Though the impending showers and thunderstorms threatened to spoil the Class of 2011′s high school commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon, bleak weather did not control the jubilant atmosphere.
In traditional purple and white robes, embellished with pins and collars representing their individuality and achievements throughout high school, the graduates congregated at the entrance of the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, anxiously waiting out the last minutes before making the transition from high school seniors to post-grads, many of them college freshmen.
As ominous thunder sounded in the distance, the graduating students were all smiles. Junior class marshals, Mia Benedetto and Delmont Araujo, ushered their classmates down the aisle to their designated rows. Master of ceremony, Alicia Oliveira, welcomed family and friends to the commencement with a laugh, smiling proudly throughout each introduction.
Comments to the senior class, presented by superintendent Dr. James Weiss, echoed the importance of community, making the analogy that the Martha´s Vineyard community is similar to a flock of geese flying in a “V” formation, where each goose enhances the uplift for the bird behind it to create a successful formation.
Dr. Weiss concluded that the flock symbolizes the Vineyard and that when the graduating students enter their respective careers, the “spirit and support of the Island community” will go with them to give the “uplift” they will need.
Principal Stephen Nixon reminded us that the day was not only one of celebration, but of remembrance as well. After asking for a moment of silence to honor the lives of two former Vineyard community teachers, Michael Ovios and Joy Flanders, Mr. Nixon recognized the retirement of four beloved Martha´s Vineyard Regional High teachers: Bill McGrath, Scott Campbell, Dianne McDonough-Silva, and Annette Sandrock. Toward the end of the speech, Mr. Nixon stopped abruptly and, with a smile, told the audience,
“Be right back,” before walking to the edge of the stage. To the excitement and surprise of both students and families alike, Mr. Nixon, guitar in hand, began to sing his rendition of rocker Rod Stewart´s version of “Forever Young.” A well deserved standing ovation followed.
The student speakers of the graduating class recounted their varied experiences growing up and the memories of their high school careers. As the audience listened intently, Kira Shipway, class essayist, described her trip to Morocco, whereas co-valedictorian, Sarah Johnson, urged her classmates to “do something to become part of the bigger picture.” (Co-valedictorian, Mary Harrington, was unable to attend the graduation ceremony.)
In her speech, Rachel Pires, student council president, acknowledged the significance of community, reminiscing upon the collected efforts recently of the Vineyard society to help search for a missing black lab, Olive. She also praised the audience for sitting through her speech and still managing to keep a smile.
As the sun made its first appearance of the day, casting its warm light on all the new Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School alumni, Rachel Pires concluded, “Although we might not all walk across this stage today with complete assurance of what we’re about to do, all that we’ve learned over the years gives me confidence in not having to wish the Class of 2011 luck, because we won’t need it.”
Alyssa Adler of West Tisbury is a junior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and a journalist on the staff of the High School View.