An informal ceremony in the student parking lot of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School recognized the hard work and dedication of a number of Islanders graduating from Cape Cod Community College.
For many graduates this year, the highly anticipated walk across the stage while the brassy tones of “Pomp and Circumstance” ring in the background was not possible. But these grads still wanted to have a celebration where they could congratulate themselves and one another on a job well done.
The five graduates in attendance stood six feet away from each other in a large circle, each sporting face coverings, and spoke words of encouragement and praise for each other.
After each grad spoke, they individually grabbed a yard sign, an unofficial diploma, a small pot of bright purple flowers, and a drink to toast with at the end.
Vineyard outreach coordinator for Cape Cod Community College Deborah Maher said one of the graduates, Jillian Greeley, was disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to experience a conventional ceremony, but wanted to do something special with her classmates.
In front of the high school, Greeley congratulated her fellow alumni on getting through what was a challenging yet enjoyable experience. Because traveling from the Island to Cape Cod Community College requires a relatively lengthy commute on the boat, Greeley said she knows how costly and exhausting it can be.
But she also said how rewarding it was to get her degree, especially because she is the first in her family to graduate.
At age 35, Greeley graduated with her associate’s degree in criminal justice, and plans to continue her education at UMass Dartmouth.
“After not having been in any kind of school setting for 17 years, getting going was tough, but I stuck with it, and here I am, a proud recipient of an associate of science with a foot in the door to several opportunities,” Greeley said.
Another graduate, Lea Kaeka of Edgartown, graduated with a degree in early childhood education. Kaeka said that Cape Cod Community College was affordable, and the educational experience was invaluable.
Kaeka has worked with children at the Marguerite E. Small Elementary School in Yarmouth, and at the Scargo Preschool in Dennis. Currently, Kaeka is a front desk associate at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and hopes to start substitute teaching at schools at some point in the near future.
Yolanda Tucker, a 51-year-old Cape Cod Community College graduate who received a degree in English, said she started college when she was 18, and after 33 years, she is proud and excited to have achieved this great accomplishment. “I had an incredible time there at the school,” Tucker said. “Everyone was welcoming, friendly, and warm from the start.”
Tucker said the commute to the campus was a big hurdle for her to jump, along with getting out of her comfort zone and catching up with the technological aspect of education.
While Tucker was receiving her education, she became a tutor, which she said was very rewarding. “I wish I was still there,” she said. “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
Liberal arts graduate Devon Teves of Oak Bluffs said he has lived on Martha’s Vineyard his whole life, and decided to attend Cape Cod Community College because it was close to home. Teves said he greatly enjoyed his time at the Barnstable school, and will miss all his professors and classmates.
Initially, Teves wanted to earn a degree in horticulture, but after seeing the wide range of class options available, he shifted course toward a liberal arts degree. “My time at 4Cs was very special, and I will miss everyone who helped me along the way,” Teves said.
Janaina da Silva of Vineyard Haven graduated with a nursing degree, and said that although it was challenging waking up at the crack of dawn to catch the boat four days out of the week, she was determined to reach her goal. Da Silva moved to the Island when she was 12 with her father, and was accepted into the Cape Cod Community College nursing program in 2018.
“I am grateful for my husband, Francismar Dias, and my children, Kaua and Mayssa, for supporting me through nursing school and never letting me give up, and also for my friends that were always helping me when I needed it,” Da Silva said. “I would not be able to do this without an amazing support team.”