Portrait of a Graduate - Ivan Betancourt ’19

Ivan Betancourt recalls well his arrival at Shore, in second grade. It was the fall of 2011. “I remember not feeling intimidated, even on the first day,” he says. The second grade Class of ’19 loved playing “Ivan Chase” under the hot sun. “The kids were inclusive; I never felt like an outsider. I felt like I belonged.” Second grade was also the year of his stage debut, as a lead in the play “Savitri,” about a woman who pursues her late husband to the afterlife. “It was all new territory for me,” he says, “but I can’t recall feeling nervous at all, and, again, I credit my Shore friends for taking me in and encouraging me.”

About his coming to Shore, Betancourt admits, “It was one of the most unlikely things that could’ve happened to me, yet one of the luckiest.” A student at RAW Artworks, a youth arts organization in Lynn, he and his mother, Verania, were encouraged by an art teacher to visit Shore. What they experienced inspired them both. According to Verania, “Meeting some of the teachers and learning about the education and community Shore offered convinced me this was a marvelous opportunity for Ivan.”

Fast-forward to ninth grade, and for the now 16-year-old, both the friends he made in those early years and art and performance still stand as landmarks in his Shore experience. “This school has become a second home for me,” he explains. As a member of the tightly-knit group of students in the yearlong Advanced Theater Arts (ATA) class, he’s relied on the support of peers as he’s taken big risks on stage—delivering a monologue, performing in two plays, and experimenting with improvisational theater on one of the final days of his Shore career. “If you had asked me last year if I could see myself doing all this, I would have said no. My acting has grown incredibly. You have to find a lot of courage to get up on that stage, and ATA definitely helped bring that out for me. I’ve become a more confident person.”

Teachers have played a major role along the way, of course. “My second grade teacher still says hello and remembers my name,” Betancourt marvels, “which may not seem like a big deal until you think about how many students she’s taught since that time. Before Shore, I’d never felt a real connection to my teachers. But here it’s more of a friendship; I can talk to my teachers freely.” Mentors like Walter Morris and Gwen Sneeden, he says, have had a huge impact on his thinking, his reading and writing. “My teachers have pushed me to think deeply, and the knowledge I’ve gained is a real gift. I feel I’m thinking about things in a new way, and writing about them well. I’ve grown so much as a writer—I can confidently say now that I can write a persuasive essay about almost anything.”

Of the many rich and new experiences he’s had at Shore, Betancourt points to performing on the piano as perhaps the most transformative. The recently formed Jazz Band has had a special impact, he says. “Until Shore, I had never really tried jazz, but as I’ve played with the Jazz Band these past few years, almost all the work I’ve been doing on the piano is jazz. It’s something I plan to continue.” Being asked to play piano in the background of several large public events was another unique opportunity. “Those were moments I really felt I grew as a performer. Even though I played a crucial part in setting the tone for the events, I didn’t feel nervous, and could focus on my playing. I was able to let go of my fear of making a mistake and just play.”

According to Verania Betancourt, that growth has been across the board. “I have watched as he’s gained self-confidence,” she says. “He’s become goal-oriented; he can work hard until he reaches a goal he’s set for himself. He knows how to make good decisions and form amazing friendships. He’s developed a love of helping others.”

In fall 2019 Betancourt will take all this to Phillips Academy Andover, where he expects to continue jazz and other passions discovered at Shore. He knows it will be a challenge, but, he says, “Shore has given me preparation that’s unmatched. I’m excited—for the community, diversity, and chance to make new connections. I’m looking forward to getting better at all the things I’ve been working on here.” One of the most important things he’ll take with him, he says, is a fresh sense of gratitude. “As I enter my next school, I’m leaving Shore with a myriad of caring friends, exciting experiences, critical knowledge, and a sense of knowing who I truly am. I’m fortunate to have had the chance to go to Shore, and I know that one day I’ll look back and miss it.”
    • With his mother, Verania

    • In second grade music class

    • Performing at a nighttime event

    • With the members of the Advanced Theater Arts class