No single word describes this class.
On Sunday at 1:30 p.m., the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School 2007 graduates will march down the aisles of the historic Oak Bluffs Tabernacle wearing caps and gowns in purple and white. The athletes will walk alongside the actors; the musicians will march side by side with fellow student government leaders. If there had to be just one word to describe the group, it would be well-rounded.
"This is a really great class," said class advisor John Fiorito. "It's an athletic group, an artsy group. Top to bottom, they're very competitive."
The 197 seniors who will join the ranks of high school alumni this weekend have earned their share of well-rounded accolades. Some were members of the boys' varsity soccer team that qualified for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Assocation state tournament and won the first South Coast regular season championship title for the school. Others were part of the only football team in high school history to beat Nantucket four years in a row at the Cup. A competition theatre piece, Boxes, was a semi-finalist in the Massachusetts Drama Guild competition and two seniors received acting awards for their participation. The school newspaper tied for first place in the All-New England category of the New England Scholastic Press Association's annual competition with seven members of the staff, including five seniors, receiving individual awards.
But they have done more than win awards. "They're outgoing and fun to work with," said Michael McCarthy, director of guidance at the high school. "They're nice kids that really care about each other," he added.
The class demonstrated its capacity for caring this year by helping to start a peer outreach program that trained 48 high school students to mentor their peers on issues ranging from substance abuse to suicide to anxiety. "The seniors were really leaders in that program," Mr. McCarthy said.
The class continued efforts started last year to better understand race and cultural differences at the high school. Seniors helped to run a second annual race and culture retreat and facilitated an event for 40 staff members as a part of their professional development program.
Two seniors piloted a senior project program that Principal Margaret (Peg) Regan predicts will be contagious in future years. "Being part of this class has really motivated me," said graduating senior Matthew Scott, the first high school student to ever receive a Gates Millennium Scholarship. "They are real go-getters."
Tonight the weekend of graduation events kicks off with Class Night, when seniors will gather at the Tabernacle to receive awards and scholarships. Last year, the school broke previous records by granting a total of $800,000 in scholarships to graduates and alumni of the high school. This year, the number has climbed to $920,000. Roughly 66 per cent of this year's class plans to enroll in four-year colleges. Ten per cent will go to two-year colleges and 16 per cent will enter the work force.
Mr. McCarthy said a large percentage of those who will work next year will be starting in fields for which they have trained at the high school, either through participation in work study programs or vocational programs. A number of students are taking time to travel or do volunteer work before going on to college. One is taking the year to go to soccer school, while another will work on farms in South America. One graduate will enter the United States Marine Corps.
"They've had amazing travel experiences and have done exploring," Mr. Fiorito said of the class. "They are now taking that to the next level."
Mrs. Regan described a vivacious and exciting graduating class. She praised the sense of belonging that they have brought to the school. "It's a real teamwork class," she said amid the hustle and bustle of a week filled with graduation rehearsals, preparing for Class Night and keeping track of seniors. She said seniors this year did a lot to pump up school spirit. They held a Freshmen Cup, a tug of war and decorated the halls. "There is a more student-centered social climate as a result of what they've done," Mrs. Regan said.
Graduation begins at 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Student speakers include valedictorian Samantha Rabin, salutatorian Alida Dean, class essayist Ruby Hoy and student council president Marguerite Cogliano. Tiffany Smalley, ranked eighth in the class, is master of ceremonies. Assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Dr. Margaret Harris will address the class.
"There is a great joie de vivre that they maintain," concluded Mrs. Regan. Senior class president Jackie Panek echoed her remarks. "We're all very unique," she said, "but we all kind of come together."