Class of 2006 marches on

Three friends come together after the recessional. From left, Zoë Shanor, Randi Sylvia, and Ellen O'Donaghue. Photos by Ben Scott

By Eleni Collins - June 15, 2006

This year's Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduating class must be lucky. Their graduation fell on the first sunny day in the past week. With temperatures reaching 70 degrees, graduates basked in glory and in sunshine under a blue sky as their high school careers came to a close.

Since 1970, the regional high school has celebrated its graduation ceremony at the unique open-air venue of the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, and because of the structure, the weather can make or break the mood.

This year's Master of Ceremonies, Tony Cortez of Oak Bluffs, brought energy, humor, and light-heartedness to the event, emphasizing the celebratory feeling. In his opening speech, he referred to and congratulated several different high school groups of which he was a part: the Minnesingers, the football team, and the entire class of 204 graduates. His fellow classmates responded to his speeches with whistles and echoing applause.

All in all, the three class speakers told the class they are ready and are not intimidated by the changes that are about to occur in their lives, and advised their classmates to be open-minded as well. "By leaving our current comfort zones that may have kept us content for the last four years, we can make room for more comforts that will develop through future experiences," class Salutatorian Brielle Leonard said in her speech.

Friends and families watch the ceremony while getting some sun on the lawn around the Tabernacle.

It was a picturesque graduation day, with the sun shining into the dim tabernacle, and purple, yellow, and red beach balls occasionally volleying back and forth between the students. When announcing the winners of the Vineyarder awards, Principal Peg Regan jokingly thanked an individual graduate. "There are a lot of people who deserve the Vineyarder award, such as Anthony Sullo, for bringing the beach ball today."

The stage was decorated with purple and white, from flowers, to banners, to intertwined balloons. The tabernacle was packed full and enclosed with a perimeter of people circling the exterior. Families picnicked outside on blankets, awaiting the mob of graduates to exit the tabernacle, no longer high school students.

In special recognition of this year's retirees, Marge Harris, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Curriculum and former longtime history teacher named the six individuals who have just spent their last year as part of the high school staff. The retirees include Spanish teacher Lynn Ditchfield who spent 22 years at the school; Elizabeth MacLean, a veteran French teacher of 21 years; school nurse Joan Desautelle who leaves after 12 years; Spanish teacher Margaret McGrath, four years; and athletic director Glen Field. Ms. Harris also mentioned her connection with the graduating class: they were freshmen during her last year as a high school teacher, she said.

Looking back at her first days in high school, speaker Nicole Perry of Oak Bluffs, ranked fourth in the class, remembered her thoughts. "I can't wait to meet people from cool places like West Tisbury," she read from an old journal entry of hers. Laughter erupted, and she continued her speech with an anecdote from her friend Ross Willey, of Vineyard Haven. "I think hangman perfectly sums up what I learned in high school," she told her classmates. "Just as the game is no fun if you already know the word, life would be boring if you knew everything."