Connecting through community

Junior Opal Wortmann paints the Art Club community mural in the front hallway at MVRHS. —Lizzie Dourian

By Willa Vigneault and Curtis Fisher

Seven-hundred is a daunting number of students that can make Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) feel unfamiliar at times. However, many MVRHS students have made that number feel smaller by building and finding smaller communities within the school made up of peers who share common interests.

Long class periods coupled with a twenty-minute lunch break often makes it hard for students to create new friendships during school hours, so many students look to after-school activities to gain a deeper sense of community engagement.

Sports naturally offer an opportunity to meet new people. Freshman Vito Aiello said, “Team dinners, practices, and meets are all great ways to meet new people in the school, and because of them I’ve found a community within MVRHS.”

The thirty-one clubs at MVRHS offer after-school opportunities for students to interact in a community environment while simultaneously pursuing their interests. Senior Daniel Gaines said, “Chess Club has been a great way for me to meet people who are interested in the same things as me.”

Clubs are also a great opportunity to participate in community activities and community outreach programs. Many of the school clubs, including the Interact club and MVironment, work to interact with and improve the island community outside of MVRHS. Senior Brahmin Thurber-Carbone said, “I like to put myself in engaging environments where I can meet new people and do things that I’m interested in. MVironment has been a great opportunity for me to meet new people both in the school and in the larger community.”

In addition to extra-curricular opportunities, the high school has an incredible selection of course offerings that allow students to explore interests during school hours beyond the core subjects. “Elective classes, such as Intro to Business or Band, are where I’ve found the greatest sense of community, because you’re choosing what you’re into and that’s when you find like-minded people,” said freshman Wilson Riley.

“I’ve met a lot of my closest friends because we were in the same electives,” said junior Jackie Freire. “These classes are what have allowed me to truly gain a sense of community at MVRHS.”

Highlighting the role that classroom dynamics play in fostering connections between students, freshman Cesca Robinson said, “Something I like about the high school is that some teachers give us a 5-minute break in the middle of the 85-minute class block to talk to our friends and build greater connections with our peers.”

The school is working to create a greater sense of community through a schedule change that will allow students a 40-minute enrichment block in the middle of the day. Principal Sara Dingledy said, “This enrichment period could be an opportunity for students to do club meetings and other community building activities during school hours. Many other schools have implemented periods such as this and numbers show a general increase in students’ academic performance.”

The Performing Arts Department is notorious for utilizing community building activities in the classroom. Senior Benjamin Nadelstein said, “Singing and being a part of the theater has introduced me to so many people who I now consider family.”