The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduating class of 2008 is made up of of 193 individuals. But as advisors and administrators describe the students they have come to know over the past four years, the running theme is that this is a group class.
“The thing I like about this class is they do things together, they achieve together,” school principal Margaret (Peg) Regan said this week. “It’s not a class of competitive individualists. They’re a class of thoughtful contributors.”
Mrs. Regan, who retires this year after nine years as principal, considers herself a graduating senior as well. “In a really senior way, like senior citizen way,” she said with trademark humor.
It is the perfect class for her to join in graduation. “I’ve known this class since fifth grade,” she said. Her daughter, Emily, will be one of the graduating seniors and so over the years Mrs. Regan has served as their girl scout leader, softball coach and more recently their head administrator. “I’ve seen them go from all their separate towns and five different elementary schools to a remarkable senior class,” she said. She recalled the first day of freshman year, how they all clustered in groups based on their towns and schools. “It really takes three to four years for them to congeal as a group.”
And so, on a cold rainy day in late May, this group of seniors chose as their senior prank (the prank is a longstanding tradition at the high school) not to wreak havoc on the school but to camp out together in the school’s quadrangle. Mrs. Regan stayed with them, partying with pizza and soda late into the night. The next morning as the younger classes came in off the buses, the seniors crawled out of tents, yawning in their slippers and pajamas. To Mrs. Regan, it demonstrated the extent to which they had bonded as a class over the last four years.
“Just the fact that they’d all want to camp out together as their senior prank is indicative of who they are,” she said.
This Sunday at 1 p.m., the class of 2008 will graduate at the historic Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. Students will bid farewell to their high school years and step into the next era in their life. Next fall, many will head to schools across the country and the world, including Harvard, Brown, Tulane, Wake Forest, McGill and the American University in Paris.
And tonight the class will be richly rewarded for their last four years of labor as they collect awards and scholarships during Class Night. The event begins at at 7 p.m. at the Tabernacle. More than $900,000 in scholarship money will be handed out to a class that has already achieved so much in journalism, art, theatre and athletics.
They’ve traveled the world, with trips to places like Ireland, Switzerland, Germany and Costa Rica.
Last year, two seniors took the second half of the year to work on a special topic of interest for their senior project. This year, nine seniors made that commitment.
“One characteristic about this class is everyone has their individual niches within the school,” said Todd Sawyer, an English teacher at the high school and the senior class advisor. He ticked off the various categories of high school students, from the actors to the athletes. “But they are able to come together as a class and join into that larger community,” he said.
They’ve come together for good causes. They’ve orchestrated beach cleanups, raised money for disaster relief and mentored elementary school students. When a family’s house burned down in Vineyard Haven, the students collected more than $1,000 in cash and gathered supplies and gift certificates to give to the family.
And when they look back on high school, their memories will be not only of the times spent in the classroom but of the larger events in these past four years that shook the world around them. “They’ve seen very turbulent political times,” Mrs. Regan said, times that have included war and protest, the reelection of a president and his drastic decline in popularity, and a long but historic primary season.
Now that many of them are eighteen, they have registered to vote in record numbers.
“They’re graduating into a very exciting future,” Mrs. Regan said. “They’re really eager and excited about the future of our country and how they can be part of that change.”
But as they graduate, a troubled economy looms, and for many it is more than just a story on the news.
“A lot of them faced disappointments in college loans,” Mrs. Regan said, explaining that the shortage of funds being offered by the federal government is putting private colleges out of reach for many students. “And that makes a mark on a class. They’re having to make hard choices at a young age,” she said.
But Mrs. Regan is encouraged when she looks at the talent in this class and the ability they will have to change the situation. “I see future leaders in lots of fields,” she said.
As Mr. Sawyer considered how this class has matured through high school, his thoughts turned to memories of them at the Freshman Cup, which he explained was an annual event with various games and competitions. “It’s amazing to think back, watching them as 14-year-olds climbing obstacle courses in the gym,” he said. “And now watching them walk out as young adults and realizing the amount of growth that goes on here.
“It’s satisfying to see them take on the next adventure.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School will hold its graduation at the school campus in West Tisbury tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. Six seniors will graduate.