Solemn ceremony and joyous celebration for class of 2010


A few scarves fluttered in the breeze without a flap, clouds, no doubt lined in purple and white held back their rain, and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s fifty-first commencement exercises for the class of 2010 took place Sunday with a mix of solemn ceremony and joyous celebration.

“I thought Sunday’s graduation was perfect,” superintendent of schools James Weiss said in a phone call with The Times Tuesday. “The speeches were great, the kids were great, it was a good crowd, and the weather held off. You can’t ask for better than that.”

Male students dressed in purple gowns and female students in white lined up separately along the side of the Tabernacle at the Campgrounds in Oak Bluffs before the ceremony began. Although a few spots remained in the areas reserved for ticket-holders, the Tabernacle, which can seat 1,800 to 2,000, was filled to capacity. Additional spectators stood or sat in chairs they brought with them along the Tabernacle’s sidelines and at back.

Led by processional marshals Alicia Oliveira and Randall Jette, the graduating class of 167 students merged at the center aisle and marched to their seats two by two as the student band played “Pomp and Circumstance” under the direction of music teacher Michael Tinus.

In the master of ceremony’s opening remarks, Max Conley told the audience he would like them to remember the class of 2010 for all the little, everyday things that made it unique.

Student speakers that followed, including salutatorian Tessa Permar, class essayist Hayley Pierce, and student council president Brianna Davies, filled in the details.

And as Ms. Pierce pointed out, some of the unique aspects of Island living may best be forgotten. “Although next year holds a lot of unsure obstacles for us, there is one we will all be glad to get rid of: the boat,” she said, drawing a laugh from the audience.

Valedictorian Shaelah Huntington challenged her classmates to hold onto the individualism they developed at the high school, and also to branch out and try something new.

“As we all move forward with our lives, remember who we were and weave it into who are becoming,” Ms. Huntington said. “This Island, and our lives here, will always be a part of us.”

Ms. Huntington also received the superintendent’s outstanding student award. In addition to her academic achievements as the top-ranked senior, Mr. Weiss noted her participation on the school soccer team and in the Safe Rides program, Big Brothers/Sisters program, and Barton Center for Diabetes Education.

“I’m told that she clearly defines her desire to make a difference in the lives of others and will be a freshman at Connecticut College,” Mr. Weiss said.

Three other students also received special awards. Mr. Nixon presented the Principal’s Award to Michael Kendall, who he said exemplifies the National Honor Society’s qualities of scholastic achievement, character, leadership, and involvement in school activities and community service. “Basically, this young man has done it all,” Mr. Nixon concluded.

Caitlyn Clark and Marcus Hopkins were selected for the Vineyarder Award.

Mr. Nixon noted that Ms. Clark earned an internship at the Martha’s Vineyard Times, “our highly respected local newspaper,” which resulted in The Times hiring her as a freelance writer her senior year.

“This young lady is the reason that we all have faith that the four years of high school are valuable for more than just a GPA and rank but an opportunity for hope and transformation,” Mr. Nixon said.

Turning to Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Nixon commended his leadership in sports, the Young Brothers to Men Club, and Race Culture Retreats, his volunteer work as a Big Brother, and his hard work academically to overcome learning challenges.

“He is compassionate, insightful, caring, and has also been a positive influence throughout the building,” Mr. Nixon said.

In addition to the graduating seniors, Mr. Nixon noted that five of the school’s “beloved teachers” also have reached an important milestone. Quinton Bannister, Craig Dripps, Jim Kresel, Anne Lemenager, and Margaret Stafursky are retiring, after 124 years of dedicated service between them.

The ceremony also included several speeches. In Mr. Weiss’s remarks, he recommended that students read the book, “Heroes for my Son,” by Brad Meltzer, one of his favorite authors. From 52 heroes featured in the book, Mr. Weiss chose 3 as examples of valuable lessons: The Wright Brothers for not giving up, Harriet Tubman for doing right no matter what the risk, and Roberto Clemente for doing something to make life better for other people.

“I trust that you will also find your own heroes as you go through life — the famous, the little known, and even those close to you,” Mr. Weiss said. “I also believe that in years to come, there will be people who view your life in the same way as something to emulate, to learn from and to carry on.”

Prodding students’ memories back to childhood and lessons learned while watching “Sesame Street,” Mr. Nixon began his remarks with the announcement, “Today is brought to you by the letter G.”

Although he touched briefly on the topics of graduation and goals, Mr. Nixon said the lesson he wished students would take from his message was about “respecting the difference between getting and giving.”

“What of this great gift — beauty and tranquility, community and identity — can you pass on?” he asked.

Priscilla Sylvia, vice chairman of the regional high school district school committee, presented the diplomas, while assistant principal Neal Weaver read off the students’ names.

The graduation program also featured some musical highlights. Chelsea Counsell, Katie Mayhew, and Meghan Pettit performed the song, “When You Believe” composed by Stephen Schwartz. The high school’s combined choruses sang, “You Are the New Day” by Peter Knight.

At 2:44 pm Mr. Nixon instructed the graduates to signify their new status by moving their tassels to the other side of their caps. With that, the class of 2010 exited to a well-chosen song titled, “Send Me on My Way” by Rusted Root.