Oh, the places they’ll go

Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School celebrates the classes of 2020 and 2021. 


On Saturday, Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School held the graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 and the class of 2021. The class of 2020 already received their diplomas, but COVID-19 prevented them from having a proper graduation ceremony. The event happened under a tent on the school grounds. 

Director Peter Steedman kicked off the ceremony with a speech about the school. Steedman said 2021 marks the 25th year the school has been in operation. Steedman said, “Starting a charter school in West Tisbury was a bold experiment; some people might even call it foolhardy.” During his tenure, Steedman saw a world that recognized the unique contributions of each individual while “maintaining the pillars that kept our community strong.” 

Steedman welcomed the students to be celebrated. “We are here to recognize you, because those original founders hoped that the school would produce graduates like you: creative, independent, with a deep commitment to social and environmental justice. You are proof that this bold experiment worked as designed.” 

The class of 2020 walked in to the tune of “Beetlejuice: Main Title” by Danny Elfman, while the class of 2021 walked in with “Groove Is in the Heart” by Deee-lite playing in the background. The audience clapped and cheered as the students made their procession. The class of 2020 totaled four students: Ethan Aubrey Taylor, Finn Cole, Kathryn Cuthbert, and Matt Gonsalves. The class of 2021 totaled five students: Oliver Danielson, Max Dankert, Kylie Fauteux, Hannah Hagen, and Treyman Meyers.

Sarah Smith, school advisor, led the giving of the school gifts to the graduates. In tote bags with a sheep image were chocolate, cards requesting the students to register to vote, and a copy of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. 

The students also received gifts designed for them as individuals. In these packages were certificates with their award name, such as the “Shine On” award for Finn because the staff wanted him “to remember he can do anything he puts his mind to,” and books, such as “Horses in Translation” by Sharon Wilsie for Kathryn, because of her love of horses. Both relate to the student’s interests and experiences. Smith told stories about each student that showed them as individuals to accompany the gifts. 

The class of 2020 and 2021 collectively presented a gift to the school: a blue flag with a shooting star and six white pillars. The pillars resemble the six pillars of MVPCS: Trust, responsibility, respect, democracy, freedom, and cooperation. 

Some of the students were presented with scholarships during the event. Anne Williamson, board chair of the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation, awarded the $3,400 of the Anne Medeiros Kent Scholarship Fund to Max, and the $2,000 Grace McDonald Art Award to Hannah. Williamson hopes the scholarship recipients keep in touch with the foundation. 

Kent Vincent, representing the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association, awarded the $1,800 MVAA Scholarship to Max. Additionally, an exhibition of Max’s artwork will be shown at the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown from June 12 to 18, with a reception on June 17. 

Smith, representing MVYouth in place of director Lindsey Scott, awarded Hannah a backpack with a $1,000 gift certificate for college bookstores. 

The Oak Bluffs Fire Department awarded a last-minute scholarship to Max of an unknown sum.

Jonathan Chatinover, vice president of Options in Education, awarded the Claudia Ewing Continuing Education Scholarship to each graduate from the classes of 2020 and 2021. 

The commencement addresses were delivered by retired educator Debora Cutrer and science teacher Jane Paquet. Cutrer was originally planned to be the commencement speaker for 2020. Cutrer and Paquet reflected on the passions and artistic flair exhibited by the students. “By sharing your own creative works, teaching, and musically collaborating with younger students, you reinforced the passions and efforts of our younger community members,” said Cutrer. They shared the stories of each student and the way they explored themselves. Cutrer and Paquet also did a skit to go along with the commencement address. 

The Graduates’ Address was presented by Hannah. “Look at us. It still doesn’t seem quite real yet,” said Hannah. “It’s hard to imagine I’ve been attending this school for 13 years.” Hannah went into the unexpected hardships and lost experiences because of COVID, giving thanks to the school and others in her life for how they developed, and the joys of graduating. 

“I also need to thank my dad for how much of a trooper he’s been. It’s no easy task to take care of two children on your own, yet he continued to love me and my brother unconditionally and supported us every day,” said Hannah. With a shaky voice, Hannah also spoke of her mother, who passed away from melanoma when Hannah was very young. 

Steedman and Steve Nierenberg, president of the MVPCS board of trustees, conferred diplomas on the students. 

There were other goodbyes besides the students’. Operations administrator Marie Larsen and business manager Felicia Cheney are retiring this year. Nierenberg is stepping down this year. Board member Toni Kauffman will be replacing him as president. 

The event concluded with a recessional of the students to another round of “Groove Is in the Heart.” Applause erupted from the audience.