A Special Spirit Wins This Class Highest Praise


They're the largest class ever to graduate from the regional
high school. That's the first thing: 216 as compared with last
year's 158.

The sheer size of the class has caused a few logistical issues along
the way. Additional class sections were needed to accommodate demand.
Parking became problematic, as the 160 student spaces at the high school
were insufficient, forcing a bit of wrangling and an eventual spillover
into the teachers' lot. But in the end the benefits outweighed the
necessary adjustments. With size comes diversity, and members of the
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Class of 2002 displayed a
range of talents and interests that shaped and changed the school during
their four-year tenure.

That very diversity is what makes this group of seniors tough to pin
down. There are, however, some observations that arise again and again,
no matter whom you talk to: They're a selfless group with great
community spirit, who've stepped up to fill and excel in key
leadership positions.

"They've been a really wonderful, congenial class, with
a positive attitude. And they've been this way all the way
through," said principal Margaret (Peg) Regan. She pointed to the
MCAS tests, but not as an example of their academic success (though
their scores did lead to the school's being ranked among the 20
most improved schools in Massachusetts that year). What most impressed
Mrs. Regan was the students' approach to the test, which they took
in sophomore year during the grace period when MCAS was administered
without current scoring requirements for graduation.

"They cracked the test, even though there were no stakes for
them," Mrs. Regan said. "They didn't need to do well
- and you know how it can be when a test doesn't count
- but they went into it and took it seriously. They did it for the
benefit of the high school rather than their own personal

The selflessness extends to other areas as well. In the wake of
Sept. 11, the senior class passed around a collection jar and organized
a sponsored fast to raise money for the victims' fund. "This
class saw the world change," Mrs. Regan said, "and they had
to look at history in a new way. They showed great patriotism and
willingness to help."

"They're very compassionate," guidance counselor
Mike McCarthy concurred. "They really seem to care about issues
and wanting to make a difference."

That spirit of service trickles down to involvement in smaller
groups, which for many were far more than resumé builders.
Students joined and took charge, actively seeking to expand and improve
the scope of club activities. Peer Leaders, for example, this year
brought two new programs to the high school: Drawing the Shades, which
raised awareness about sexual assault, and the Yellow Ribbon Program
which addressed suicide prevention.

Another group that's been largely carried by seniors is
SafeRides. They've benefited from it all the way through, their
freshman year marking the program's first at the high school, and
this year seniors account for more than a third of the drivers.
"They've been giving up weekends of this year and last year
for the benefit of their peers," Mrs. Regan said.
"It's wonderful to see."

Several of the senior board members even traveled to Seattle to
participate in the National Conference on Service-Learning.
"They've been really committed to public service,"
said Pam Carelli, founder of SafeRides and chairman of the Parent
Teacher Student Organization. "I couldn't even imagine how
many hours they've all put in combined. And they don't do it
for the recognition - it's what they like to do, and it
happens to be a service.

"The seniors now have really led the way and set a good
example for youth leadership," she added. "They've
been involved in youth congress, Peer Leaders, the school committee.
They've really honed their leadership skills, taken an interest in
leadership, and they'll carry that with them on their next

What also comes up time and again about the Class of 2002 is that
they're particularly creative, be it in music, theatre or the
visual arts. For the first time, the drama department had a senior at
the helm, directing the spring production of a Tennessee Williams play.
The Minnesingers last year traveled to Lithuania and this year completed
the exchange, playing host to the Versme Choir. Spring semester saw the
debut of the high school's first student-made DVD film, an
adaptation of the Spanish play Blood Wedding for which seniors playing
integral roles at every level.

They've taken that talent outside of the school as well. One
student appeared at Boston Symphony Hall this fall, singing with the
Tanglewood Festival Chorus in concert with the Boston Symphony
Orchestra. Another senior received an award for his short film at this
year's Martha's Vineyard Independent Film Festival.

Senior class president Elise Chapdelaine recalled this list of her
peers' accomplishments with pride, then added: "We've
had a lot of bands that have sprung up, and people have been really
great about supporting them. They've performed at the Katharine
Cornell Hall and the E&E Deli. There's always a good
turnout." Seniors also took to the stage in many of the groups at
the recent Battle of the Bands at the Hot Tin Roof.

Next year these students are spreading out more widely than in years
past, said Mr. McCarthy. Some will be at work in Indiana; others will
attend schools as far flung as Hawaii, California, Florida and Wyoming.
But there's always a contingent that stays closer to home.
"It's like a joke with the class, that the senior quote
should be, ‘See you at UMass,' " said Laura Bennett,
editor of the school newspaper (another measure of the class's
success, with seven awards this year from the New England Scholastic
Press Association).

Wherever they find themselves, it's clear the Class of 2002
will succeed at whatever they put their minds to: "They're a
really great group of kids," said Mr. McCarthy.
"They're going to go on to do some really great