Updated Wednesday June 7
Under a white high-top canopy and with a billowing breeze, Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School hosted its largest class in 17 years of graduations. Fourteen teens received their diplomas on Sunday at the school.
Dressed in white and blue, in traditional garlands of purple flowers, the graduates streamed out of the year-old Vernon Jordan Science Center to the strains of the Beatles, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and settled in to hear words of celebration, encouragement to pursue their passions, and recognition for a job well done. And in true Charter style, the ceremony was circular in words and deeds; from school to graduates and graduates to school, it was an emotional and joyous celebration of the success of the Charter School and its community.
Anyone who has had the fortune of listening to Director Bob Moore’s speeches over the years will know it’s hard not to shed a tear or laugh with enlightenment, hope, and happiness for these kids. He inspires, he recognizes the students’ abilities, strengths, asks those gathered to work hard for themselves and their community, and while he is speaking to the kids, parents are learning too. His leadership is solid and encouraging.
This year Mr. Moore opened with the words of Pope Francis, “The future is made up of encounters — life flows through our relations with others.”
“We highly value relationships at the Charter School,” Mr. Moore said. “Student to student, and student to adult, and adult to adult relations are important. We have worked with each of you, and provided guidance so you can stand tall with confidence as you walk on to your next undertaking and adventure. We feel we have been successful in this pursuit because of our sincere belief that trusting, caring, and supportive relationships build confidence.”
In addition to thanking the community for its support of the graduates, Mr. Moore specifically cited the charter school’s founder and guidance counselor, Claudia Ewing, for her hard work. This is Ms. Ewing’s final year at the school. Mr. Moore brought the crowd to a standing ovation saying that Ms. Ewing “is and always will be the heart and soul of the Charter School.”
As a K-12 public school, the graduates are known and admired by all of the younger students. Part of the unique program of a Charter School graduation is the presentation by the younger students of personalized gifts for each graduate. One by one, each of the classes came to the stage with their teachers to present a personalized gift for their chosen graduate, including songs and poems, pictures, compasses to find their way, artistic creations, movies, care packages, peacock feathers, iced tea, chessboards, and a Harry Potter wand.
More than $18,000 in scholarships were presented, including awards from the Permanent Endowment, Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, Cottagers, and Martha’s Vineyard Art Association, which awarded Avery Minor a scholarship that included a spot in a group show this summer at the Old Sculpin Gallery. All graduates received a $500 scholarship from Options to Education, the fundraising arm of the school.
Dr. James Weiss awarded Isabella Morais a scholarship from MV Youth to cover the entire cost of her upcoming four years at Wesleyan University.
High school English teacher Sarah Smith gave each student an award that summarized the character and uniqueness of the graduate, such as a “May the Force Be with You Award” to Daniel Ketterer, who will pursue his passion to become a film director.
Graduates Isabella Morais, Carlos Mullen, and Lucy Thompson all spoke about the power of relationships made day by day during their school years, overcoming challenges, and the support they received from teachers and the community through mentorships and through kind words.
Avery Miner in his speech stated, “In this moment I feel the great sense of pride that comes from being a part of this community … Having the room to grow and show you all who I am and what I have to offer to this community and the world ahead of me truly is the greatest gift I have received in this life.”
In an emotional speech, Carlos Mullen told of his mentorship with West Tisbury Police Officer Bradley Cortez (who stood with him at the podium), his volunteer work at Windemere, and his beloved dog-grooming work-study. At the end of his speech, Carlos gave great thanks to Mr. Moore: “The Charter School has brought me a long, long way.”
Yolani Doddy spoke through song, and played the ukulele. She sang in Marshallese, her native language, a song she wrote about friends, family bonds, and growing up.
Avery Miner and Clancy Conlin presented a bench the graduates had artistically decorated together for the school, and encouraged younger students to add to their design work in the coming years.
In her commencement address, math teacher Deborah Cutrer poetically spoke about the teens’ journey from kindergarten to graduation, noting, “They came to us as a rising tide.” She weaved humor with the profound as she praised them on their resolve and kindness, and gave words of wisdom: “Laugh, laugh, and laugh again,” she said; “celebrate your wonder, treasure the unexpected.”
Diplomas were presented by Mr. Moore and board president Marc Favreau. And just before the sunshine diminished, the class of 2017 brought the crowd of parents, faculty, and students to a standing ovation for a shining finish on a job well done.
At the end of graduation, one grandparent who had never been to the school before said, “I came today without knowing any of these kids, but I feel that I now know them all like friends. They are an impressive bunch of kids.”
On their way
Clancy Conlin: Hampshire College
Yolani Doddy: Anna Maria College
Isabelle Dupon: gap year, working in the community
Mateo Garcia: Hampshire College
Galen Harper: Johnson State College
Daniel Ketterer: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Chloe Loftfield: University of Massachusetts, Boston
Grace Meyers: Keene State
Avery Miner: Massachusetts College of Art and Design
Isabella Morais: Wesleyan University
Jared Rivard: gap year, hiking and adventure/nature
Carlos Mullen: working in the community
Ryan Scherer: Hampshire College
Lucy Thompson: Warren Wilson College