Martha’s Vineyard Class of 2012 graduation – a splendid sendoff

Hunter Thomas, on right, and Kyle Altieri, share a smile as official graduates. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

In a stream of purple and white graduation robes, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School seniors flowed into the Tabernacle in the Campground in Oak Bluffs on Sunday.

The class of 2012 included 156 students, who “are headed in 156 different directions,” class essayist Maya Harcourt said.

As the graduating class entered the high school as freshman, Stephen Nixon became principal of the school. To celebrate the four years they have spent together, he wrote a song titled “Buckets Full of Sand,” which he sang and strummed on an acoustic guitar as his tribute to the senior class.

Though he did not sing, superintendent of schools James Weiss recited the lyrics of John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”

Imagination, Mr. Weiss said, allows people to deal with strong emotions, stress, and look towards the future when they will achieve great things.

Four students were recognized by administrators for accomplishments they have already achieved.

Carlos Alexander Guzman and Noelle Victoria Nelson were awarded the Vineyarder Award by Mr. Nixon.

Mr. Guzman’s family came to the Vineyard from El Salvador. During his sophomore year, Mr. Guzman switched from English as a second language classes to mainstream classes. Mr. Guzman will be studying culinary arts in the fall.

Mr. Nixon described Ms. Nelson as a caring individual who has been strong even during her brother’s hospital treatments. She will be studying fine art at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design next semester.

Mr. Nixon awarded the principal’s Leadership Award to “One of the nicest young men I have ever had the pleasure to know,” Antone “Tony” Lima, a graduate who spends his time studying, working, and volunteering. He will attend the University of New Hampshire next semester.

The Superintendent’s Outstanding Student Award was given to valedictorian William Bruce Stewart, a student who was described as “a pleasure to have in class,” by Mr. Weiss. “Academically he is a top student who continually strives for perfection.” In the fall, Mr. Stewart will be attending Harvard University to study engineering and business.

Mr. Stewart began his speech by thanking “all the teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians, and other faculty members who have made today possible. Your dedication and professionalism had an impact on all of us.”

He and many of his classmates will attend college in the fall, an opportunity to reinvent their identities, Mr. Stewart said. “Today, we’re all turning the page. Each one of us is leaving a familiar predictable cocoon and entering an unknown realm. At times, we may need to step out of our comfort zones, but keep in mind that to get the fruit you have to go out on a limb.”

Additionally, Mr. Stewart asked his classmates to “stay true to your Island roots.”

Some graduates shared stories of their first day in high school. “I remember being a freshman and worried about being shoved into lockers,” said Amalie Tinus, who served as master of ceremony. “Ironically, I can still fit in them.”

Others thanked the school for teaching them more than what is tested on standardized exams. “At very few other public high schools will you get the depth of courses offered in arts, in business, in vocation and in technology,” said Riley Donegan, the event’s salutatorian. “This educational community has rejected the idea that these are less important than SAT test scores. It has allowed us to have a wide range of interests and a wide range of skills.”

After the 156 graduates shook hands with school administrators and were handed their diplomas, Mr. Nixon asked the group to move the tassels on their graduation caps from the right to the left, for they have graduated.

Amid cheers, the graduates switched their tassels and then threw their caps in the air.