Breaker High

Imagine that you are working on your senior project for your cultural anthropology class, and the assignment is to report on the Samburu tribe of Northwest Kenya. But instead of poring through encyclopedias and back issues of National Geographic in the school library, you are there -- in Africa, trekking under the scorching sun and battling dust storms to reach and talk to the Samburu face to face. Or you go to phys ed class, but instead of heading to the gym, you paddle out into the ten-foot breakers off the coast of New Zealand. After a couple of tips from your surfing instructor, you figure you've got a handle on a wave -- until you look over and see the girl you've had a crush on all semester. She's cool, she's gorgeous, and she's shredding the water like you only wish you could.

Welcome to Breaker High, a unique educational experience on land or sea. It is the world's most awesome high school, a cruise ship with 500 teens on board, learning about math, science, geography, life, love, responsibility -- and partying. Some come for the academics. Some come for the cultural opportunities. Some come for the escape. But aboard Breaker High, those who learn the most are those who are there for the experience - the experience of a lifetime.

The students of Breaker High come from widely varied backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: they've left the comforts of home to discover what life is all about. With the world as their backdrop, these kids are still dealing with the everyday challenges of teen life: jealousy, feelings of inferiority, love, betrayal, the pressures of school, and absentee parents. Their experiences are probably even more intense than those of most teens, due to the focused atmosphere that their boarding school cruise ship provides.

But behind all the pressure to succeed lies a whole wide world of fun and adventure: a trek through ancient Incan ruins; a carefree night at a Berlin dance club; perhaps a moment of young passion under the warm glow of an Italian moon. Rich and fulfilling experiences are the textbooks of Breaker High -- even those that don't work out as originally planned: a Christmas Eve in China spent longing for a taste of home; a language mix-up with a Brazilian taxi driver that means you nearly miss your boat; or a taste of the local cuisine in Bangkok that proves to be, well, "interesting."

What makes most high schools special are the students, and Breaker High is no exception. While there are approximately 500 students on board, a few naturally stand out from the crowd. There's Cassidy Cartwright (Wendi Kenya) an athletic, outrageous, fun loving surfer girl from Coronado, California. Cassidy's cabin mate is Denise Williams (Persia White) - and the two could not be more different. Denise, an intellectual from New York City, is an activist who's always championing one cause or another.

Tamira Goldstein (Rachel Wilson) comes to Breaker High from a small town in Ohio, but she lives in a world of her own. Artistic and offbeat, Tamira has a hard time fitting in with kids her own age. She's paying her tuition through Breaker High by means of a work/study program. As fate would have it, Tamira's cabinmate is Ashley Dupree (Terri Conn), a rich, self-absorbed debutante from Atlanta, Georgia, whose favorite pastime is wrapping guys around her little finger.

There are a few stand-out personalities among the guys of Breaker High as well. Alejandro "Alex" Garcia (Kyle Alisharan), an easy going athlete from San Marcos, Texas, has charm to spare -- which is not lost on the young ladies attending Breaker High. But Max Ballard (Scott Vickaryous), the Captain's son, arrives on board with a big chip on his shoulder. He's an angry loner who's been forced into attending Breaker High so his dad can keep an eye on him. Jimmy Farrell (Tyler Labine), from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a college frat boy just waiting to happen. Good-natured yet obnoxious, Jimmy is the first guy you'd invite to a blowout party, but the last you'd want to share a cabin with. That unlucky assignment falls to Sean Hanlon (Ryan Gosling). Sean, who hails from Chicago, is the ultimate con man. If you need it, Sean can get it, because he always has a friend who knows someone who knows this guy, etc.

When it comes to its faculty, Breaker High has one of the best, and most interesting. When your high school cruises the open seas and you get into trouble, you are more apt to be sent to the bridge than the principal's office. There you would find the no-nonsense Captain Ballard (Andrew Airlie), a former navy officer with plenty of experience in running a tight ship, but little when it comes to controlling 500 revved up teenagers. Anna Mitchell (Anne Openshaw), is a beautiful and free-spirited cultural anthropology professor whose love for adventure has led her all over the globe. She's one of those rare teachers who actually remembers and understands what it's like to be a teenager. After all, she was one herself not too long ago.

And what would a cruise ship be without a wacky activities director? Breaker High has one of the wackiest in Tony Gifford (Richard Cox), whose enthusiasm for oddly themed karaoke contests like "Show Tunes Gone Reggae" or "Sesame Street Favorites" is not exactly shared by the Breaker High student body. Nigel Mumford (Bernard Cuffling), once a chef for a five-star restaurant and now Breaker High's resident culinary expert, has been, as he puts it, "reduced to flipping patties for walking Yankee hormones." No one quite knows the whole story of Nigel's demotion, but it is rumored to involve overcooked broccoli, a former U.S. President, and a meat cleaver.

Like a mini-city filled with cultural differences, Breaker High has its own special atmosphere. The people who make it their home-away-from-home are all very real, with real dreams, hopes, fears and emotions. They are living the lives others only dream about, which is a big part of the fun of attending a floating high school. Of course, there's also the adventure -- spending one day in Italy and waking up the next sailing into a Greek port. Breaker High is so much more than books and homework -- it's a living, breathing education you can't get anywhere else on earth.

Breaker High is having the adventure of a lifetime, surrounded by all your friends. It's learning the ancient Japanese tea ceremony, whale watching off the coast of Alaska, or attending an African tribal ritual. Breaker High is a fantasy come true for the lucky students who are fortunate enough to walk its decks. It's enriching, it's in and it is definitely audacious. Breaker High is a lot ofthings -- and it's never boring!

Photos and text Copyright 1997 United Paramount Network

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Last modified on Sunday, 12-Sep-2010 23:22:14 CDT.