Coming face to face with enormous animals like hammerhead sharks is no issue for first-year Mikhayl Abrahams. The 18-year-old underwater videographer is willing to do whatever it takes to get the perfect picture.
“I dive literally everywhere I can,” Abrahams said.
Abrahams travelled from Scarsdale, New York, to Eckerd, where he can be closer to the water. He has been a certified diver for eight years with over 600 confirmed dives, is a certified master diver and underwater photographer.
On top of diving, the marine science major is also a martial artist. His Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions took him to places like Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Indonesia, giving him the opportunity to visit world-renowned dive spots.
He has dived off of Komodo Island, and ex- plored the reefs of Indonesia, but to him, some of the best dives he’s been on happened here in Florida.
“We would see these amazing, giant, fish and you can’t find them anywhere else. It’s because Looe Key is rich in life, and emotion even,” Abrahams said.
Abrahams has seen coral bleaching in many of the plac- es he’s dived in. He wants to pursue eco-tourism and coral restoration, and wants to work with organizations that will help him protect the sites that inspired him to take action.
“I want to at least preserve what we can,” Abrahams said. Abrahams’ next goal is to go to Alaska and dive with salmon sharks.
First-year Maia Shenker scuba diving in Roatan, Honduras. While practicing underwater photography she spots a green moray.
Sarah Beres came to Eckerd from Connecticut. A er liv- ing in a relatively isolated part of her state, she was ready for a change and decided to come down to South Florida.
“I ended up choosing [Eckerd] because of the study abroad programs and just because the com- munity seemed really appealing to me,” Beres said.
Beres recently participated in a research proj- ect in central Mexico where she lived in the jungle and studied the biodiversity in the area. She has fall- en in love with biology, particularly scuba diving.
“[It’s a] whole other world down there,” Beres said.
Beres went to Guatemala when she was 12-years- old through her church to work with an orphanage. She found it to be a very humbling and eye-open- ing experience for her, and is looking forward to tak- ing more trips around the world through Eckerd.
Beres has a few other hobbies when she is not travelling, in- cluding snowboarding, pottery and photography. Although she sold a lot of her ceramic works for a capstone project in high school, she prefers the more relaxing and fun aspects of pottery.
“Ultimate goal, in an ideal world...I would love to be a wildlife photographer,” Beres said.
In the future, Beres looks forward to pursuing biology, lm and many other opportunities in travel and the Honors Program.
Maia Shenker is a first-year from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She is a marine science major who comes from a family of divers.
“I remember when I hit 10 years old... and I said I would like to be certi ed and my dad said no,” Shenker said. “I think it’s because no one wants to certify a 10-year-old.”
Her mother is a diver and her father made a living as a divemaster, certify- ing both Shenker and her brother. Her father was also born and raised Jewish. Shenker found a way to explore her Jewish roots while doing what she loves: scuba diving.
“When I came to Explore Eckerd, my dad by total chance ran into Rabbi Ed... My dad really liked what Ed had to say about Judaism and how it connects to the ocean,” Shenker said.
Rosenthal told Shenker and her dad about his upcoming Underwater Birthright Trip: a free trip to Israel for those of Jewish faith ages 18-26. The underwater program shows the participants Israel from both land and sea. Shenker turned 18 the day before she left for Israel, just making the cut.
Savannah Erskine has lived in many different states throughout her life including Colorado, Virginia and currently Florida, in Jacksonville.
Erskine spent about two weeks in Brazil doing conservation work in the rainforest. Although she was terriffied by an encounter with a tarantula the size of a dinner plate, she enjoyed this program.
“[Brazil] was a very good, eye-opening experience for me,” Erskine said. Erskine loves to paint, read and do just about any activity outdoors. Her favorite book genres are mysteries and action, but she will read just about anything.
“You will never see me without a book,” Erskine said.
Over the summer she developed an interest in sailing. She is excited to learn more from her Autumn Term class, Narratives of Sail, and is looking forward to pursuing this new hobby of hers at Eckerd.
Besides the sailing aspect of Eckerd, Erskine was very excited about becoming a new member of the community. She was looking for a small school and fell in love with the liberal arts program and strong unity here at Eckerd. She is also looking forward to pursuing the unique study abroad opportunities.
“It’s actually one of my goals on my bucket list to explore the world,” Erskine said.
Noah Shapiro grew up in an unlikely place for someone who would eventually become a nationally ranked kite surfer. Born in Toledo, Ohio, he discovered kite surfing at age 11 while vacationing in Fort Lauderdale with family.
Captivated by the kite surfers he saw out on the water, he started learning the sport that summer. Now, at age 18, he has come to Eckerd after graduating from the World Class Kiteboarding Academy, a school that only accepts the most dedicated 18 youth kite surfers internationally.
His sport has a afforded him opportunities to travel to locations as far as Brazil, South Africa, Poland, Morocco and Sicily. However, Shapiro says by far his favorite part of kite surfing is its almost meditative qualities.
“When you’re on the water, you really can only focus in the present of what you’re do- ing,” Shapiro said. “So all of your worries – past, future, all that – they can’t matter.”
Since coming to Florida, Shapiro has already discovered a new aspect of water sports that excites him. He regularly wake boards at McCormick’s Cable Park in Tampa, which includes features such as rails, sliders and kickers. In the future, he hopes to help push this eld of park riding into mainstream kiteboarding.
Kite surfing is not the only thing Shapiro excels at. For four years, he was a semi-professional paintball player, and he is also a gifted glassblower. For now, though, kite surfing remains the most prominent part of his life.
“It’s an addicting sport,” Shapiro said. “It changed my life one hundred percent. I wouldn’t be at Eckerd if I didn’t kiteboard.”
First-year Theodore Cooper was almost qualified for states in rowing during high school, but he injured his shoulder while skiing. is setback made him lose connection to his team and his friends.
“My religion brought me strength because I knew that I always had a group to go back to and that was the most important aspect I could have asked for,” Cooper said. “I felt like I was a valuable member in my youth group even though I could no longer be one on my diving team.”
Growing up, Cooper did two things: rowing and diving. He liked competing, and, from the urgings of his brother’s friend, wanted to be recruited by a college for rowing.
Cooper went to an all-boys Catholic high school. He said all of his teammates on the diving team were white and Catholic, like him, so he did not get much exposure to other people.
Cooper became one of the leaders of his youth group. Through his leadership,he built friendships and ideals that differed from what he was used to on the rowing team.
“That’s why I might go into Human Development, because I like being around children,” Cooper said.
All of these factors contributed to Cooper’s eventual recovery and presence at Eckerd College. Eckerd’s variety of water sports and a chapel which caters to different faiths caught Cooper’s interest when applying for colleges.
Cooper’s future plans at Eckerd include activities out of the water. He plans to join the tennis club, soccer club and the wake boarding club, and wants to become a Peer Mentor next Autumn Term.