic design.

The last piece of my future puzzle came in the spring of 9th grade. I was enrolled in a career tech class that year, Health Occ. I was invited to attend Char-Em’s annual Career tech banquet at Boyne Mountain as a top student. During the student awards, they played a video about each program. When I saw a video about drafting and design offered in some districts, it clicked for me – I wanted to become an architect. 

Beaver Island is too small of a district to offer this specific of a class, however. But my teachers, Mr. Kohen and Ms. Loder in particular,  immediately started encouraging my interest by giving me books about subjects like the tallest buildings in Chicago and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I was really fascinated. 

After that career tech banquet, I told our superintendent, Mr. Cwikiel, about my interest in architecture. He helped me look around for classes at area colleges, but we couldn’t piece anything together. In the spring of my sophomore year, he helped me enroll in online classes through Minnesota State University, where I have taken courses in drafting and design for the last two years. I take these classes at home, between school, sports practice and work. So far I have taken 8 classes and when I graduate from Beaver Island in spring of 2022, I will also have 16 college credits completed. I will also be certified in drafting technology.

During the summer before my junior year, I started working for a local construction company. I continue to work there and receive work-study credits at school for this, which is great – and I get paid. It’s another way I challenge myself to get better and better at my future career.

My plan is to attend Rice University to receive my bachelor’s in architecture and structural engineering. Then I’d like to attend Tulane University for my master’s degree. Later in life I would like to attend Vanderbilt for my master’s in structural engineering. I plan to own a construction company where I do the architectural designs and then help build the buildings. 

When I’m not studying toward my future or working, I play the cello and I also love to play sports. In the fall I play volleyball and soccer and have practices almost every night. In the winter I play basketball. I would say for a tiny district like Beaver Island, adults work hard to optimize every opportunity for students and challenge us to be our best selves. 

I feel like I’m ready to leave the island and get started with my life. I am going to miss this place, but I’m ready for the next step.

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