MVRHS Class of 2024 graduates

The high school celebrates 160 seniors in the 65th commencement ceremony.

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The sounds of rain on the roof, “Pomp and Circumstance,” and loud applause mingled in the air as the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2024 proceeded down the center aisle of the Oak Bluffs Tabernacle. 

Every row was full, despite the weather, for the high school’s 65th commencement ceremony Sunday at 1:30 pm. 

Graduates in white gowns and caps with purple or gold tassels were surrounded by family, friends, and fellow Islanders to celebrate their accomplishments.

Michael Vincent Paciello, graduate and Master of Ceremony, began the event with a speech that was also translated into Portuguese by fellow student and guest speaker Rebecca Mandelli.

Paciello made use of his convenient initials and several other acronyms to describe the high school experience.

M is for memories, V is for victory, and P stands for perseverance, he said. 

He redubbed GPA to stand for “greatest pressure around,” SAT, which meant “stress and tears” but now as “a distant memory” means “success after trials.”

Mandelli followed Paciello and first spoke in Portuguese then English.

“So much has happened and we’ve grown so much,” Mandelli said.

This was the class that started high school remotely on Zoom, and no speaker excluded that from their remarks of how these past four years weren’t easy. 

“This is what awe feels like. I have an overwhelming sense of awe of growing up on the Vineyard,” she added “We’re so fortunate to live in a community that cares for us more than we care for ourselves. I’m leaving something I may not ever find again.”

The two salutatorians, Alexa Schroeder and Robert Moore, both emphasized the resilience of their classmates. 

Schroeder was proud that their community held tight to each other and was able to reconstruct itself in a year of profound loss, she said. 

Moore, who described the class as resilient, asked his classmates, many of whom will attend college, master trades on the Island, or travel the world for a year, to take the Vineyard’s values of compassion and acceptance to their new communities as ambassadors of the Island.

Lyla Solway was awarded the Superintendent’s Outstanding Student Award by Superintendent Dr. Richard M. Smith for her “quiet leadership,” drive, determination, and how she “conducted herself with the utmost integrity.”

Smith gave a speech to the senior class where he highlighted his gratitude for the entire class but more specifically commended the strength, poise, and content of graduate Walker Brescia’s speech at his father’s funeral services.

“Seeing all of our wonderful graduates, sitting in this beautiful venue, the Tabernacle, makes me feel gratitude for these young folk who have graced our lives with their presence, their kindness and care, and their inspiring actions,” Smith said.

Solway, as valedictorian, also addressed the class.

She first quoted Ricky Bobby from “Talladega Nights” when he said “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” But quickly said “You can be second, third, fourth, or last and still find success and fulfillment…Real success is about achieving your own goals and finding satisfaction in your progress.”

Solway concluded her speech with song lyrics from “Young & Crazy” by Frankie Ballard: “How am I ever gonna get to be old and wise? If I ain’t ever young and crazy?”

Special awards were also presented to four other students by the high school’s principal Sara Dingledy. Norah Prestley and Lillian Duarte received the Vineyarder Award as they embody the heart and hardworking spirit of the Island, Dingledy said. The Principal’s Leadership Award, which recognizes students with leadership skills that set them apart from the rest of their class, was bestowed on Emma Burt and Connor Graves.

Graves, student body vice president, raised a toast (with complimentary water bottles) to family and friends, both on and off the Island, and many of the high school’s faculty and staff.

“Guys, we did it, and I couldn’t be prouder of us. Without further ado, let’s drink,” he said.

Before the class was presented with their diplomas, Dingledy addressed the class once more and reiterated the magical community on the Island.

Thrown together by the choices of their parents and geography, the students are in charge of their destiny for the first time. “I hope you’ll stay connected to your Island home,” she said.

The Minnesingers sang “Capelinha de Melão,” a Brazilian folk song, and the MVRHS Choral Union treated the audience to “Homeward Bound” in between speeches.

By the time new graduates began to make their way across the podium, the rain let up. The sun started to break through the clouds after the Class of 2024 threw up their caps in bittersweet relief and made their way out of the Tabernacle to celebrate with family and friends.

The class song “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson played over the loudspeakers as they said goodbye to their high school careers.