At the 2018 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduation ceremony Sunday at the Tabernacle, the word “commencement” written on the hundreds of purple and white programs did not signify an end, but a new beginning.
“But the best is yet to come,” said class valedictorian Rose Engler. “Equipped with the past and engrossed in the present, you can shape your future. Today is the first day of the rest of your lives. Don’t miss it.”
Rose first asked the crowd to take a moment of silence in recognition of Jake Sequoia Baird. “Jake died at 18, but he will continue to run through each and every one of us,” she said.
Rose told a story of a “long run” she took that made her realize an important lesson about not being afraid to trip and fall. She encouraged her fellow students, along with everyone in the Tabernacle, “Stop. Blink. Look up,” if they ever find themselves looking at the ground on the perpetual run of life. “I blinked, opening my world to a thick canopy of evergreens and hundreds of purple wildflowers licking the edges of the winding trail. I was looking up. At last. Suddenly I realized that in my obsession to avoid falling, I had never really gotten off the ground.”
Rose told her fellow students to be confident, have faith, and take time to smell the purple wildflowers.
Tennis champion and class essayist Lizzie Williamson addressed her peers, emphasizing the diverse mix of talents, personalities, and ambitions that make up the class of 2018.
“Today is not about final bows for a great show, today is about the curtain rising for an encore. Our individual personalities, abilities, and passions make up a class of 144 entrepreneurs, scholars, and artists who will share their gifts on the Island, the mainland, and beyond.”
She spoke about the value and beauty of science, art, athletics, writing, and “gasping for breath while hysterically laughing with friends.”
For the students, the day was a time to reflect on fond memories, come to terms with a lot of “lasts,” and be thankful for the many special and impactful moments that brought them to this point.
It was also a time to mourn those who had their chance to graduate taken from them — those like Jake, whose diploma was presented to his sisters because he could not be there to receive it.
“We have learned, laughed, loved, gotten in trouble, and most of all, matured together,” said salutatorian Garrett Zeilinger. “We stand here today on the edge of the future. It’s not a distant reality anymore. It begins here. It begins today.”
After walking across the stage and moving their tassels to the left of their mortarboards, the graduates will continue on to make their own impact on society using the tools provided by devoted faculty, teachers, friends, and family members.
For graduate Cory Medeiros, finishing high school means continuing his educational career at Dean College, as well as his football career on the fields of Dean as a Bulldog. Cory spoke with an air of confidence and assuredness. “I am going into criminal justice; I want to be a police officer,” he said. His road toward serving and protecting in the future has also been partially paved here on the Island. “I worked as a traffic officer during the summer. I’m excited to be in the real world, even though I love the Island community.”
Another graduate, Alex Vasiliadis, plans on starting his college career just a boat ride and a short drive away at Cape Cod Community College. After completing two years at community college, he will head to Bridgewater to study exercise and nutrition.
Graduate Devon Teves will go on to study horticulture at Cape Cod Community College, and said he is excited to pursue his career path. His family members could hardly hold in their excitement and elation. “This is our second child graduating. We are so proud of them,” said beaming mother Esther Teves. “It was a beautiful day, and we are all so happy,” his father, John Teves, said.
The graduation had an emotional effect on more than just students and family. Oak Bluffs police officer and coach for the girls basketball team Jillian Sedlier said she will miss the girls out on the court. “They are a very special group,” she said.
Superintendent Matt D’Andrea told students to focus on who they are and who they are trying to become. “Happiness comes from remaining sincere to yourself,” he said. “Find satisfaction in the person you have become.”