At 2:55 Sunday afternoon, 177 members of the senior class at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) were declared graduates by Principal Sara Dingledy.
The new graduates hurled their mortarboards skyward, then moved from the shelter of the Tabernacle in the Oak Bluffs Campground and from the shelter of a community constantly committed to their well-being into a new, larger world that offers endless and more curious dimensions by the day.
Bob and Donna Enos of Chappaquiddick were there to watch daughter Lucy Rose Enos graduate. Her brother Caleb graduated in 2015, and now the nest is empty. Ms. Enos’ voice trembled as she talked about the rite of passage, and veteran boatman Mr. Enos seemed to have something in his eye as we talked.
“Between the tears, it’s all good. It just takes a little getting used to,” Ms. Enos said.
For Oak Bluffs reserve Police Officer Mike Cutrero, the scene underscored the speed of life. “Four years ago, I was in there,” the 2013 MVRHS grad said, gesturing to the seated seniors. “Last month I graduated from Nicholls College, and now I am here.”
Mr. Cutrero was one of several officers at the Tabernacle for the ceremony. “To come back and see these kids is definitely a maturity moment,” he said.
Inside the Tabernacle, it was about the moment as well. The graduates were buoyed by the advice of fellow students and mentors.
Master of ceremonies Ben Nadelstein offered the first and the most whimsical advice on how to plan for success.
Mr. Nadelstein drew upon his personal experience as an MVRHS freshman cross-country candidate for his encomium. He noted that runners are paired for the 3.1-mile run through the 5,215-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest that abuts the high school.
“I was paired with a guy recovering from a sprained ankle. Shortly after we began, he told me I was slowing him down. He gave me directions and took off,” Mr. Nadelstein said with a self-deprecating tone.
Soon, Mr. Nadelstein was hopelessly lost, and his wandering brought him to the sound of traffic. Emerging onto a road, he flagged a passing van and hitched a ride to the high school, where he encountered his partner, and the pair finished the course in tandem as if nothing untoward had happened.
The moral of the story, Mr. Nadelstein said, was, “You will get lost. Never panic … and don’t be afraid to improvise,” to howls of appreciative laughter from a packed Tabernacle audience.
Salutatorian Lily Davey encouraged her classmates to learn from all people.”Intelligence can’t be measured in a GPA, or an SAT score … We can’t measure it because it exists in different ways.
“Every single person here can learn something from every single person around them, because intelligence is not a relative thing. It doesn’t vary in degree, it just varies in type,” she said.
“Interact with everyone you can. Don’t close yourself off to learning something because you think you’re above or below somebody else. Talk to people; learn from everyone you can, because everybody has something to offer. Figure out what it is that you have to offer others, and give it to them,” she said.
The process “may not change what you think, but it will certainly change how you think it,” she said.
Class essayist Paulo Pereira Filho emigrated to the U.S. as a 3-year-old. Noting that the experience of two cultures has been a boon to his growth, Mr. Filho quoted young actor Julian Huguet: “You’re going to have failures, but in the same way you’re going to have success. Just remember that all of it is temporary. Nothing terrible lasts forever, so hang in there. And nothing worthwhile is permanent, so hang on to it.”
Mr. Filho closed with the words of author H. Jackson Brown Jr.: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.”
Student Council president Danielle Hopkins said, “I want us to feel proud of all the ways we have served the community that is celebrating us today. As a class, we have walked to end hunger, given senior citizens a prom, raised money to end cancer, raked leaves for those who couldn’t, disposed of electronics in safe ways, volunteered at the MV Marathon, shoveled driveways for the elderly, participated in the Special Olympics, mentored and tutored at the Boys and Girls Club, and worked to preserve our Island home with beach cleanups and fundraisers. We have been ambassadors and representatives of Martha’s Vineyard in India, Jordan, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Japan, Spain, and Italy. I want us to feel proud that the school we’re leaving behind will be better than the one we entered.”
Ms. Hopkins closed with a quote from Maya Angelou about what little things say about character: “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
Valedictorian Whitney Schroeder, who had earlier received the Superintendent’s Outstanding Student Award, said, “Class of 2017, I’d like to pose to you the same question many of us were asked on our first day of freshman year: Does the world shape us, or do we shape the world? As freshmen, we may have not been able to consider this question as deeply as we can now. As we sit here ready to graduate, I ask you to please reconsider it. Some people may be thinking that the answer is obvious — since the world is more powerful, it must be shaping us, but this is not necessarily true.
“We all have the power to choose how we perceive certain situations. It is not easy to draw on this power, but if we are open-minded, curious, and willing to embrace new ideas, our paths will slowly but surely unfold before us,” Ms. Schroeder said. “We must ask questions and seek their answers with diligence.”
The ceremony included presentations of the Vineyarder Awards and Principal’s Leadership Award. Allison Daigle and David Webster received the Vineyarder Awards for their community work, and Dylan Araujo received the Principal’s Leadership Award.
Congratulations to all of our Martha’s Vineyard class of 2017 graduates; we wish you the best of luck!