Prince William’s tour of New York City began this afternoon, and his first stop off the plane was Governors Island. There, he was welcomed by volunteers with the Billion Oyster Project—and by students at the island’s New York Harbor School, who were told of the royal’s visit just this morning.
“My day started off pretty normal,” Kynara, a high school student who was there to greet Prince William on the pier, tells Town & Country. “We didn’t find out about [his visit] until literally when it happened. It was shocking! It’s not something I expected, but going to a school like this, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
For the past week, students had been told a VIP was coming—Kynara thought it could’ve been President Joe Biden—but never considered it could be royalty. “I didn’t expect someone so high up to know about my school,” she said. “It was pretty amazing.”
She was proud of the global spotlight on the Harbor School. It is a public high school that opened in 2010 on Governors Island, with the focus on preparing students for maritime careers. As Kynara explained, “what’s so cool about my school is we have a lot of different career choices who didn’t really know about it. I really didn’t know about maritime world—I’m from a city where like the water is all around me! I feel like everyone should get a chance to actually see how it is just to be a part of something so big, that you never thought it was really possible.”
Ascher, another Harbor School student who was also on the dock to meet the Prince, tells T&C that he had a weird day. “To be honest, it was pretty stressful, man! School was pretty stressful. I had to complete an essay for English.” Meeting Prince William, he adds, “was confusing at first—because it was so random!”
Students were overall shocked that they had met a prince. “This day has been very interesting,” Tayisha, another Harbor School student who was there to meet Prince William, tells T&C. She recounts, “It’s a Monday. I got up early, thought I was going to class like normal. I’m in the middle of class, and I’m on Instagram,” she pauses, adds, “I’m not supposed to, but I am,” and sees Billion Oyster Project’s Instagram page posting about Prince William. “I’m sitting here trying to contemplate what I am going to do!” she says. After class, she was one of the group of students selected to meet William as his boat arrived from New Jersey. “What made it shocking was that he’s royal—’I’ve seen you on TV before!'” Tayisha said.
During the visit, Prince William toured an oyster hatchery and viewed the Shell Pile on the island, a mound of shells donated by New York City area restaurants that are subsequently used a resource for the restoration of the oyster reefs. “This is such a good use of food waste,” William noted as he observed in the pile. After, he joined middle school students in the Hudson River, and waded into the water with Billion Oyster Project volunteers to check on a reef in Brooklyn Bridge park. Like the high schoolers, this group of students also hadn’t been told who was coming until right before William arrived.
“We chatted about when the oysters were brought into Brooklyn Bridge Park when they were grown and kind of what they’re doing for this site specifically,” Ben LoGuidice, a remote setting manager for Billion Oysters Project who joined Prince William in the water, said.
Shortly after his arrival at Newark airport, the Prince of Wales declared:
“It’s so good to be back in United States.”
“No one does optimism and ingenuity like the American people, so it’s only right we unveil this year’s Earthshot finalists in New York City.” The Earthshot Summit takes place tomorrow in the city, ahead of the Awards Ceremony in Singapore in November.
Emily Burack (she/her) is the news writer for Town & Country, where she covers entertainment, culture, the royals, and a range of other subjects. Before joining T&C, she was the deputy managing editor at Hey Alma, a Jewish culture site. Follow her @emburack on Twitter and Instagram.