Family and friends filled the outfield of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks baseball field and proudly watched the students as they took their seats in the infield one last time as seniors. Eyes filled with tears of happiness and wide smiles covered their faces as everyone came together to celebrate the day.
During his speech, salutatorian Peter Gillis expressed the difficulties he and his classmates felt during the past year, such as online Zoom classes, missing friends, and other COVID-related adversities. To him and his classmates, this year was their senior year, a year that they would never get the chance to relive. Together they were able to push through that pain and further the strength of their bonds. “I do not know if all of you feel the same way that I do, but that first day back in school in April, with everyone present, was the best day of my school year. Being able to see all of my friends in the hallways, watching sporting events, and being in a full classroom was cathartic,” Gillis happily shared with the crowd.
The feeling of the Island community was strong enough to forget about the blazing heat throughout the afternoon. The theme of reunion was apparent, whether it was through friends seeing each other for the first time in a long time, or the students still reconnecting from returning to in-person classes a few weeks prior.
“Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been fortunate enough to be reunited with our friends new and old from our grade. Even though the pandemic took a lot away from our class, the past month has proved to us that distance truly does make the heart grow fonder, even if it’s only six feet apart,” guest speaker Mia Jeffers said to her classmates.
The tribute to the senior class was spoken by Principal Sara Dingledy, and was followed by the presentation of diplomas by the chairman and vice chairman of the school committee, Kimberly Kirk and Amy Houghton. The students made their line and crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, while their parents and teachers, who’ve watched these seniors grow up, applauded and cheered them on. Once the students returned to their seats, they turned their tassels to the left and launched their caps into the air.
“With this newfound freedom, I hope that we let the thinking and learning that we have been doing in our extraordinary community make us braver on behalf of other people. Always asking ourselves, Who is not at the table? Not in the room? Not in this field? And excluded from necessary conversations. We must always dream and create change for a better and more just world,” Maria Lacerda, master of ceremonies, said. “So what’s next? I’m so excited to see how you are all going to change, and how you’ll improve our world for the better.”
With his head held high, Valedictorian Eric Reubens offered his classmates his own words for the future: “Essentially, I believe that our individual happiness and fulfillment are reached from within, through our desire to fulfill our dreams and build our legacies, so as you go out into the world, move into the direction that your gravity is pulling you, anything in the right direction, and that is how I believe we will all wind up in the right place.”