Every year, the cumulative scholarship amount awarded to graduating students of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) outdoes the previous year. Friday night, students were gifted with 731 scholarships totaling over $2.5 million — breaking last year’s record by half a million.
The happy façades of the houses surrounding the Tabernacle matched the smiling faces of the proud students. The event was saturated with emotions and nostalgia, and members of the class of 2019 squirmed in their seats as their graduation day approached.
The scholarship sources ran the gamut: prominent Island organizations like the M.V. Agricultural Society, national groups like the NAACP, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, local businesses and municipal departments, parents of former MVRHS graduates, arts societies, sports teams, and much more. All of these awards went to students attending every kind of higher education, from research universities to liberal arts colleges to technical trade schools.
The joy in the air was tangible from the big whoops and nickname-calling from the audience. Even after 3½ hours, the loud applause never dimmed.
Students selected for awards were chosen based on a diverse set of criteria: creativity, mastery of a skill, strength, and peacemaking ability, among them. The grads of tomorrow received a range of symbolic gifts — red roses, new backpacks, and iPads from MVYouth.
Jill Woollacott, Jake Sequoia Baird’s grandmother, awarded the first memorial scholarship in his name, and there was not a dry eye in the audience.
Phil Regan, principal at Hutker Architects and father of a graduate, had some comforting words for the senior class, “Thirtysome years ago, I was sitting here, and I came up empty,” he said with a shrug, “and I made it through, so don’t worry.”
While celebration was the main theme of the night, the secondary theme was gratitude, directed toward family, teachers, school administrators, and the Island itself. Special attention was given to guidance counselors Mary MacDonald and Bonnie Tilton, who have organized the event for many years, and are retiring this year.
A quote read aloud from the winning essay by senior Josue Dos Santos for the D. Best Construction scholarship aptly summed up the night: “Success is having more than you need so you can help others.”
The list of winners is published in the graduation supplement in The Times.